Labored Day

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2023-09-05 17:00:00-04:00 No comments

Well, I was going to get some work done on Charisma over the long weekend. I did, sort of, but only in the face of some serious technical difficulties.

I've been building my own PCs, on and off, across pretty much the entire time I've owned them. The few times I've bought an off-the-shelf system I grew frustrated with the manufacturer's choices and limitations. A PC you build from parts is a) entirely made of your choices, b) a great way to fully understand the implications of those choices, and c) far more incrementally upgradeable. This weekend I had a forced incremental upgrade when one of my hard drives went into Click O' Death mode.

I have — er, had -- five drives in this machine: the SSD boot/OS drive, and four spinning rust platters of varying sizes and dedication. One was for apps (2TB), one was for data (4TB), one was for backup (2TB), and one was for temporary video capture and rendering (2TB). I laid all this out at a time when that much parallelism seemed like a good idea, and I ended up living with it for a good long time, long after its utility curdled and the concept became a mere burden.

Thursday night or so, I noticed a couple of applications had quit responding. Eventually the whole system started to hang, and I heard what I thought was a little more hard drive activity than usual from one of the disks. I ughed and pushed reset, for the first time in at least a year. (This system is typically super-reliable.) But even after a reboot I heard the same whirr, click, whirr coming from the drive cage. SMART stats turned up nothing, so I checked the system log. TONS of errors recorded while trying to read or write to a given volume. Whirr, click, whirr.

The culprit turned out to be the 2TB drive I'd designated as my system's backup target.

This was actually the least-worst-case scenario. The backup target held only backups — there was nothing in it I didn't have somewhere else. I took a long, hard look at how I had everything laid out and decided it was time to consolidate. I also realized, to my surprise, the dead drive was eleven years old. A miracle it hadn't kicked off sooner.

An Amazon-ordered 8TB drive arrived Sunday. I salvaged what little I felt mattered from the backup drive, decommissioned it. The app and data drives got consolidated, and the former data drive (4TB) now became the backup target and scratch target. It took several hours of babysitting robocopy to move everything, but I only needed to reboot once to do it.

I'm now on my second day of working with the new layout. Most of my performance fears about consolidating on fewer drives were unfounded. It helps that the 8TB volume is a good one-and-a-half times faster than the drives it replaced.

The downside: All this mulching around with the PC absolutely steamrolled my concentration. Only on Sunday evening and through Monday did I get anything remotely resembling actual work done. It wasn't much, but it was enough to shut up my inner workaholic for a little bit.

On the whole, I don't regret being a PC DIY-er. I'm naturally curious about such things anyway. I liked the idea of knowing exactly how the thing I use for the majority of my day's work is put together. I haven't actually lost any data in decades (thank robust backup policies for that). And I prefer having the option to upgrade as many individual pieces as I can, from the case on inwards. Times like this make those decisions and proclivities feel like the right ones. I just wish it hadn't been Labor Day Weekend that got eaten up for it.

Tags: computers excuse our dust real life technical difficulties writing