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Primary SSD failed on my computer at 4 years
Old 01-23-2019, 09:36 AM   #1
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Primary SSD failed on my computer at 4 years

This post is coming to you from a complete reinstall. I thought I'd give you a bit of my experience of what happens with a solid state drive failure, mostly so people can add responses about how diligent they are in backup and shame the rest of us into backing up better. Also interesting is that my SSD is soldered down on the board, an emerging common strategy by all vendors, including Apple. My install is Windows 10 so my story revolves around recovering from that. Still, when researching this, I saw a lot of MacBook people were complaining about their soldered down SSD, so just be aware no matter what you have. Here it goes...

My four year old computer was acting strange last month. So what did I do? Ignore it. Great move, Joe...

Anyway, I literally watched my files melt away before my eyes as applications slowly started talking back to me in strange ways with odd dialogs and errors. It was in interesting experience. This is very different than DRAM errors which typically cause a hard reset. Nope, the computer was limping. Actually, it was limping along amazingly well, recovering from many errors. This is a Windows 10 install.

My FIRST symptom was my folders, as shown in file manager, had little blue arrows appear. I looked this up and it said it was automatic compression since my disk was getting full. This didn't completely surprise me since I was pretty full, but... In retrospect, it was the disk system massively trying to reorganize itself due to errors.

My SECOND symptom was frequent windows manager resets. I'd see the screen icons kind of go blank for a second, then come back. This is not normal and if you see this you should find out why. I lived with it for a few weeks with increasing frequency.

My THIRD symptom was applications that just acted really weird. For instance, my password manager would refuse to open the default file. I had to point to it each time. Other apps started throwing other strange errors, all in the name of trying to do something, I guess.

After this, I started to get worried that I may have been ransom-wared or something. My gut was to first check the Windows system log. Woah! Lots of red exclamations with "I/O Error" or "Disk System Error". So, yeah, I knew it was bad. I backed out of my log check and tried to copy off the few files I knew were not backed up, but sadly they were "gone."

So, I rebooted. Uh oh, the screen I got was some low level Windows recovery. Attempting their suggestions resulted in more errors.

In the dark ages, what I would do at this time was pull out the drive and insert it somewhere else. Normally, I could limp along and get out some of the files. This isn't going to happen with a soldered down SSD! So, lesson learned. Back up more.

I could have created a bootable USB and tried copying more, but I decided that this "fire" would renew me, so I let it burn. I went into BIOS and changed the boot order to a second plugged in (removable) SSD, and started reinstall. (After reinstall, I used BIOS to activate the soldered SSD and any attempts at access with low level tools resulted in massive I/O errors, so it is a complete loss.)

My most crucial files (Quicken) are backed up every day. I thought I just lost a few other files. When the dust settled, I realized I lost more than expected, but guess what? It was almost a free feeling. I was starting with a clean slate of sorts, throwing away the debris of the last few months. There's a part of me that really wants to start tossing files on a regular basis. It really was a strange, but freeing, experience to throw away a lot of trivial files.

The Reinstall:
For Windows 10, not too bad. You just go to their download site and cut a USB or DVD and reload. Of course I had to do this on a separate computer. They keep the authorization in their database somewhere, so you don't even have to deal with that when you do reinstall.

What was a pain was Quicken. We have threads on this and Quicken's forcing people to subscription. I still have a valid 2016 version. Reinstall didn't work, however. It would not let me open my file. A little searching shows that once you install, you have to download two large patches from Quicken and apply them in sequence! All part of their split from Intuit and attempt to eventually shut out the non-subscriber customers. None of this was obvious, of course. I think I said more than a few swear words through the process.

Upshot:
- Backup. For crucial data (Quicken, for example) backup on each use to a removable media. I back my to a USB button drive. Saved me big time!
- Don't ignore weirdness.
- Read your system log from time to time (Windows or Apple) and make sure nothing bad is brewing.
- Soldered down SSDs are the future and remove some flexibility in data recovery options.
- A failing SSD may limp along for quite a while because the software attempts to work around the errors for as long as it can. The error recovery and file healing was actually pretty darn good until it became massive.
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Old 01-23-2019, 09:56 AM   #2
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One reason (along with price still not as low as I wish, though dropping) why I haven't gotten a SSD yet for my main computer. Maybe I'll stick with my SSHD a bit longer. Though not fast, isn't slow, at least for me.

I might get a small, inexpensive SSD though for an old laptop that I use mainly as a terminal to remote into the mothership desktop.

I guess if you had a daily image backup of your system, you could have easily restored? Folks who backup are folks who have lost important data (raises my hand ) in the past. Others say "Who needs a backup? Don't have time for no backup?"

