back to article So you locked your backups away for years, huh? Allow me to introduce my colleagues, Brute, Force and Ignorance

Welcome back to On Call, The Register's wall where readers inscribe the antics of users so those on the other end of the phone might consider their career choices. Today's tale sees the return of Register favourite Alessandro, whom we last encountered "taking one for the team" in a real sense as he fought to hang on to his …

  1. Admiral Grace Hopper
    Thumb Up

    Crazy Hammer Guy

    If I'd ever been called "Crazy Hammer Girl" I'd have a name plate made, t-shirts printed and a business card printed up. That is a proud title indeed.

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

      My favorite T-shirt is all black with white letters in a typewriter style font that reads "I void warranties."

      *Hands you a folded T-shirt wrapped in plastic*

      Here, have one for your own proud display.

      *Raises a tankard in toast*

      Here's to hammers!

      1. Admiral Grace Hopper
        Pint

        Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

        Thank you!

        Have a beer.

        1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

          Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

          *Taps tankards in toast*

          That T-shirt looks good on you!

          *Produces a messenger bag full of assorted hammers*

          Wanna go void some warranties? =-Dp

          *Brandishes my favorite Bonk-Squeak-A-Hammer-Of-Doom-+20*

          Mine makes a happy squeaky noise when I whack stuff!

          *Promptly wanders off whacking myself in the head, giggling at the squeaky noises, & trailing my Dried Frog Pills*

          1. Admiral Grace Hopper

            Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

            Why you charmer, you *blushes*

            Behind the SAN racks in an hour or so?

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

              Get a room.

              1. Ordinary Donkey

                Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

                Or a cabinet.

                1. Holtsmark

                  Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

                  A 19" rack shouls be enough

                  1. batfink Silver badge

                    Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

                    Is that what you say to all the girls?

              2. Zarno Bronze badge

                Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

                Network closets, the new broom cupboard.

            2. tango_uniform

              Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

              Gives new meaning to the term "hot aisle".. Course, if you meet up and he/she/they is ugly you always have the "cold aisle" as an excuse for lack of performance...

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

            "Mine makes a happy squeaky noise when I whack stuff!"

            Somewhere in a box, in the garage, maybe, I have a small plastic toy hammer from a trade show that makes the sound of breaking glass when you smack something with it.

            The perfect tool when working on a Windows PC. It saves me using the the Bob Hartley axe handle framing hammer.

      2. Baldrickk Silver badge

        Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

        Mine has the text below a large collection of different screw heads. It's a great T-shirt.

        1. John Sturdy

          Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

          That reminds me of the term "Birmingham screwdriver"!

      3. Ima Ballsy
        IT Angle

        Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

        ...... And freezers .. freezing works too !

        1. Androgynous Cow Herd

          Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

          I've done a couple of HDD recoveries with the freezer trick...never tried the hammer trick.

          Now it's all SSDs so troubleshooting is much faster..."You have backups, right?"

        2. The Dark Side Of The Mind (TDSOTM)

          Re: freezers

          The freezers work best for worn-out bearings in (relatively) fast spinning drives, while in the XT era the "stiction" (from "static friction") was caused by the heads getting stuck on the platters... In that case, freezing would do only worse.

        3. Jakester

          Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

          I use the freezer if the drive was turning, but wouldn't boot. I use the hammer approach if the drive doesn't turn. I have used both processes successfully many times

    2. Zoopy

      Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

      I'd have mixed feelings if that happened to me, given that I'm a dude and whatnot.

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

      I'd be 'Pull it out and give it a twist' man. I have an XT where the disk wouldnt spin up unless you powered up and pulled the disk out and twisted it in the plane of the disks to get it moving again.

      For several months.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

        "and twisted it in the plane of the disks to get it moving again.

        For several months."

        Sounds tiring. For your wrist's sake, I hope you had someone else take over every couple of hours.

      2. Crypts Bloods

        Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

        This happened to me. I shut off a long running system to install a tape drive, only to be greeted with a deafening silence when I when to restart it . I couple of twists of the disk and it miraculously returned. That put the fear of god in me.

        1. Bruce Ordway

          Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

          >> couple of twists of the disk and it miraculously returned

          Wow, this takes me back.

          A long time ago, one of my co-workers showed me how to manually spin the disk on one troublesome system when needed. It was usually required if it had been shut off for too long, cold to the touch. I believe it was an early IBM.

          Seems like I remember about that same period... having to manually "park" the disk on some systems before shutting down.

          1. DiViDeD Silver badge

            Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

            having to manually "park" the disk

            If my memory hasn't entirely misled me - again - I seem to remember t was spindown, then park.

            I even had a little program from somewhere that simulated this on more modern PCs - complete with spin dryer and carbrakes sound effects.

      3. jcitron

        Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

        I had an XT with a similar issue and used the same technique to boot up. Eventually the drive died and I replaced it with a new one.

    4. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

      > If I'd ever been called "Crazy Hammer Girl" I'd have a name plate made, t-shirts printed and a business card printed up. That is a proud title indeed.

      According to GoDaddy, crazyhammergirl.com is available.

      Just saying. :)

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

        2+2=5? You must use really large values of 2.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

        Rule 34?

    5. Steevee

      Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

      Remember, when Odin asks "are you the God of Hammers", you say YES!

    6. rototype
      Go

      Re: Crazy Hammer Guy

      That sounds like my comment whenever things are looking like being a little troublesome -

      "I've got a 3lb forge hammer in the car if you need it..."

      I ACTUALLY DO carry said 3lb forge hammer in the car but only for if I ever need to change a wheel since they have a habit of seizing onto the bit around the hub. Scared the life out of one user when I got it out of the car and brought it in (we were re-adjusting the shelves in the store room at the time, theirs was just an incidental job as I was passing).

  2. Chris 216
    Go

    Seen in the wild

    Long time ago, in a Leeds far, far away.

    Couldn't get a PC connected to a power dialler to boot.

    Called PC support (or more accurately, the beating heart of the IS 5-a-side footer team).

    Turns up.

    Taps case in a few places.

    Rolls up sleeve.

    Power button -WHACK!

    PC boots.

    "Not just hitting it - it's knowing where to hit it..."

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Seen in the wild

      ... and how hard to hit....

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Seen in the wild

      Quantum 105MB drives in early SPARC stations would stick after a while. The solution was to lift the front of the pizza box up about 2 inches (no more) and let it drop back to the desk. Then power on. Occasionally you needed an fsck to collect the loose bits afterwards...

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: Seen in the wild

        Yeah, my first hard drive was a Quantum 80MB for my Amiga 2000. After a few years it started to not boot after the computer had been off overnight. I had to whip the case off, pull out the card (which had the drive bolted onto it), give it a good shake, plonk it back in and it would usually start up again. When I could afford it, it got replaced by a "huge" 540MB drive.

        1. NorthIowan

          Re: Seen in the wild

          It was probably a 105 MB Quantum drive in my Amiga. When it started sticking I'd take it out of the Amiga and rotate it back and forth a few times along the drive platter's axis. More work but less drive stress. And not too much work when the drive first starts sticking.

        2. Alan W. Rateliff, II

          Re: Seen in the wild

          Yeah, my first hard drive was a Quantum 80MB for my Amiga 2000.

          The next page of comments gets into loose connectors. It reminded me of my first Amiga hard drive experience. I had a GVP A530+ (68EC030, 8MB RAM, and a 40MB Seagate SCSI hard drive) which would sometimes just not want to boot, throwing up the Kickstart "insert Workbench floppy" screen. I fussed with that thing so much, seating and re-seating everything including the SCSI cable. Not even swearing, begging, and praying would fix it.

          TURNED OUT that the SCSI cable was the problem, but not because it kept working loose. This particular cable had something weird in the IDC connector which made it work only when it was NOT fully seated. I figured out putting the lid back on the accelerator would move the cable just enough to un-seat it into a working position. As this was a two-inch cable likely made specifically for the short distance between the SCSI header and the drive I really wanted and tried to make it work, but wound up replacing it with a longer cable onto which I eventually hung three other SCSI drives for a whopping 500-some MB of total storage.

