Look for the Silver Lining

The Digital Future really kicked my ass yesterday.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, then you’ve already heard about the demise of my external hard drive. My entire music collection–film scores, pop albums, cast albums, classical…everything–was wiped out. Without a firm figure in front of me, I’d estimate that’s about 5,000 albums. A full quarter of my film scores and soundtracks are gone. Poof!

On Wednesday night, I plugged in my hard drive to listen to some music on iTunes, where I had spent weeks and weeks uploading all my scores into my library a few months ago. The hard drive immediately started churning as it went through the initial steps of being recognized by my laptop, as I had plugged it in for the very frst time. Once the process was completed, no drive existed anywhere on my computer.

I called Western Digital Thursday morning and was told that the only recourse was to take the hard drive to a data recovery center. (This is the second WD hard drive that had conked out on me in less than nine months.) The thought of spending between $700 and $1,700 without any guarantee of getting most of the files back gave my wallet pause. In fact, in a sneering tone, I was told that I should have had two back up drives. I’ll spare you my response to that bit of compassionate customer service.

All told I lost approximately 750 GB worth of material. Thankfully, I still had all my writing and Word/Excel/etc. documents on my laptop. But the music was all housed on the external hard drive so that it wouldn’t compromise the speed of my laptop, and that is the loss that hurts the most. I still have my CDs, though they are all in storage boxes scattered throughout the apartment. But the LP conversions, promo review links, and numerous other scores and other digital music that I’ve collected over the last 4-5 years are no more.

While it makes my heart ache to think about the loss of all that music, I’m trying to find some sliver of a silver lining. Because of review copies and scores that I purchase on my own, there aren’t enough hours in the day to listen to everything properly, not even the scores I’m truly interested in. So perhaps this is a chance to become reacquainted with scores I haven’t heard in a while. Maybe it’s a sign of a collecting habit run amok.

In the great scheme of things, the loss ultimately doesn’t matter. No one died, no one was harmed. And the music itself is still out there. Yet it’s still tough to digest. If ever there was a lesson of the precariousness of audio files, this is it.

If this is a vision of the digital future, it’s time to pull our heads out of the clouds.

  1. That really bites. I think most of us have been there at one point or another.

    You should use RAID-1 to store important things. It mirrors data onto two drives so if one fails you don’t lose anything. Windows makes it very easy to set up, there’s no excuse for not doing it!

    I go a step farther and have an online backup for some stuff, in case I lose my PC completely. (fire, etc.)

    1. Hi Cory, thanks for commenting. Since this happened, other people have recommended RAID-1 as well. And I’ve already started doing the research for an online component. The vulnerability of the files is amazing.

  2. I feel your pain, Jim. A few months ago my main external hard drive crapped out on me. However, I did have another drive with all of my music and everything else backed-up safe and sound. I know this is a hard way to learn a valuable lesson but always BACK-UP, BACK-UP, BACK-UP!


    1. The scary thing is that WAS the back up! LOL Or at least I thought it was. But I suppose it was the primary for the music. Oh well. Guess I don’t have to worry about all those scores I’ll never get around to anymore.

  3. Again, my heart aches. Like you said its not the end of the world but I’m sure there is still an empty feeling. Creating a digital version of the your collection is very time consuming (it took my roughly three and a half months to convert all of my CD’s when iTunes first came out) but only a few seconds to wipe away! But this might be a blessing in disguise as you will now have an opportunity to rediscover some of the music that you forgot you had. Maybe you should blog about your experience of re-digitizing your scores and what scores you re-discover. Since you are a writer that might help you get over this terrible situation.


  4. I would never have gone to all the trouble of putting all my CD’s & vinyl onto a hard drive…I don’t trust them.Anyway, I’m an audiophile and feel that CD’s offer a superior fidelity. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I prefer the “old” media…my Dad was a jukebox operator since the late 30’s & I just like to see something move. I just got a computer five years ago…don’t own an MP3 or Ipod, etc.

    1. Nothing like a late bloomer. :) If I had the room, I’d still be listening to the CDs all the time. But living in NYC necessitates putting them in storage boxes and using the mp3 versions. It’s not ideal but at least I can still listen to the music.

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