BOFH: Chilling the bearings

Freezers have other uses, too

Episode 30

"So what are we looking at here?" the PFY says as the Boss humps a desktop machine into Mission Control.

"It's dead," the Boss says, tapping the cover of the machine gently.

"Dead as in DEAD or dead as in it's not booting properly?"

"I... it's not booting properly."

"Right then, slap her on the desk and I'll have a gander."

>Clunk< >Rustle< >Click< >whirrrrrrrrr<

"Looks fine..." the PFY says, watching the diags roll by.

"No, it's after this, it won't boot."

"You mean after the Windows bit comes up?"

"It doesn't come up," the Boss says. "It just says something about drive no... Oh."

"It's working now," the PFY says.

"I... yes it is, but it wasn't yesterday."

"And you've done nothing till now?"

"It's my home machine. I moved my desktop machine to home and use my laptop at work."

"So you moved the non portable machine and leave the portable machine on your desk?"


"And now the drive's failing..."

"Is it?!" the Boss gasps.


"So can you get the data off it?"

"Sure," the PFY says. "We'll just plug in a USB hard drive and copy it all to that."

"Do it!" the Boss says. "As soon as you can. It's got a complete budget breakdown of the company's IT assets and their replacement cycles in a spreadsheet. It's taken about two solid weeks of work to produce, but it's worth it because you can tell when every single IT asset is due for replacement!"

"Sure I'll do it right... Ah. Maybe later, it's crashed."


"My guess is that the bearings in the hard drive are almost dead and so once the drive warms up a bit they start getting a little cranky and the drive gives off read errors, ultimately crashing the machine."

"Can you reboot it?"

"Not really," the PFY says, pointing at the disk fail message on the boot screen.

"So it's gone then?"

"No, no it's probably still there - we could possibly get the motor and bearings replaced if it were worth enough to you?"

"How much would it cost?"

"A couple of thousand quid - and we'd have to send it away."

"Can't you do anything else?"

"We could chuck it in the freezer?"

"Can we be serious?" the Boss asks.

"He is," I say. "SOMETIMES when you put a drive in a freezer overnight the bearings will shrink slightly and allow the drive to be run up for a while."

"Long enough to get the data off?"

"Quite possibly."

"Okay do it!"

... early the next day...

"Alright then," the PFY says putting the chilled drive back into the desktop. "Lets take a look."

"It's booting!" the Boss gasps, pointing out the bleeding obvious. "Windows is starting!! It's UP! QUICK, COPY THE DATA!"

"Yes yes," the PFY says, plugging in the USB hard drive. "Ooooh, USB1, what joy!. Where's the spreadsheet?"

"In my documents somewhere. But there are several versions... let me think..."

"Chop chop," the PFY says. "The drive's warming up."

"Can't you just copy all my files and I'll find it later?"

"Sure," the PFY says, dragging the contents of the Boss' documents folder to the USB drive.

"TWENTY MINUTES?" the Boss stresses.

. . . seventeen minutes later . . .

"Nup, it's gone," the PFY says as the machine resets.

"So we can't get the data off?"

"I didn't say that," the PFY says. "We just have to be a bit tricky. We'll slap the drive back into the freezer to cool it down again then after five we'll move your desktop machine into the walk-in chiller in the cafeteria. The combination of cold drive and very cold air should buy us the extra three or four minutes we need..."

"Okay then!"

. . . That afternoon . . .

"And you think this'll work?" the Boss asks.

"It's the best plan we can come up with," I say. "But if the spreadsheet was that important, why didn't you do it at work and back it up properly?"

"I... because... it might be... unpopular."

"You've lost me."

"This spreadsheet," the Boss says, tapping his machine lovingly as we place in onto a shelf in the chiller, "will revolutionise asset replacement for our company and many others. It tracks asset lifecycles from the moment they come into the company; it reallocates low-spec machines to lower use roles; it tracks upgrades and book values! It will save companies millions in replacing machines that don't need to be replaced and upgrades that don't need to occur! It's the culmination of my life's work."

"Really?" the PFY says dubiously. "I think you're overestimating it slightly, but who knows? Anyway, I'll just plug the USB drive in and let you get copying."

Ten minutes later the PFY and I have left the Boss to it and are returning to Mission Control.

"So do you really think that it'll revolutionise IT asset management?"

"Nah," I say. "These things come and go and they're so tightly linked to a company's financial modelling that they don't easily translate to another company."

"But it'll still cause us some headaches."

"No, no, having an asset tracking and replacement spreadsheet is one thing, but you've really got to have an opening to use it. Still, I think we should be prepared to wake up and see the writing on the wall."

"That asset management is a political issue?"

"No I was thinking more of The systems guys locked me in the chiller carved into ice. Which reminds me, can you pick up a hair dryer on the way to work tomorrow?"

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