        3. Fruber

          Re: Seen in the wild

          Back in the day when I was starting to assemble computers for myself, a case seemed frivolous and costly. I managed to trade for a 286 board along with a 320 Meg HD. The advantage of having no case was that the hard drive had a bearing issue and needed encouragement to get going, so I had a screwdriver sitting on my desk next to things for when the computer got shutdown and the hard drive needed to be spun up (there was a slot on the end of the spindle.....). Was a budding young hobbyist at that point, but it didn't take long to realize I needed to upgrade that drive as soon as could be afforded. I got a lot of miles out of that drive (probably a year or more) and passed along to someone else who used for another 5 or 6 months before it finally gave up the ghost.

          Then when I was in college, I came very close to losing my life's work when my IBM Deathstar (Deskstar) bit the dust with the click-click-click on boot after my semester ended before exams.... Luckily all projects had been turned in at that point and it was just a matter of downloading class notes again to cram for exams... Ended the semester on a high point academically, but if that drive had died a day or more sooner than that, I would have been screwed. We were told not having a backup was no excuse and they meant it!

      2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: Seen in the wild

        I assume that when we get real quantum computing then you'll have to hit them and not hit them at the same time.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Seen in the wild

          I assume that when we get real quantum computing then you'll have to hit them and not hit them at the same time.

          Or just hit them with (or feed to) a cat?

          Or not as the case may be...

          1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

            Re: Seen in the wild

            Talking of which, what's Stuttley going to do when faced with a cat that's both dead and alive?

        2. Fortycoats

          Re: Seen in the wild

          No, you just need to hit it with EXACTLY the right amount of energy to excite it briefly to the higher level.This is an unstable state so it re-emits that energy as EM radiation (or "bloup", as Alessandro's customer would put it), and returns to its normal, stable state.

        3. Benson's Cycle

          Re: Seen in the wild

          Or hit them with sufficient energy to cause them to emit both a functional and nonfunctional version of themselves, and then just collect the functional one.

          Assuming you can catch it since the slightest error in the whack energy and it may be travelling at near lightspeed.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Seen in the wild

          Headley_Grange,

          "I assume that when we get real quantum computing then you'll have to hit them and not hit them at the same time."

          Yes and No !!! :)

          You could also, due to Quantum entanglement, just whack the 'twin' you keep in the office and avoid the journey to the customer. :) :)

      3. Uk_Gadget

        Re: Seen in the wild

        This is what we call the Newton test devised some 30 years ago and still in use today. It is amazinf how a 6 inch drop to the desk reseats components.

        1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

          Re: Seen in the wild

          IIRC this was the recommended way to reseat the chips in Apple IIIs and Acorn Atoms.

          1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Seen in the wild

            Although it would tend to unseat (or at least unsettle) the customer as well if they observe it...

          2. DJV Silver badge

            Re: reseat the chips

            And Amiga 500s

            1. GFK1

              Re: reseat the chips

              Ahh yes, the infamous Commodore car park judder bar, wasn’t it? Rattled things lose on the way out of the factory.

              The look on the customer’s face when you held their shiny, dead A500 an inch off the desk and dropped it. “There you go, works again!”

              Good times.

          3. el_oscuro

            Re: Seen in the wild

            In the old days, we had Grid Laptops (before they were bought out by Tandy). These had titanium cases and DOS in ROM.

            Occasionally we had to perform a "drop test" to reseat those ROMS. This involved dropping the laptop onto a flat surface from about 3 feet high.

      4. JerseyDaveC

        Re: Seen in the wild

        Yep. The other ones I had were 40MB Sony drives whose lubricant got all gloopy (a phenomenon known as "stiction"): take off the lid, whack the drive with the handle of a screwdriver, hear it spin up, copy off the data, swap the disk.

        1. Benson's Cycle

          Re: Seen in the wild - gloopy

          Surely if the lubricant gets all gloopy you just stick a jade egg up the machine's hoo-hah?

          Sorry, my bad, apparently that's "goop". "Gloopy" is the Russian for "stupid."

          1. el_oscuro

            Re: Seen in the wild - gloopy

            I guess Gloopy is the Russia translation for Goop.

      5. slimshady76

        Re: Seen in the wild

        SCSI (Seagates??? It's been so long!) In Gateway workstations needed to be kickstarted if you left them powered off longer than a month. I usually had one of my PFYs around to distract the owner long enough for me to apply the necessary percussive maintenance.

        1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

          At SlimShady76, re: percussive maintenence...

          Did you apply it to the drive or the person?

          *Pure, Sweet, & Innocent Grin(TM)*

          1. slimshady76

            Re: At SlimShady76, re: percussive maintenence...

            To the drive, off course. Most of the senior researchers had enough torture for a life, having to interact with those sorry workstations and their buggy Windows '95!

      6. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Seen in the wild

        I did that for a colleague whose PC wouldn't boot. Waited until the disk should spin up and dropped it. Presto, the resumption of disk spinning noise.

        "I can't believe you did that!"

        "Well it wasn't going to make it any worse. I suggest you copy your data off while you can."

      7. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: Seen in the wild

        Same with DEC RA series hard drives. I'll admit to literally booting a MicroVAX II with a well-aimed kick when a RA81 suffered "stiction" problems.

        Of course I wiped the boot print off the front of the machine...

      8. Ozzard

        Re: Seen in the wild

        The old 10Mbyte drive attached to our (6801 and M68000) processor emulator at Racal in 1985 would occasionally do the same thing, and a swift half-inch drop onto the bench would deal with it.

        The Sun engineers were a little more wary of the new 1.3G 5.25" full height disks in about 1991. Apparently the oil in the bearings could get a little too viscous if they were left powered down in a cool room for too long, so the advice was to lift the box and *gently* rotate it to start it spinning up.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Pirate

          Re: Seen in the wild

          Bracknell? Seaton? - Bored (at work) Ex-Racal guy wants to know.

          I didnt get hired & start there until 1990.

          Icon - As Beer around the corner from Seaton used to be involved in the smuggling game.

    3. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Seen in the wild

      Its the old joke, guy goes to mechanic with broken car. Mechanic sucks teeth for a minute, then pulls out a hammer and walks around the car. Finally he hits it once, hard and everything works again.

      "£1000 please"

      "What? But you just hit it once with a hammer!"

      "£10 for hitting it with a hammer, £990 for knowing where to hit it"

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Seen in the wild

        I heard it thus:

        Giving telly a thump, 6d ... Knowing where to thump it, 19/6 ... knowing how hard, "That'll be a guinea, guv."

        The rest is for the service call.

        1. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

          Re: Seen in the wild

          My late father-in-law was a TV repairman in the 60s and 70s, and he used to have the apprentice distract the owner whilst he gave the box a smack to break the tin whiskers! Often he could then just furtle around drinking tea for half an hour and declare it fixed (got to make them think they are getting value for money).

          1. swm Silver badge

            Re: Seen in the wild

            When we were designing laser printers the optics would get out of alignment so I used what I called an "optical sledge hammer" to realign the various mirrors, modulators etc. You did have to know what you were doing as a random whack would just throw the thing further out of alignment.

            The service personnel were not allowed to touch the laser "sled" but mailed it back to the factory for realignment. It was then mailed back out (probably destroying the alignment again).

      2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Seen in the wild

        And of course for those devices and drives which are truly frustrating and reluctant to submit to the mercies of percussive maintenance, it's not just knowing where and how hard to hit them, but also to know when to stop doing so.

        The age-old balance between releasing pent-up anger at the thing and actually getting it to ever work again...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Seen in the wild

        I once called my mechanic and told him my car wouldn't start - engine turns over but just won't "catch". He asked me if I had a rubber mallet, and explained exactly where to hit the bottom front of the gas tank, while someone was turning the key, to temporarily unstick the fuel pump long enough to drive it to his shop. There's a REASON we're repeat customers...