Thanks for sharing your experience.
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Old 01-23-2019, 10:05 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by easysurfer View Post
I guess if you had a daily image backup of your system, you could have easily restored? Folks who backup are folks who have lost important data (raises my hand ) in the past. Others say "Who needs a backup? Don't have time for no backup?"
I'm somewhere in the middle on backup. Save the most crucial frequently, backup occasionally for the rest, and sometimes a little unexpected cleaning in life renews you. Instead of looking at the grandkids pictures, you may have to go visit to get new ones since you lost the last ones...

As for "daily image". Well, not sure I want to go that far in saving stuff. But for others, this may be required.

My drive was toasted enough that all the built in Windows restore features were useless.

BTW, the drive in question was 64GB, without a lot of spare room. I used the computer daily, so you can be sure it was getting hit with a lot of I/O operations.
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Old 01-23-2019, 10:19 AM   #4
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Mac users should buy this SMART reporting tool (it's only $20):

https://binaryfruit.com/drivedx
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Old 01-23-2019, 10:25 AM   #5
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Mac users should buy this SMART reporting tool (it's only $20):

https://binaryfruit.com/drivedx
Ah! I wonder if there is a Windoze equivalent. This tool does the log searching for you along with background diags. Very handy.

Come to think about it, MacOS and Windows should have that kind of alerting built in. Maybe they don't want too many calls on false positives and leave it buried in the logs for third party tools to extract.
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Old 01-23-2019, 10:30 AM   #6
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I'm somewhere in the middle on backup. Save the most crucial frequently, backup occasionally for the rest, and sometimes a little unexpected cleaning in life renews you. Instead of looking at the grandkids pictures, you may have to go visit to get new ones since you lost the last ones...

As for "daily image". Well, not sure I want to go that far in saving stuff. But for others, this may be required.

My drive was toasted enough that all the built in Windows restore features were useless.

BTW, the drive in question was 64GB, without a lot of spare room. I used the computer daily, so you can be sure it was getting hit with a lot of I/O operations.
When I was thinking about switching away from Win to Linux, I decided to stick to Win (gulp) as one of the deciding factors was the familiar backup software (Macrium Reflect) I'm using. The program makes scheduled incremental image backups (that's a mouth full) every morning, so if something happens during the day, I can easily restore back to how things were start of day. That has saved me a few times like getting ransomware and human error like me installing a program or playing with settings which messed things up.

Precious photos and critical data are tough things to lose. I've lost some in the past. That's why I now do backups.
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Old 01-23-2019, 10:31 AM   #7
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Ugh! That's painful. I have my Windows Documents (which includes things like Quicken and TurboTax files) and Pictures folders pointing to my OneDrive space, so they are all synced to the cloud whenever I'm online. I do also backup these folders to an external drive, but probably not often enough. Reading about your experience, it sounds like I should also be concerned that if a file gets corrupted, it will be corrupted in the cloud as well as on my local drive. I know I need to do backups more often.

I have a Dell Inspiron with an SSD from 2017, so it probably is soldered down. Fortunately there's nothing in my Windows Event Viewer except a bunch of DCOM errors and a quick Google search found a fix for the app that's causing them; apparently Apple's installers for their Windows apps are buggy.
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Old 01-23-2019, 10:37 AM   #8
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Reading about your experience, it sounds like I should also be concerned that if a file gets corrupted, it will be corrupted in the cloud as well as on my local drive. I know I need to do backups more often.
Maybe not. It seemed to me that some sort of check (parity, CRC, etc.) was being done and if the file was toast, it just refused to present it. This is where I was seeing some odd errors which I'm pretty sure were DLLs refusing to load (since they were "gone"). So, the backup of junk may not occur, although it may appear deleted. But there should be earlier incrementals to help with that.
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Old 01-23-2019, 10:56 AM   #9
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One way to minimize damage is to save your data to a secondary drive and only use your SSD for the system and program files. Then, backup is easier (data only) and if the SSD goes bad, you only have to deal with the reinstall of your programs. Still no picnic but doable.
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Old 01-23-2019, 11:05 AM   #10
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A few questions for Joe:

1) Do you have a laptop or desktop?
2) What did you do to fix the hardware? Did you have help?


