Machine Failure

I was working on our finances. Quicken 2010. Windows 7. VMWare Fusion. Excel.

Each week I update our spending activities and our investment portfolio on Quicken. I then update a few different spreadsheets. And I switch between the virtual machine and Mac OS X.

Today was different though. When I had finished updating in Quicken, I brought up a spreadsheet in Excel. And both worlds, Windows 7 on the virtual machine and Mac OS X, basically froze. For the first time since I bought this machine over two years ago, I had to perform a hard reset. Power off and then power on.

I could tell something was amiss when the boot-up sequence took almost 10 minutes. Oh oh.

I spent the next 7 hours trying to make things right.

My first reaction was to blame Microsoft. After all, I was running Microsoft Windows and Excel when the Mac choked. Mumbling about the tendency for Microsoft software to crash generally, I focused on the virtual machine. I thought I would bring up Windows 7 and see if everything was still okay. However, Windows 7 was slow to load. Much slower than usual. In fact, it was so slow that I was unable to load Windows. Despite numerous attempts. Each time, the machine basically became non-responsive.

Things were not looking good.

I then looked at the Mac environment. Was everything okay there?

I ran disk utility. Errors on the startup disk. Get the Snow Leopard install disk. Reboot the machine. Run disk utility. Repair the startup disk. Repair disk permissions. Reset the SMC. Reset the NRAM and PVRAM. Restart.

10 minutes to boot. This is not good.

What could be wrong?

Repeat the same set of activities several times. First act of madness. Repeating the same set of steps led to the same outcome. The machine was taking forever to boot. And now, any app I selected was slow to load. Photoshop would not load at all. It crashed when launched. That had never happened before.

Not good.

It was here that I began to suffer TUI symptoms — throwing up inside. I mean, most of my life is in this particular Mac. Tens of thousands of photos, all my finances, thousands of documents.

What could be wrong?

Well, I don’t really know. But I have a pretty good idea. It is either a pending hard drive failure or a failure on the motherboard itself.

Good thing I have lots of backup.

I have one external drive that runs Time Machine. Everything was backed up to the point where the machine started going south earlier today. And I do full system backups with Super Duper. As I write this post, I am running an emergency backup on another external drive. Just in case. Just to be safe.

I also keep some selected files in Dropbox.

All my photos are backed up to three drives including the one in the iMac.

Although it is going to be a pain to rebuild a machine, at least I don’t have to worry about loss of data. Hard drives fail. And the one I am running is only a little over two years old. Thank heavens I was fully backed up.

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