Why You Should Breakup a Hard Drive

If someone recommends breakingbrokenHDD up something that’s working perfectly they’re likely of a vandalistic bent, mentally ill or both – we call them politicians. As I’m neither a Polli. or a vandal, and although repeatedly questioned, my sanity is reasonably intact, why on earth am I encouraging you to breakup a perfectly good hard drive. I’ll explain:

By breaking up a hard drive I’m referring what’s stored on it. I’m not game to open and fiddle with the hard drive or place it under a drop saw; that really would be dumb. But why would anyone want to breakup the data? It might surprise you to know that is both a good idea and even considered best practice. Why?

On most computers there’s three types of files; Your OS stuff (operating system), Apps (applications)  and user stuff. User stuff is what you’ve made, uploaded or downloaded, the photos, documents and such. Here’s the thing though; it’s all stored in same place. With later versions of Microsoft Windows, they’ve attempted to solve the confusion and put most things in user libraries, but it’s still sharing a room with a monster! This has got to be one of the biggest design flaws on any system; why? There’ll be an event sooner or later where you’ll likely loose everything including your photos, email etc.

windowsbrokenFor example your Windows operating system will likely throw up all over the hard drive one day and you’ll be forced to reinstall it, loosing user stuff as a side effect! It’s easy to re-install the operating system and programs again, presuming you have the install disks; which are likely hidden among long forgotten quick setup guides in a shoebox somewhere in a dark cupboard. But if you loose your stuff, stuff you’ve endured birth pangs to create, you’ve got about as much chance to recover them as a man with a wooden leg has to survive a forest fire or for a picture hook to hold a kilogram of soft cheese.

The other impending catastrophic computer event coming your way is a hard disk crash. Like the vinyl record players of old, a mechanical hard drive has platters and a playing head of sorts which sits less than a hair’s thickness above them. If the head hits a platter you get more than just a scratch, the hard drive and your precious stuff is toast! Solid state hard drives don’t suffer with this problem but have a different menace. They kind of leak the data out, not to someone else but just out, like a battery slowly drains or an incontinent dog sleeps blissfully unawares in a puddle of piddle. Currently solid state drives including USB memory sticks are not a safe place to store data over an extended time.

Anyway when either of the events mentioned above comes your way, if you have your stuff on that hard drive too, then the inevitable hassle now becomes a disaster!

Obviously you don’t want your personal files, your stuff, living with windows, because when it explodes they’ll be collateral damage. But you also don’t want to have a drama fetching it from some inconvenient corner of the cosmos every time you go to open it.  Here’s a two pronged approach to what you can and should do before this happens.

  1. Keep your user files away from the operating system. You can either do this by having a secondary disk and always save, upload and download to this, partition off the operating system from your files or use a network storage solution. How to setup each of these is a subject in itself which I hope to address in a future blog or video.
  2. Regardless of what system above you use to quarantine your stuff from Windows, you still have to back it up. If you have only one copy and the disk crashes, again you’re toast. So lets talk briefly about backups.


Here you’ve got three choices.  Each require you use another, yes a physically different hard drive. Any backup solution that encourages you to back up to a place on your existing hard drive is as useful as a trap door on a lifeboat or an ashtray on a Harley.


  1. You can backup to an external or secondary internal hard drive. In theory this works well but most people forget to backup regularly. There are scheduling programs available that will run the backup for you if your memory is like what ever it is I can’t remember.
  2. You might prefer to backup to the cloud through the internet to some nameless something somewhere. Many companies provide free hard disk drive space like Google Drive. They’re supposed to be secure but I’m a skeptic. Still at least one upshot of this is that it’s offsite, so in the event of a fire sweeping through your office and reducing everything to ashes, a backup offsite could be a life-saver. Again you could schedule this to happen automatically which would at least factor out the forgetting part.

A problem with this and the previous solution is the time between backups.  Even the super diligent folding pajamas type who backs up each day isn’t shielded from a computer Armageddon occurring in between a backup.

  1. A third superior option which quarantines nasand back ups in real time is a NAS (Network Attached Storage). These are around four hundred bucks. A NAS saves to more than one drive simultaneously. If one fails, you simply buy a blank replacement drive, install it and the NAS will take care of copying everything onto the new drive. I use and recommend a NAS device and being the paranoid geek I am, also back that up from time to time and secure that drive elsewhere. Itjive can provide more information on this if you’re interested.

As I’ve now probably prevented your peaceful sleep tonight, we’ll leave it there, my job is done. As usual, if there’s anything here you want help with feel free to contact me at Itjive.com.

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