We tend to preach about backups, and some people joke about my multiple backup drives, but the need for those multiple backups became very apparent this past weekend. The external drive that stores backups of my music and video files disappeared from the desktop. Although it was still physically connected, none of my disk utilities could even see it. Rebooting didn't help. Switching from FW to USB connection didn't work either. From the sound coming from the casing, I could tell that the drive wasn't even spinning up.
Somewhere, sometime back, I read about putting a dying drive in the freezer for a while. Nothing to lose, I gave it a try. After 15 minutes of freeze time, I reconnected the drive, and while it was actually running, I could hear the very nasty click of death. Not good. At that point, I reverted back to the thing we did with TV sets when I was a kid and the picture went wonky. I smacked it on the side of the case. (not a word! It almost always worked.) Two very solid smacks and the click disappeared and the drive appeared on the desktop.
At that point, my first thought was to transfer the files to another drive before it died again. It was, at this point, connect with a USB cable. Files would transfer, but the connection would drop after a couple of minutes. I unmounted the drive and then reconnected it with a FW cable. That done, I was able to finish copying all files to another drive without the drive disappearing again.
Once a drive malfunctions like this, I won't rely on it for regular backup. Time to go shopping for a replacement. I didn't need a super speedy drive for this usage, so I ended up with a nice, small 750 GB Hitachi bus-powered USB 2.0 drive. Bus-powered = one less cable on the desktop. For Time Machine and my cloned backup, I still prefer FW.
24+ hours later, and the malfunctioning drive is still running. As I write this, it's being cloned to the new drive. The sad part of this is that the dying drive was a factory replacement from a well-known drive company for a drive that died after only 4 or 5 months of use.