        1. PM from Hell
          Happy

          Re: Seen in the wild

          I had an aged car years ago where the starter motor would occassionally stick I carried a tailor made bit of 2X4 and a hammer in the boot to free it. It never did completely fail

          1. Killer Squid

            Re: Seen in the wild

            Used to work in the desert, pumping cement down oil wells. The pump trick had two large Cummins diesel engines to drive the pumps, and a smaller engine to drive the hydraulics. Got called on site in the early hours to be prepared for a pumping job and the smaller engine refused to start. Quick call to the Head Mechanic who lived about 50 miles away. He turned up about 40 minutes later without a tool box, just a hammer and WD40. Got is up and running in about 5 minutes with judicious application of force.

            1. Benson's Cycle

              Re: Seen in the wild

              WD40 sprayed into the air intake of a reluctant Diesel will often get it to start. It's because it has an even lower compression ignition temperature than normal Diesel.

              1. Zarno Bronze badge
                Mushroom

                Re: Seen in the wild

                And unlike ether, a little "too much" won't make the head(s) lift, rods bend, and main caps exit the oilpan.

        2. Andy Taylor

          Re: Seen in the wild

          I vividly remember having to climb under our old VW camper to whack the starter motor with a hammer when it got stuck.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Seen in the wild

            Most V8 and some V6 Ford starter motor solenoids are notorious for failing at inopportune times. A good wack with a tire iron will usually unstick it in an emergency. (You often have advance warning that permanent failure is immanent because the car fails to start when hot, but starts fine when it cools down & the tow-driver gets in and casually starts it ... fortunately starters are an easy R&R.)

            Come to think of it, Granpa used to call a 5lb ball-peen "Ford tool #1" ...

            1. paulll Bronze badge

              Re: Seen in the wild

              There's nothing peculiar to Ford, starter motors or engine configuration here, most parts of all American cars are notorious for failing fullstop.

              Your grandpa called it his,"Ford tool," somebody else's called it his,"Chevy tool," and yet another called it the,"Dodge tool." Hilariously.

              1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
                Boffin

                Re: Seen in the wild

                We Ford apprentices used to call it a "Dagenham Screwdriver". I believe that other motor manufacturers had similar euphemisms, such as "Birmingham Screwdriver", "Cowley Screwdriver", etc., depending upon where their factory was located.

              2. John Geek

                Re: Seen in the wild

                high school, circa 1970, 'earth sciences'' teacher drove this ratty mid 60s Jeep Wagoneer in which we did many field trips. It frequently wouldn't start when hot, he'd pull the rubber mat up near the gas pedal, there was a strategic 1" hole in the floor, through which he'd bang the starter a couple times with the crowbar kept under the seat, vrooom, chugchugchug...

                1. Aussie Doc
                  Pint

                  Re: Seen in the wild

                  Have one on me for the sound effects.

          2. DoctorPaul

            Re: Seen in the wild

            Lordy that takes me back!

            That completely describes our tours round France in the 80s. Crawl under the veedub camper every morning and apply hammer to the starter motor. And finally a push start to get it off the ferry on our return to Dover.

            Happy days!

      4. Tinslave_the_Barelegged

        Re: Seen in the wild

        > "What? But you just hit it once with a hammer!"

        I needed to remove the stuck viscous fan on my Land Rover. The manual insisted all kinds of special tools were necessary for the job, so I took it to our local garage. The mechanic and owner took a look, went inside and came out with an air ratchet, to which he fitted a percussion tool. He aimed it a nut on the fan and gave it a short "prrrp". The he simply spun the fan off its mount. It had taken five seconds. I was deeply impressed. "That took five seconds and twenty five years," I said. He smiled, understanding me perfectly.

    4. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: Seen in the wild

      I've seen this before.

      PC, loose power cable not making contact.

      Support walks around PC, tapping it etc. Unseen while they get your attention with the tapping, they push the plug home.

      Smack the case, then hit the power button

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Seen in the wild

        Many, many years ago, I attended a BBC Micro that steadfastly refused to boot. Took the lid off, all LOOKED fine. Tried reseating all the chips, most of which were socketed in those days. Felt a light CRACK! of static as I touched the CPU. System springs into life (ready to go in under a second - those were the days!).

        "Do you by any chance have nylon carpets?"

        *shakes head*

        "A predisposition to wearing shell suits?"

        "No."

        "An amateur radio enthusiast nearby?"

        "Actually, I have a ham radio rig just here in the cupboard alongside the desk. I put the computer next to it a couple of weeks ago so I could use it for logging callsigns and stuff."

        "And this cable which I see now goes out through a hole in the window frame and which I assumed was for the TV is the feeder cable for the aerial, yes? The one that is bundled up with these other cables some of which connect to the computer? You DO have a static bleed resistor fitted on that aerial, right?"

        "Erm... "

        1. GrahamRJ

          Re: Seen in the wild

          I can do you one better than that. I used to play guitar and bass in a covers band. One gig, we all got back up after a break, and I found my guitar sound had gone strange. Lower strings produced noise, albeit muffled, but higher strings didn't do much, and all the level was down. I checked all my gear to see what settings had got changed, but everything was fine. I assumed it must be an FX pedal gone faulty and went round swapping them out, but no joy. Me and the other guitarist both played bass and guitar, so we finished the gig handing instruments between each other, and I went fault-finding at the end.

          Turns out it was a cable fault. Somehow, and I don't ask anyone to explain the physics of it, a cable had failed *just enough* to still pass a signal but turn the cable into a low-quality low-pass filter. Lower notes came through with distortion; higher notes simply didn't.

          I've seen plenty of dead cables, and plenty of intermittent cables, so if it had been anything like that then I would have immediately started swapping cables. This is the first (and so far only) time I've seen a cable turn into an audio-frequency filter.

          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

            Re: Seen in the wild

            > This is the first (and so far only) time I've seen a cable turn into an audio-frequency filter.

            That can happen with squished cable. If squished well enough the isolation between the wires gets so thin it starts to work as a capacitor. But this is the first time I heard of it when it comes to guitars, must have been very close to a short out. It happens more often with networking, monitor, WLAN cables and other high-frequency connections.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Seen in the wild

              "It happens more often with networking"

              Called to a customer site where the complaint was the network was running slow. 10BaseT network. The co-ax from the server started the run to the office PCs by going under the carpet before running along the wall. It was crushed flat and didn't look in the least like it might have had a rounded cross-section at some point int past. No, that is NOT where the cable was when it was installed. They'd re-arranged the office and re-routed the cables themselves. We marked it up as user damage and charged accordingly to replace and re-route the cable with proper trunking, ie like when we originally installed it but using their new routing and office layout.

              1. jcitron

                Re: Seen in the wild

                Yes! I had that happen myself. A tenant moved in upstairs from where my family had their business. My bro and crew were wired up at the time with 10BaseT coax. We ran the cable up into the ceiling and along the wall in our storage closet and down the other side. We had not choice and couldn't run the wire in the wall due to the walls being made of brick due to the space being an old textile factory, otherwise, that would've been the better option.

                One day things didn't work as you said stuff was a bit slow. I got called at work to go take a look. The new tenant had taken over my family's storeroom without asking and put his file cabinet on top of our network cable even though the cable was place tightly against the wall. The cable was no longer round and looked like an old TV aerial that would be tacked to the wall.

          2. Press any key

            Re: Seen in the wild

            At a guess, the amplifier had some capacitance between input and ground. When cable when failed it went high resistance and the two together would form a first order low pass filter.

          3. jcitron

            Re: Seen in the wild

            I had a similar thing except with video. I was using a Varityper Epics 20/20 typesetting system which had a minicomputer, terminal, and output device. All three devices were connected together with a proprietary cable that connected up the three units that made up the system. The system was used in home office. Our cat liked to chew on plastic, and had an affection for computer cables.

            One day the terminal had blinking dots on the screen that would come and go, flicker, and then everything was fine. Outputting stuff to the 6830 was awfully slow as well. Instead of taking a minute to output a full advertisement, it was taking up to 10 minutes. Then everything was fine... Accessing the mini to save jobs was slow as well. Then again I was writing to a 20 MB, yes a 20 MB, Miniscribe full height drive so that was not necessarily the fastest device.

