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Nerd Night part 2

Filed under: Hacking — Thomas @ 17:20


Two things that I forgot to put on the list.

One, Kristien keeps complaining about the loud computer in the living room. I want to keep it on at all times (I access it remotely from Barcelona), but it's too noisy for her. So today, I called Peter and we went shopping for ways to cool the system.

We started out by looking for a silent power supply and a silent CPU fan, but in the end we realized that the CPU in the desktop (A Dual Core P4 of the first generation) is just always going to be a heat generator (it runs at 60C when idle), and in the end I decided to change motherboard (also getting more RAM), CPU (Quad Core, it was just 90 euros more expensive than dualcore), get an Antec low-noise case, and a Noctua CPU cooler (which the shop guy claims is better than the funky Zalman CPU coolers). The only thing I'm really worried about is the video card - an ATI Radeon 2400 HD - it doesn't look to well-supported under Linux.

All this stuff gives me a new desktop for around 700 euro - amazing. I remember how I painfully emptied my wallet to get an Athlon 550 system - top of the range at the time - for the equivalent of 1700 euros.

So, what better project for Nerd Night than working on a silent PC ?

The other thing is going to be even more fun. Yesterday evening I froze one of my hard drives - literally. I put it in a ziplock bag filled with grains of minute rice and put it in the freezer. According to a mail Peter sent me, this might just give me enough working time

Why, you ask ? Well, Remember my previous problem. I never followed up on that post, because it was just too embarassing. Here's what happened right after that post.

Recall that I had a software RAID with one of the two drives failing to work. I was fiddling around with the good drive and a new drive, trying to copy stuff. Of course, I just had my desktop lying flat on the floor, with the drives sticking out a little under various angles, the way I always do when I'm working on the guts of a computer. Then, at some point, I reached to grab something from the shelf, and from the top of my shelf a motherboard box slipped and fell down.

It fell down with a point of the box *right on the good hard drive*. Yes, a 50 cm2 target, and the box hit it. It knocked the drive out of commission. So, this left me with the curious situation of having both of my software RAID drives out of order.

I again contacted some data recovery companies, but all of them would charge at least 1000 euros to recover the data. Even though I'm absolutely convinced it can't be much more work between a 400 GB drive and a 100 GB drive, they still charge you a lot more for the bigger drive.

Well, I am no one if not the kind of person that sees opportunity in every problem. I have two identical broken drives. So I can use at least one of them to try out a non-conventional recovery method. Peter suggested the freezing method, so that's what I did. And tonight we'll know if it works!

I have a USB carcass ready to take the drive, and some scripts that should copy the things I need in order, to maximize useful working time in case it works. I don't have high hopes, but one never knows...


  1. Don’t you just love how fate can be a sharp shooter sometimes and take out the smallest yet most critical components with such ease and grace it rivals that of the Jamaican bobsled team? … wait where was I going with that … dunno … anyway.

    Sorry to hear about the drive! I have never heard of the anti-seizure freezer trick working on a head crash on the platters before. I know it works when the arm of the heads loses tension and starts to get a bit sloppy. I hope the humidity level was decent when you put your HDD in the bag. Ziplocks and bags of the like tend to attract static electricity like a hookers to a free clinic. I hope you didn’t solve a problem (chillin your platters) and then hitch up another one by ESD’n your PBC.

    Let me know if it works out! I’m actually really curious to know if it’s gunna fly. There is a rock’n program called SpinRite http://www.grc.com/spinrite.htm that is amazing at recovering and fixing HDD’s. I broke down and bought a copy (at the time it was $50USD for a lifetime lic) and I have saved more drives that I thought were junk. Also hit sourceforge.net and freshmeat.net and do a search for forensic it will give you a slew of free packages for data recovery in a Mad Max style hard drive environment. The one I have used before and LOVE is DMZs-FIRE now just F.I.R.E http://fire.dmzs.com/ . It’s pretty creepy what this can do and best of all …. free YAY.

    Good luck!!!!

    Comment by Sock Puppet Killah — 2008-05-23 @ 19:27

  2. The freeze method will help you if the damage is mechanical. If the damage is in the electronics side, you could try to replace the drive’s board. See http://www.deadharddrive.com. Recently my 80 GB Maxtor died and I was able to give it back to life by buying the most similar second hand Maxtor I could find and using its board.
    Good luck!

    Comment by Reader — 2008-05-23 @ 22:28

  3. The 2400XT is supported just fine, and has been for quite a while. You don’t even have to do anything: F9 should just install out of the box with the stock-standard radeon (no avivo or radeonhd required) driver. :)

    Comment by daniels — 2008-05-24 @ 00:59

  4. The price for those recovery services is high because of the stuff they do. Depending on how bad the disk is damaged, they’ll rip it apart , replace all the mechanical parts and do all sorts of dark magic to try to recover as much data as possible. Given how sensible to dust and ESD hard drives are, this requires fancy hardware and highly trained staff…
    Sadly this isn’t cheaper, because I could have used this type of recovery a few times…. I hope you have luck on your attempts of rescuing your data.

    Comment by Pmacedo — 2008-05-25 @ 21:40

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