adrift on a cosmic ocean

Writings on various topics (mostly technical) from Oliver Hookins and Angela Collins. We have lived in Berlin since 2009, have two kids, and have far too little time to really justify having a blog.

Running on borrowed time

Posted by Oliver on the 16th of September, 2010 in category Tech
Tagged with: hard driveload cyclenotebook

No, I'm not dying, but perhaps my treasured notebook computer is. I've been using my trusty Lenovo Z61t for longer than I can accurately remember but I assume it must be about 5 years now. In that time the DVD drive has stopped burning DVDs, the trackpad has completely stopped working, the pointing stick flakes out regularly (prompting me to write a script which restarts the driver when problems arise), the battery has been replaced twice (the last under warranty from the first fortunately), and it has a tendency to overheat and shut down when it is doing too much.

As you can see, it's in a pretty sorry state, but by and large for my purposes (largely web surfing, email and a bit of programming) it does what I want. I don't need 3D acceleration since I play no games (hello, it's Linux) and it is left plugged in most of the time so even if the battery dies completely it wouldn't be a big deal. I'm not exactly in the camp of that generation who complain if products don't last a human lifetime like they did supposedly back in some fictitious golden era, but unless a major component fails (CPU, motherboard, screen) I can't see the point in replacing it. So, I chug along, occasionally frustrating myself to the point of throwing it out the window when it shuts down every 5 minutes while trying to do something as menial as watching a video on Youtube.

Anyhoo, a few days ago as I was eating breakfast while checking my email I noticed a faint ticking noise coming from the hard drive. This may or may not be the norm, but my poor hearing (a result of playing too much loud rock music in earlier years) doesn't usually pick up the finer nuances of the sultry hard drive song. My first system administrator instinct is naturally to check out what the hard drive says is going on with a little utility called smartctl. Here's what I saw:

ID# ATTRIBUTE_NAME          FLAG     VALUE WORST THRESH TYPE      UPDATED  WHEN_FAILED RAW_VALUE
193 Load_Cycle_Count        0x0012   028   028   000    Old_age   Always       -       729498

That load cycle count represents how many times the hard drive heads have loaded and unloaded, which typically means they have parked themselves in a safe area (usually for power saving) and then at some later point emerged from their safe haven to frolick once more in the fields of data. Or so I am told.

So, seven-hundred thousand odd load cycles. Let's see what the Internets have to say about this...

Unprecedented load/unload durability at 600,000 cycles

Uh oh. My figure of way over seven-hundred thousand cycles just totally turned their value of six-hundred thousand into ... precedented. I'm now in super-unprecedented territory. I did manage to find a white paper from Hitachi that suggests that they have tested over one million cycles, and what can I say - I want to get there.

Time to take a backup I think.

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