            I checked the connections to the devices and everything was snug, and I went as far as to open the terminal and re-seat the memory and the multiple CPU's in the terminal, which was all socketed. This was all on multiple boards covered with 4164 DRAM chips and 68k processor boards. In the troubleshooting process, I did find a bent pin on one of the DRAM chips and fixed that, but all that effort didn't seem to do anything different. Occasionally still there was a flicker and blinky dots and lines.

            I left it alone since the 6830 outputter decided it was going to work, and the minicomputer part was working fine until one day I saw the culprit. In walked my rather fat and quite old cat. He sauntered over to the fat RS422 cable and had a chew... I chased him away, and sure enough the cable was completely eviscerated with holes all over it, some of which were deep enough to puncture the foil ground sheathing underneath!

            A call to the company and $750 later, the cable was replaced. The blinking lines and dots went away, and all the other devices were back to their high speed again.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Seen in the wild

              In walked my rather fat and quite old cat.

              Please tell me you nicknamed him "Mynocks"!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Seen in the wild

        I've seen this before.

        PC, loose power cable not making contact.

        Support walks around PC, tapping it etc. Unseen while they get your attention with the tapping, they push the plug home.

        Smack the case, then hit the power button

        I'm sure I recall a similar case, where for the "big reveal" the techie did a truly apocalyptic bit of percussive maintenance, but what they were actually doing was walloping something nearby while giving the impression that the computer was taking the force of the hit.

        Of course, next time the problem occurred, the user decided to repeat what they thought they'd observed the techie doing, and hit the PC so hard that it actually did break it for good.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Seen in the wild

          I'm sure I recall a similar case, where for the "big reveal" the techie did a truly apocalyptic bit of percussive maintenance, but what they were actually doing was walloping something nearby while giving the impression that the computer was taking the force of the hit.

          I have done precisely this trick on the office coffee vending machine, which was powered by a small computer onboard computer to process the options etc on the buttons. It crashed every so often, and the engineer from the supplier said just to reboot it if the machine locked up.

          In time I discovered that there was a cutout switch on the door, which you could trip by pulling the door slightly open at the top, even though it was locked shut (the lock was in the middle). The trick was to lean against the machine, pull the top open and restart it, and then give it a good thump in the middle just as the BIOS in the machine inside hit the POST stage.

          I'd do this frequently in the mornings for drinks instead of phoning out an engineer since this workplace had banned kettles. One morning going for my morning drink I discovered two people methodically beating the crap out of the front of the machine with varying forces of hit in different places. I did my little trick, only to discover that two service engineers had been watching.

          After chasing the users off, the senior chap sent the junior engineer back to the van for a part he didn't need specifically to get him out of the way so he could get me to teach him how to do that trick.

          I stopped doing it about the time that somebody actually broke a hole through the front of the machine trying to recreate my fix. :/

          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

            Re: Seen in the wild

            Thumbs up - use the force, but only with skill please ;)

        2. Alan W. Rateliff, II

          Re: Seen in the wild

          Of course, next time the problem occurred, the user decided to repeat what they thought they'd observed the techie doing, and hit the PC so hard that it actually did break it for good.

          I learned over the years that certain customers should never witness or have explained to them how you fixed a specific problem. Then any time there is a problem they will attempt the same procedure in an attempt to avoid calling (thus spending money on a visit.) Ultimately the call comes, usually after a long bit of down-time and stewing in frustration.

          I call this the "man with a hammer" problem, hearkening back to the proverb, "To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Seen in the wild

        Of course, there's the dreaded evil twin of the loose power cable: the power cable that's only just in and which falls out when you adjust a nearby cable.

        I've encountered it several times before, including just a few days ago whilst moving power cables into a new UPS, my hand brushed the input for the old UPS.

        Cue a slight crackling noise, and the unsettling *clunk* as it tried to power everything from a very poorly battery, ran out of capacity in half a second, and clunked offline.

        A quick shove and the power cable was seated properly again (seriously, how did it last 10+ years with the power cable only barely plugged in?), but the damage was done. One old, single PSU'd, machine was already rebooting, causing all sorts of issues.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Seen in the wild

          Might as well remove the PSU at that point. It's not doing anything anymore except serve as a fire hazard.

          1. imanidiot Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Seen in the wild

            PSU=> UPS, ofcourse..

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Seen in the wild

          "(seriously, how did it last 10+ years with the power cable only barely plugged in?)"

          Most likely, it didn't. It was probably only a little loose originally and then there were probably temperature changes over the years and the expansion/contraction cycle pushed it further and further out.

        3. jcitron

          Re: Seen in the wild

          The same happened to me the other day as well as I was moving some cables around. I swear that electrons jump over the tiniest gap between surfaces and that keeps things running until the disconnect is completely made.

      4. GrahamRJ

        Re: Seen in the wild

        Just remembered a war story with PA equipment. Old-school 2kW power amp, heavy old linear power supplies. A total sod to cart around, but it was utterly reliable. Except one day where the sound just started fading away quieter and quieter. I couldn't figure out why. Turns out the power cable had got loose - but the amplifier power supply had such large smoothing capacitors, and the amplifier itself was efficient enough without much signal, that it took a couple of minutes before the capacitors finally ran out of juice.

      5. paulf Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Seen in the wild

        @baldrickk Support walks around PC, tapping it etc. Unseen while they get your attention with the tapping, they push the plug home.

        Thinking of all that tapping and mystique then using sleight of hand to distract the user while pushing the plug in reminded me of this quick sketch by Smith and Jones years ago. Shows the lengths you can go to, if you have the time and a suitably gullible user!

        PC Support and Magic

    5. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Seen in the wild

      A "power dialler" ???

      I *hope* that's not what I think it is.

      Please tell me that you didn't put a robocaller back online?

    6. Blane Bramble

      Re: Seen in the wild

      IBM PS/2

      10483 error

      'nuff said

    7. Steevee

      Re: Seen in the wild

      "Not just hitting it - it's knowing where to hit it..." Also known as percussive maintenance. If it jams, force it. If it breaks, it needed replacing anyway.

  3. Chunky Munky
    Coffee/keyboard

    Percussive maintenance - it's a thing!

    1. the Jim bloke Silver badge

      2 rules of percussive maintenance

      1. Any problem can be solved dealt with by a correctly sized hammer.

      2. An axe is a very efficient variant of hammer

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 2 rules of percussive maintenance

        As a friend of mine used to say, "everything's better with chainsaws"

        1. Zarno Bronze badge
          Devil

          Re: 2 rules of percussive maintenance

          Especially juggling.

        2. Unicornpiss Silver badge

          Re: 2 rules of percussive maintenance

          Maybe not sex..

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: 2 rules of percussive maintenance

        There is no problem so large or so complex that it cannot be solved with the application of a carefully placed quantity of high explosives.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Percussive Maintenance, is probably the oldest technicue in the engineer's toolbox, dating back to the first stick or stone picked up by a tool user.

      You can adjust literally anything with a measured blow.

      1. Stumpy
        Facepalm

        Works best on the users I tend to find ...

      2. GrahamRJ

        Is the measurement in inches or in cubic cms?

    3. Tuesday Is Soylent Green Day

      Alas

      as more computer parts go solid state, including hard drives, the less effective percussive maintenance becomes, a sad indictment of our throwaway society.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Alas

        Just remember not to give in to the temptation of cutting out the middle-man and performing it directly on the user...

        1. Chunky Munky
          Devil

          Re: Alas

          Spoilsport

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Alas

        I applied some percussive maintenance to an old iPad 2 that was showing weird things on the screen. It fixed it.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Alas

          There's so much left unsaid here.

          1. katrinab Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Alas

            I googled the fault. It said apply a thump to a particular location on the back of the ipad. That would reseat the thing that was causing the fault.

            I thumped it as instructed. It worked.

      3. Paul Cooper

        Re: Alas

        as more computer parts go solid state, including hard drives, the less effective percussive maintenance becomes, a sad indictment of our throwaway society.

