That’s not crashing, it’s thrashing

Much to my surprise, I am now the proud owner of a 300GB backup drive for my Mac Mini.

The story started earlier this week, when I decided to get back to the project of digitizing our Hi-8 tapes before they (or the camcorder) gave up the ghost. So I fired up iMovie and copied the first tape that came to hand.

Except that I’d forgotten to rewind it, so there was a 13-minute segment that was dubbed. No problem; I rewound the tape and copied that part, too. But then I wanted to move the clips into the proper order so I wouldn’t have to remember what I’d done when I finally got around to editing.

Again, no problem. Until I tried saving the rearranged file. The progress bar zipped along for a few seconds, then came to a complete halt (with the spinning beachball in place of the cursor). And I heard a ticking noise from the disk. And the noise continued. And the progress bar didn’t move. And the app was unresponsive to the “Cancel” button.

So I rebooted and tried again. Same results. I even downloaded smartmontools, only to discover that they don’t work against an external Firewire-attached drive. I did wonder how I was able to do the download and compile while the disk was having problems, but it was getting late, so I turned everything off for the night, including my brain. That was Wednesday.

Thursday, I stopped at CompUSA on the way home and picked up the special of the day, a Maxtor 300GB drive (which, for reasons best known to Maxtor, came with a 20GB “bonus”, making it 320GB). I put it in my external USB drive case (which I’d bought in the course of recovering a failed disk on a TiVo) and went to work.

I’d done some research, hoping to find a way to recover the bad sector on my old drive, and there didn’t seem to be one — but The X Lab suggested it would be a good idea to “zero” the new disk before using it, so that the system would find and bypass any bad sectors on the drive. So I started that process and went to sleep.

This morning, I fired up SuperDuper, as recommended at UNEASYsilence, to copy the old disk to the new one. Then I went off to work. When I returned, the copy had finished, so I swapped the new drive into the miniStack; it booted, and I was back in business — back to iMovie to continue where I left off.

When I went to save the movie, the same thing happened. Except this time, the ticking was quieter. And it finally hit me: copying 22GB takes a long time. And the progress bar in iMovie doesn’t reflect the amount of data moved, just the number of clips touched. And I almost certainly didn’t have any bad sectors on my old disk — it was just doing a lot of seeking.

Oh, well; I needed a place to take backups anyway.

But next time, I’ll make sure to rewind the tape before I copy it.

One thought on “That’s not crashing, it’s thrashing

  1. 300*1024^3 == 322,122,547,200. Maybe the tech guys outsmarted the marketing guys and used real “gigabytes” (1024^3) instead of the silly storage-only “gibi-bytes” (1000^3).

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