I would know the computer was having problems but fixing it would involve another party like my manufacturer or a local source.
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Old 01-23-2019, 11:05 AM   #11
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Joe, thank you for this carefully written PSA.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeWras View Post
This post is coming to you from a complete reinstall. I thought I'd give you a bit of my experience of what happens with a solid state drive failure, mostly so people can add responses about how diligent they are in backup and shame the rest of us into backing up better. massive.
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Old 01-23-2019, 11:23 AM   #12
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For critical files I keep multiple, separate backups. A friend used to back up daily to the same memory stick, except he didn't realize his database went bad upon its last save. So upon backing up that file he overwrote the only good copy of it he had.
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Old 01-23-2019, 11:30 AM   #13
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Yikes! Sorry you are having troubles. I don't have SSD on my home computer (and it has a robust backup system), but my laptop does have an SSD. I keep all my data on the cloud for the laptop. Maybe I should be doing a backup to a physical drive as well. It's a MacBook so maybe a time machine backup will do.
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Old 01-23-2019, 11:47 AM   #14
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For critical files I keep multiple, separate backups. A friend used to back up daily to the same memory stick, except he didn't realize his database went bad upon its last save. So upon backing up that file he overwrote the only good copy of it he had.
I too keep backups on memory sticks weekly. I have 3 sticks and use one each month. So if malware is on the system and infects after some period maybe I will be safe.

After reading this I checked my File History to see that the SSD on my PC is being backed up to my 1TB built in drive. Low and behold it had stopped last June. No idea why but ugh! It is supposed to be daily. No idea why this is happening.

I also backup critical files to the cloud every 3 months using Google Drive (15GB free).
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Old 01-23-2019, 11:49 AM   #15
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Sorry to hear of your loss. Thank you for sharing your experience. I backed up twice last year to a portable hard drive using Time Machine, but have no idea what would happen if it failed. Macbook mid-2012, purchased in 2017.
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Old 01-23-2019, 12:02 PM   #16
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Mac users should buy this SMART reporting tool (it's only $20):

https://binaryfruit.com/drivedx
Just downloaded and ran it in free trial mode, great tool. I think I will pay the $20 for the full version. Thanks for the link.
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Primary SSD failed on my computer at 4 years
Old 01-23-2019, 12:12 PM   #17
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Primary SSD failed on my computer at 4 years

MacOS’ Disk Utility’s First Aid is another way to check on the health of drives (including SSD).

It’s good for peace of mind to periodically check on disk health with your tool of choice.

My external drives (Western Digital) that are the destination for Time Machine backups can check SMART status through WD software (not Apple). My understanding is that SMART is a basic check (others probably know more about this).
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Old 01-23-2019, 12:17 PM   #18
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Mac users should also be aware that many newer machines come with a SSD that doesn't support SMART status. Apple considers it obsolete since it was mainly designed for rotating mechanical drives. The built-in first aid and repair utilities in the Mac Disk Utility app are better tools, in Apple's opinion.
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Old 01-23-2019, 12:24 PM   #19
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Mac users should also be aware that many newer machines come with a SSD that doesn't support SMART status. Apple considers it obsolete since it was mainly designed for rotating mechanical drives. The built-in first aid and repair utilities in the Mac Disk Utility app are better tools, in Apple's opinion.

That’s my understanding too. If you check “show details” while running First Aid, you’ll see “fsck”, which I bet isn’t a stranger to many e-r.org members.
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Old 01-23-2019, 12:28 PM   #20
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A few questions for Joe:

1) Do you have a laptop or desktop?
2) What did you do to fix the hardware? Did you have help?


I would know the computer was having problems but fixing it would involve another party like my manufacturer or a local source.
1) Very small desktop, about 1 1/2" x 10" x 10".
2) The SSD hardware on the board is forever damaged and not fixable. I installed a second drive inside (looks like a thick playing card) in the designated spot. Desktops, even small ones like this, are easy to get inside to install drives or memory. Laptops are different. I had to adjust BIOS to point to this as primary boot device. I disabled the problem drive.

Although retired from tech, I still have a few residual skills or at least the method to look it up. I was not in PC tech and don't like it much, but I know enough to do some of my own management from the non-PC tech I was involved in.

I recommend to my friends a local, reputable shop to do this if they are not capable. Geek Squad from Best Buy is another option. My non-tech friends have been happy with their work in this kind of area. Not cheap, but they know this stuff.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry1 View Post
One way to minimize damage is to save your data to a secondary drive and only use your SSD for the system and program files. Then, backup is easier (data only) and if the SSD goes bad, you only have to deal with the reinstall of your programs. Still no picnic but doable.
That was in my plans! I was going to do that when retired, but wanted to take a 1/2 year or so away from anything tech to rest my brain. That's why I had a second drive handy, ready to go. Oh well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GrayHare View Post
For critical files I keep multiple, separate backups. A friend used to back up daily to the same memory stick, except he didn't realize his database went bad upon its last save. So upon backing up that file he overwrote the only good copy of it he had.
YES! Alternate, rotate, etc. Do not use the same physical backup.
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