        So, percussive maintenance started with Stone Age silicon chips, and ended with New Age silicon chips?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Recently I unlocked my car with the key fob, opened the door - no light. Hmm. Got in and tried to start it - no reaction whatsoever. Hmm. On a hunch, I stepped out, and (really, truly, for troubleshooting only, I really wasn't angry) SLAMMED the door. Opened it up, light came on, car started fine. Issue was a loose battery cable (since fixed).

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        The central locking is a bit dodgy on my knackered 206, and recently every time I tried to lock the car, the locks would pop back up again after a second. Turns out the fix is an easy one, simply SLAM the passenger door closed hard, and it works again.

        Weirdly, the problem crops up even when I've not used the passenger door.

        1. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

          @phuzz

          I had a minivan do that. It was a faulty door ajar sensor on the sliding door. It wouldn't light the dash light, but it would tell the locks not to stay locked as a backup notice to the driver that all is not well. Took awhile to find that.

  4. Korev Silver badge
    Coat

    Pop music

    You could even describe the story in terms of 90's pop music:

    Stop. Hammer Time

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Pop music

      I always thought that was what you did to a belligerent clock?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Pop music

        I thought hammer time was what you did to awful vinyl.

    2. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Pop music

      Stop. Hammer Time

      See this power button? You Cant Touch This.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: Pop music

        And Pray (to get a little more obscure).

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Pop music

        For extra hard problems, don't forget Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer.

      3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Pop music

        Funny.

        My Bosch fridge actually has a power button inside the main door. While it does have the standard "line-in-a-circle" power symbol on it, not a lot of people know what that means in this context...AND, it gives no indication of its state (it's a momentary push button)

        The cleaning people accidentally pushed it once, and, yes, it does turn off the refrigeration.

        So, there's now a label next to it: "DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON"

        1. SonofRojBlake

          Re: Pop music

          There is no way I'd have been able to resist making the label say "Please do not press this button again."

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Pop music

            But it's a momentary action push button. The sign needs to say "If you pressed this button once, do it again."

            1. Negative Charlie

              Re: Pop music

              > The sign needs to say "If you pressed this button once, do it again."

              Not bad for a Minimal Viable Product, but for version 1.1 you need something like: "If you pressed this button an odd number of times, press it another odd number of times, THEN STOP."

  5. Povl H. Pedersen

    Macintosh

    In the 80ties, I worked as a student at the campus Apple center, and later at the big Apple center in town.

    We has harddisk issues as well. The Sony 20MB used in Macintosh SE/30 had lubrication that got thicker over time. So at some point, you could not let the computer stay without power over the weekend, or it would not boot monday morning.

    First trouble shooting was to try to turn the whole computer 180 degrees back and forth more or less around the center of the harddrive. If that did not work, open the computer, out with the disk, and then in one hand twist it back and forth almost like making a milkshake. Then try to boot again.

    It is unbelievable how many customers continue with the defective disk instead o just buying a new one. But SCSI disks where expensive at that time. And if not powered off, they could run for decades.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Macintosh

      Yes, the old Mac SCSI drives were notorious for sticking like that. My remedy (for my IIsi) was to whack the drive edgewise against the floor. It worked.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Macintosh

      One of my first encounters with SCSI was in the late '80s with a Mac where some genius had set the SCSI ID for the boot drive to 7, instead of removing all the jumpers and leaving it at its default 0. This meant that when they added a device (in this case a SyQuest 44Mb drive), even if switched on without a disk inserted then the computer would repeatedly try and boot from that ID before eventually geting to ID 7.

      20 seconds to fix the problem and 10 minutes to make it look very complicated indeed.

      1. Snapper
        Pint

        Re: Macintosh

        Ahhhh! External SyQuest SCSI drives! With those little buttons to choose the SCSI ID? Just the sort of thing to press with your finger when moving the only drive in the office (cheap bastards) between workstations.

        If I had a quid for every time I fixed one by telling them to change it to anything but 0 or 3 or 7 (IIRC) then restart, I'd probably have the same amount of money I have now due to ------->

        1. jcitron

          Re: Macintosh

          Oh the other thing with those Syquest drives...

          If there happened to be another one lying around, the platters from one would not work in the other. The discs tended to work only with the device they were formatted in, causing some rather frustrated customers who brought their artwork to the printer for printing only to find out that the printer couldn't read their discs!

          So much for portability!

  6. GlenP Silver badge

    Hammering...

    Hammering isn't necessarily the best option here. Giving the box (or drive if really bad) a good twist in the disk's horizontal plane was usually the best option.Had a 486SX box as a work machine that ran for a year or so like that.

    We did have one really stubborn drive that, as a last resort with the data lost anyway, we took the top off and manually spun up the platters to get them moving. It survived long enough to retrieve the required files.

    1. Jess--

      Re: Hammering...

      I had to manually spin up a 2.5" external hard drive with the top cover removed recently (1Tb).

      It had been dropped while running and the power had disconnected at the exact moment it hit the floor meaning that a combination of g-forces and lack of power left the heads on the platters rather than retracted.

      when it tried to spin itself up it couldn't retract the heads (because they weren't floating) and it couldn't turn the platters because the heads were stuck.

      A well timed spin of the spindle got the platters moving (with a screech) and the drive came back to life with everything apart from a couple of files intact.

      once copied the drive was destroyed with a hammer.

      1. tip pc Bronze badge

        Re: Hammering...

        the heads are meant to retract in on power loss.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Hammering...

          And they normally would, unless the drive is powered until the moment it hits the floor. The impact can whack the heads against the platter hard enough to lose the air cushion and stick them in place. Some (mostly laptop) drives now contain a accelerometer that parks the heads if it detects a 0G situation (freefall) to protect the drive

          1. Kurgan
            Trollface

            Useless in space

            Which makes it useless on the ISS.

        2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

          Re: Hammering...

          > the heads are meant to retract in on power loss.

          For those new, as after 1985, auto-parking drives: Yes. I remember the "park" command before turning off the computer of my uncle back then.

  7. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    you could actually hear a computer boot: first...

    Even up to these days, sequence can be crucial in problem solving. Recently, on a unofficial side job, I had to extract an Exchange mailbox in the dark hours. My only access was the client computer with restricted user permissions. Clever admins prevented pst files and I knew no other feasible means to get the data out. I couldn't wait till support hours because I needed the data urgently and, just as importantly, didn't want to answer inevitable questions of why.

    No problem, right? Quick search through the registry and the right key is found. Change the reg key, start Outlook and - nothing. The bloody thing (the reg key) is reset every time the bloody thing (i.e. Outlook) starts. Obviously, the reg key had to be reset before it was read and applied again. Solution: frantically re-applying the reg key to the desired value while Outlook starts. And the mailbox's GBs started flowing.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Someone was leaving a company and wanted his mails and contacts, breaking company policies?

      Probably I would have used an hammer too, on your fingers....

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Well, NOT breaking company policy for there was no policy.

        1. LDS Silver badge
          Devil

          There could be a law or two about company properties and IP, though... and if admins blocked local pst file, some kind of policy actually exists.

          1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

            I see where you're coming from - these are issues I deal with on a daily basis. But worry no more, not in this case: no law, regulation, directive etc. was violated and the policy was simply set by the external service provider.

    2. richardcox13

      Solution: frantically re-applying the reg key to the desired value while Outlook starts

      Simpler solution: apply an ACL to the registry key make it read-only...

      (Works for any group policy based on setting keys, usually by denying SYSTEM write.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Thanks for the tip! Should have thought of this before as I already needed to grant myself permission to change the key in the first place.

  8. Mr Dogshit

    No hammer needed

    Samsung HDDs. They'd sometimes make a strange clicking noise and the BIOS wouldn't find them.

    If you rapped them on the top with your knuckles, or gave a swift tap with a screwdriver handle, they'd spin up and you'd be able to copy the contents across to a replacement drive using Ghost.

    Happy days.

    1. SminkyBazzA

      Re: No hammer needed

      3. A screwdriver handle is a very light form of hammer

      1. Admiral Grace Hopper

        Re: No hammer needed

        A hammer has been known to serve as an improvised, if less subtle, screwdriver.

        1. Ken Shabby Bronze badge
          Alert

          Re: No hammer needed

          De rigueur in Birmingham, I believe.

      2. Caver_Dave
        Facepalm

        Re: No hammer needed

        SWMBO uses a shoe as a hammer and a butter knife as a flat bladed screw driver. She says that if they don't work then it's too technical for her and I have to fix it.

        As she doesn't wear stilettos and most screws are now cross head, I deem her antics become safer as time progresses and everything gets smaller.

      3. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: No hammer needed

        4. When used correctly, any tool is a form of hammer

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: No hammer needed

          5. As are size 9 steel toe-capped safety work boots if all else fails.

  9. RGE_Master

    Come again

    Let me make sure I understand this, not only did you get the machine back up, using a technique which was frequently employed, the customer then decides that he DOESN'T want the person who sorted it out in the first place?

    There is zero logic there, he fixed it, thank him and get him back!

    1. John Sager

      Re: Come again

      In those days computers were magic boxes, the IT guy was a shaman to a lot of people, and whacking disks was seen as a pagan ritual. No wonder the good upstanding accountants we're glad to see the back of him.

      1. Uk_Gadget

        Re: Come again

        Exactly, I usually asked the owner to get me a cup of tea before hammer time so the missed it

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Come again

      "Alessandro" here: the boss ended up sending me back anyway having told me to explain said accountant that my daily job was in software engineering, with an occasional side job in system engineering. I also explained that if any other engineer in a 30Km radius would have been sent, the verdict would have been:

      Sorry, all of your data is lost. Buy a new computer and enter all data again...

  10. MarkET

    Stiction

    ...apparently the force required to cause one body in contact with another to begin to move. Had this occasionally with Seagate and Quantum hard drives back in the day, 1990's. Hammer useful, also sometimes part of 8" floppy drive head re-alignment procedure...

  11. chivo243 Silver badge
    Happy

    Hot to the touch...

    I thought we were going to put the disk into the freezer.

    1. Sam not the Viking

      Re: Hot to the touch...

      A long time ago, I had heard that putting a disk in the freezer was sometimes effective for data-recovery. I thought is was a good spoof for ordinary citizens to open themselves to ridicule.

      In desperation, after multi-plane, sub-destructive percussion had failed, and with no-one watching, I put a troublesome disk into the freezer compartment of the fridge. Like the disk, I was stunned, but we both recovered for long enough to extract the data files.

      1. quxinot Silver badge

        Re: Hot to the touch...

        And as the extension/variant of that: Once the drive is chilled and the backups are inevitably taking bloody ages because there's nine zillion tiny files that are being copied because you're trying to get everything possible and the customer isn't quite sure exactly where/which files are needed...

        Spraying an inverted can of air duster at the thing while it chugs and tries to warm up.

        There are some tasks that I ensure I'm not being watched while I perform:

        -Most percussion fits that bill

        -Anything that looks like a pagan ritual (using a freezer while chanting [usually "Work you f@#ing thing" repeatedly], and the like)

        -Doing things that are clearly not to be imitated (scraping off a "no user servicable parts" sticker off a PSU to get the top open, swapping disk drive PCB's, running a motherboard in the sink to clean enough nicotine off to catch a buzz, etc).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hot to the touch...

          Just out of interest, do you also mutter "i'm not a bloody user" every time you peel off the "no user serviceable parts inside" labels?

          It's something of a ritual for me.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hot to the touch...

            Def. guilty here on that one!

            "I'll let you know if I see any users. In the meantime, snip snip"

        2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Hot to the touch...

          Fridge & component freezer on a HDD that had critical data.

          In one instance I had to do it twice, as it failed again at 95% of the Ghost clone (Took eye off the ball as we were on the home straight & let it warm up too much).

          Icon - Ice Cold One Thanks.

        3. Benson's Cycle

          Re: Hot to the touch...

          I remember well an HP optical fibre module that had a screw on the side with a label saying "Do not undo this screw."

          The maintenance manual told you to undo the screw, because as you were reading the manual you were competent to do so.

      2. Soruk

        Re: Hot to the touch...

        I used this technique to recover data from a dying hard disc from an Acorn RiscPC. Drive attached to a USB adapter and a long-ish lead, I had it in a couple of zip-lock bags, let it cool down then just dd'ed the thing to my Linux machine. It ran long enough to get an error-free image of the entire disc, now that image lives on with an SD card and an IDE adapter, and the RiscPC has never run so fast! It's also much easier to back the thing up now as the SD card is easily accessible to be imaged.

      3. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Hot to the touch...

        We once had an Acer Ferrari 3200 come in and would shut down after a short time, and then finally never. my boss put the drive in a freezer(many hours as I recall), and it booted.

    2. stiine Silver badge

      Re: Hot to the touch...

      No, it was hot because it wasn't spinning, though the motor was doing its best.

  12. Benson's Cycle

    Meanwhile...

    They were getting away with providing the customer zero service and not doing any preventive maintenance even though everybody knew what happened inside microcomputers in the disgusting office environments of those days. It is not a good look for the company.

    I once had to tell a designer that his brilliant idea of carving up some MDF in his office to make himself an ergonomic desk had destroyed both the graphics card and the cpu of his computer, as the MDF dust had stopped both fans and the relevant bits had overheated. On that occasion it was the disc drive survived.

    1. A. N. Onymouse

      Re: Meanwhile...

      I used to get calls all the time from friends of friends (who wanted cheap home IT support) who had a tower system at home that 'just stops working after 5 minutes'

      My first question was "Do you have carpets?"

      In almost every case the user had a floor mounted tower on wooden floors in a corner somewhere that collected the dust and fluff and clogged the CPU fan causing a shutdown on overheat. Carpets collect the dust anf fluff, wooden floors somehow shove it all in a corner.

      Quick vacuum and an air blower and I accepted my payment in beer or whisky.

      Sadly my free beer supply dried up with the switch to laptops and tablets.

  13. jake Silver badge

    This used to be so common it has a name.

    It's called "stiction".

    First unplug the hard drive then plug it back in again. That's the power and both ends of the data cable(s). Then turn the box on, see if it boots. If it does, it was poor termination and you've temporarily fixed it. Back up the complete system before doing anything else.

    If the above doesn't work, turn it on, wait until the drive just starts to spin, rap the computer case with your knuckles parallel to the plain of the platter(s).. Sometimes a good hard slap is required. If that works, it was stiction and you may have just booted it for the final time. Back up the complete system before doing anything else.

    If that doesn't work, I recommend (and use!) Drive Savers. Spendy, but they'll get your data back if it's at all possible.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: This used to be so common it has a name.

      I should add that the drive in question can no longer be trusted. You'll need a new one. Preferably a completely new computer system. However, in the case where your old software won't run on modern equipment, there are reputable companies which sell known-good vintage replacements. I use and recommend Excess Solutions in Santa Clara, now that they have taken over Silly Con Valley's legendary HalTed.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: This used to be so common it has a name.

        Preferably a completely new computer system.

        Indeed. Some twenty years ago I replaced one PC's crashed hard drive a few times. I was suspecting its user of performing unjust percussive maintenance procedures on the machine. But it turned out to be a dodgy HD controller on the mainboard, which needed to be replaced.

        1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

          Re: This used to be so common it has a name.

          Indeed. Some twenty years ago I replaced one PC's crashed hard drive a few times. I was suspecting its user of performing unjust percussive maintenance procedures on the machine. But it turned out to be a dodgy HD controller on the mainboard, which needed to be replaced.

          Had a client we delivered a brand-new Netwre 3.12 system to. Said server had a VLB IDE HDD controller, and was mirroring to two HDD's (Netware's SFT II)

          Anyways, client phoned later (I was on standby) and complained about data getting hosed. So I did a reinstall, restored data, and all was well - until a few hours later.

          Took the machine to the office, ripped out the fancy VLB ISA IDE card, plonked in a standard ISA IDE card, reinstalled, restored, and delivered to customer.

          No more issues.

          I left that buggr'd VLB IDE card somewhere, somebody snaffled it later on, and I chortled with glee.

    2. Jay 2

      Re: This used to be so common it has a name.

      Yeah I recall the stiction problem with some IBM (I think) drives in some NCR storage back in '94-95. I was working for NCR at the time and knew a few of the field engineers (mainly as they kept borrowing items from my benchmarking centre stash). The (maybe?) documented procedure was for the engineer to remove the offending drive, "lightly tap" it against their knee, then replace the drive.

    3. Anguilla

      Stiction and the utility program to beat it!

      I recall, in the dim & distant past, that I acquired a utility that allowed the users to "park" the heads close to the spindle - rather than anywhere else on the "Viagra" disk's surfaces. [40MB MFM Seagate]

      Not so much effort to break the "stiction" if the heads are parked up close to the spindle.

      So many years ago that I completely fail to remember if my acquisition of this utility was ever strictly necessary, or whether it was a "just in case" belt, braces, and a long bit of string" to "save my trousers hitting the floor". <Grin>.

  14. FrankVanRiet

    bloup bloup?

    Yup, sounds like a good old Seagate ST-238 starting up..it would spin up the motor, and then move its heads up and down a bit as part of a self-check..

    Those were indeed the days.. they were notorious for locking up if you powered them off for a while. Always had a small plastic hammer in my toolbox :-)

  15. Blofeld's Cat
    Facepalm

    Ah yes ...

    I was once presented with a Dell PC that wouldn't boot and had a strange sweet, oily smell.

    It turned out that "a friend" had told the owner that it wouldn't boot because the hard disk was sticking.

    The owner had therefore sprayed WD-40 into every opening in the machine's case to "free it up".

    The PC actually survived this treatment and a small amount of ... er ... gentle tapping on the hard drive, restored it long enough to extract the data.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah yes ...

      Our otherwise quite good systems admin came to us with a strong belief in the utility of wd40 on sticking fans. I had to educate them that this is not the correct lubricant for magnetic bearings.

      1. Robert Sneddon Bronze badge
        Mushroom

        Rocket Science

        WD-40 isn't a lubricant, it's a solvent so using it on sticky fans will work to get crud out of the bearings. It's not really for use on electronics since it's bad for some plastics which aren't petrochemical-resistant unlike the materials used in car engines. I use a can of spray-can of isopropyl alcohol to fix problems with fans and computer mice etc. but if WD-40 is what you have to hand then go for it.

        Icon 'coz WD-40 was invented for rockets.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Rocket Science

          Unlike isopropyl alcohol, wd-40 leaves behind the aforementioned sticky residue. Which, as you note, is not meant as a lubricant, making it a very unsuitable lubricant for devices whose intended lubricant was air. It's quite stuiable for attracting more dust though.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Rocket Science

            WD 40 is also great when shovelling wet snow. Spray it on the shovel & the snow won't stick.

            1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Rocket Science

              And also don't forget to use a can or bottle of diluted ethanol afterwards, to recover from the trauma...

          2. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Rocket Science

            The sticky residue is actually the intended function, not a bug, in WD-40.

            It's a water displacement product, intended to be sprayed onto seams where it'll seep in between the material and form a residue there or for covering a surface and form a protective film, preventing corrosion. The aforementioned rockets (The Atlas specifically) were one of those applications.

            1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: Rocket Science

              > It's a water displacement product

              It's well known that the WD in WD-40 stands for "wanton destruction" not "water displacement".

    2. Michele.x

      Re: Ah yes ...

      WD-40 isn't conductive, so if the oil ended only on PCBs isn't a big problem.

      I have a contact cleaner that smells suspiciously like WD-40, and worked well to make switches and potentiometers start to work again in audio gear.

      1. ibmalone Silver badge

        Re: Ah yes ...

        Surprisingly, the smell of WD-40 is actually specifically added, so it may be used in other things.

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

        Re: Ah yes ...

        What you usually want is "penetrating oil" -- something like "Liquid Wrench" or "PB Blaster" or "Kroil"

        All three are basically light hydrocarbons (check the MSDS) and will loosen up gummy lubricant. Some of them leave a lubricating residue. PB Blaster seems to work better than the reformulated Liquid Wrench, which used to be my go-to.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not spinning rust but I was once summoned to a customer site to fix a computer that was randomly stopping. This was pre-pc days and the box in question was an ISC3651, an 8088 based colour desktop. It had a big proprietary parallel port on the back for which we had made an interface box.

    This machine had been running an engine test bed for a couple of years before we got the call.

    Pitched up onsite and started to investigate. Everything seemed normal. Took machine apart for a close look and... Nothing.

    Rinse and repeat.

    I'd just put everything back together for the umpteenth time and realised I'd forgotten to connect the interface box. Never mind, it wouldn't object to being hot plugged, so I leaned across the machine and... It stopped.

    Top off again and a really, really close look at the main board.

    The OS on these boxes was in PROM and it turned out the machine had been running happily for two years with one PROM datapin never having been soldered to the PCB, just pressing on the side of the plated through hole.

    30 seconds with a soldering iron and all was well.

    Two years though. Wow.

  17. Colin G

    Spin the drive manually

    We had an old Sparc that wouldn't boot unless you took the disk out, twisted it horizontally with your hand, then quickly connected the cables and booted the system.

    1. Alan W. Rateliff, II

      Re: Spin the drive manually

      Would that be a Conner?

  18. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Been there, done that

    But I always explain to the customer the internal mechanics of the drive and the reason for whacking it. Along with explaining that I've carefully assessed it and know that it is this particular problem this time, so don't try it when I'm not around.

    I have also resorted to taking the top off and spinning the platters manually to get them moving - obviously didn't reuse the disk once I'd (successfully) copied the data.

  19. ColinPa

    Old rules from the royal navy (100 years ago)

    - If it moves, salute it

    - If it doesn't move paint it

    - If it doesn't work, hit it with a hammer

    - If that doesn't work, get a bigger hammer

    1. Symon Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Old rules from the royal navy (100 years ago)

      Ah yes, the old :- "Don't force it! Use a bigger hammer."

      1. Robert Sneddon Bronze badge

        My Uncle Hughie

        My Uncle Hughie (actually my father's cousin) had been a heavy-horse farrier in his youth. His motto was "always use a big hammer to start with." His reasoning, and I could never fault it was that there was no limit to how gently you could hit something with a big hammer but there was a limit to how hard you could hit something with a small hammer.

        1. Martin
          Happy

          Re: My Uncle Hughie

          there was no limit to how gently you could hit something with a big hammer but there was a limit to how hard you could hit something with a small hammer.

          Have you ever tried putting up picture hooks with a sledge hammer?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: My Uncle Hughie

            I have a 10x10x24 inch Douglas Fir mallet that I use when assembling timber frame bents. I wouldn't recommend using it to tap brass pins back into clockworks. There is a reason so many specialized types of hammer exist.

            Horses for course & all that.

  20. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Brute, Force and Ignorance

    And now I'm going to listen to Rory Gallagher.

  21. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Happy

    Percussive maintenance - for when all else fails.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One of our office...

    Crayon munchers brought in a macintosh se FDHD to show off how long he'd been using Apples.

    Naturally he plugged it in to see if it still worked only for angry noises and no desktop.

    Out of idle curiosity I ask what he's doing listen to the explanation, then the nostalgia and whilst he's wittering on, proceed to just hit the back of the erstwhile machine, to which it promptly finds the disk and starts.

    He looks at me, I look at him and then wander off for coffee whilst he continues to stare. The look he had that I not only had the belligerence to strike his beloved childhood friend but also that it turned it on like a PHB in a bondage parlour...

    Fun times...

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: turned it on like a PHB in a bondage parlour

      New keyboard please

    2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: One of our office...

      but also that it turned it on like a PHB in a bondage parlour...

      That's two new keyboards then.

      Excellent!!!

  23. SPiT

    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the classic "turn it upside down" treatment. I've lost count of the times I've restored a failing drive to temporary serviceability by simply turning it upside down. Stiction can occur simply because the lubricant has very slowly moved under gravity and a simple gravity reversal can give you full serviceability for at least a few days (never tried it for longer).

  24. x 7

    During my time at Time Computers I regularly got the help desk staff to talk customers through removing hard drives, giving them a sharp rap on the floor and replacing them.

    It would free up "frozen" read heads and get the drive working long enough to back up data.

    Quite a common problem, especially on 80gb Seagate and Hitachi/IBM drives

  25. David Austin

    Bong Bing

    I like the fact we've all universally agreed when you plug a SUB Device into Windows, it goes "Bong Bing", and when you unplug it, it goes "Bing Bong".

    Even the novice users I have to talk through on the phone get that one.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Bong Bing

      Shouldn't a sub device just make the classic sonar ping noise?

      Sorry, couldn't resist... :)

  26. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    There's another "fix"

    Years ago I had a customer whose computer refused to boot,she called up (they were about 1000 miles away) and we talked about a few possibilities for getting it up again. A day later she had it up and running, called and said that the problem was the hard disk and I walked her through the backup and replacement procedure. After it was all done I asked her how had she managed to get the system up and running again?

    She told me that she'd listened to the system starting up and realized that the disk was not spinning, so she had undone the screws on the top cover of the disk, removed the cover and rebooted the system. Then she put her finger on the disk and gave it a little push to get it going! The system booted and she kept it running while the backups were made!

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: There's another "fix"

      Thumbs up, because hopefully all fingers accounted for?!

  27. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Trollface

    Anybody remember the notorious Kalok hard drives?

  28. James O'Shea

    One up all of y'all

    I haven't seen anyone mention the all-time classic Tale Of The Stuck Drive.

    The A-6 Intruder was an interdiction/strike attack aircraft used by the United States Navy and Marine Corps starting in the early 1960s. It was an all-weather (that means it could fly at night, night was a weather condition to aviation types at the time) two-seat twin-engine medium bomber with state of the art electronics, including the most advanced bomb-aiming computer in the world, complete with that magical new invention a drum drive. (Those of you who have encountered drum drives may alrfeady knopw where this is going...) The A-6 was heavily used in the Vietnam War, inspiring among other things the book and movie Flight of the Intruder. The crews of early versions discovered that the drum drives didn't like being subject to high gee forces, such as violent evasive action to avoid anti-aircraft fire and SAMs, and would stick, and the bombs couldn't be dropped without the advanced bomb-aiming computer, so all that trouble getting to the target went for nought. One frustrated Marine kicked the drum... and it unstuck. So standard operating procedure was to kick the drum whenever it stuck. Yes, folks, you're sitting in the most advanced attack aircraft in the world, flying over Hanoi with lots of 100mm guns and SAMs and MiGs all after your blood, and you're kicking the computer to make it work so you can drop the bombs and get the hell outta there. Gotta love military tech, you really do. The drum was replaced in later versions, and a simple bomb release which didn't depend on the computer added, just in case. The A-6 kept flying for the USN and USMC until the early 1990s; a specialised electronics warfare version, the Prowler, showed up in the early 1970s and only retired last year.

    1. Mast1

      Re: One up all of y'all

      As a PFY, I worked in research for a company developing microwave oscillators for a combat aircraft.

      One day I approached the test bench with a powered device attached and accidentally kicked the bench as I got seated. Result : level on power meter goes AWOL, frequency goes off analyser screen.

      Approach boss to point out that this may not be a "marketable feature" for the particular aircraft: his solution was "Don't kick the desk".

      It convinced me that a degree involving the study of structures was a very good choice.

  29. Jimathy

    Never have your Accountant as a Client

    Never ever take on your accountant as a client, the bastard will be able see how much money your making & will always always try to cut you down. I made that mistake once, never again. I have an understanding with my current accountant that should he need to change his IT Support company I will gladly help him find a replacement, but it won't be me. If he decides he wants me to do it then I will have to find a new accountant.

    Back on Topic, many many moons ago working in a PC repair shop I was tasked with getting the data off a failed drive. I got to the point of sending it to a specialist as the customer was happy to spend the £600 or so quoted, filing out the form it asked if the failure was mechanical or electrical, so powering up one last time I heard a clunk clunk, to this day I don't know why but I gave it one almighty whack on the workbench, it burst into life just long enough to ghost it to another drive.

    One happy customer and we made an extra £600 that day :-)

  30. cookieMonster

    not to a PC

    But an AS/400, had to use a backup tape cartridge, as hammers were forbidden in the computer room. It worked, gave me the time needed to backup the disk, though had to use a new cartridge, as the improvised hammer was kinda 'chipped' after jumpstarting the disk.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: not to a PC

      Hammers forbidden in the computer room?

      There's a story behind that statement, I'll wager.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: not to a PC

        Perhaps it was "getting hammered" in the computer room was forbidden.

        The memories are undoubtedly a little fuzzy of that time.

    2. Kurgan

      Re: not to a PC

      So the backup tape actually worked to recover your data, didn't it?

    3. Fatman Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: QIC tapes as backups.

      Do you remember the days of using QIC tapes as backups???

      One day, after a catastrophic hard drive crash, I had to rebuild a system from scratch. First load the operating system on a new drive, and then restore the system with the most recent backup.

      I put in the O/S install tape, did a re-tension, and the fucking band snapped. Stopped dead in the water because of a 1/8 inch wide tension band.

      Luckily for me, another company locally used the same hardware system, and I was able to use their install tape to load the O/S. Saved my ass!

      After that, and making sure that manglement understood where I was 'coming from', we started purging all QIC tapes older than 3 years from routine backup use.

  31. Huginn

    Too cold to boot

    In an early project we were working in a cold portacabin which had removable (Bernoulli) drives which had to be taken out and stored in the locked filing cabinets overnight. The only heating, a portable heater had to be turned off. During a very cold winter spell the drives got so cold that they wouldn't boot until they had defrosted slightly. As the junior my job was to be in first, turn the heater and PCs on so that by the time everyone else rolled in they might be in a position to start work.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Too cold to boot

      Back 30+ years ago when I worked for a small software house & PC dealer we made a rule that any new systems in winter had to sit in the office for a minimum of 24 hours before being set up. Typically they'd arrive from the carrier freezing cold, would format and install OK but then the HDs would fail the next day requiring them to be reformatted.

    2. jdb3

      Re: Too cold to boot

      Just for contrast - I was starting out as a computer support tech in the mid-90s (Windows for Workstations 3.11 running on MS-Dos 5.x). Went to a support call in our HR department, this 'critical' PC wasn't working. After talking to the end user, found out that it wasn't really that critical, and that in fact they just wanted it taken away.

      So, unplug it, take it back to the shop to see what it really is (they didn't know, and it was a typical 1990s beige box). First of all, find out it's a 286 that someone assembled at home (as far as the other staff was concerned, anyway...) Secondly - there was this mysterious power cabled device in one of the bays, that was way too small to be a disk. It turns out that it was a small heater, specifically designed to sit in a 5.25" disk bay, to make sure that a hard drive was warm enough to start.

      The saddest part in my opinion? The hard disk it was supposed to warm was gone by that point! So they effectively had a PC acting as a heater plugged in under this desk for at least 4-5 years... I really wish now that I'd kept that device just to show it off.

  32. HammerOn1024

    The "Drop"

    Had an old XT that stopped booting at school. Same thing; a frozen drive. So while everyone was running around with their hair on fire (Lots of homework on it apparently.), I picked the drive up, it was disconnected, and whacked it on it's side against the table. Everyone froze. The blood in everyone's face left for other areas. Everyone's jaw dropped. I was amused, after all, there was nothing left to loose. I plugged it back in and turned the computer on, it spun up and booted.

    "Now then, back it up and go get a NEW drive." I said and walked away.

  33. Horridbloke

    Not quite IT...

    ... but many years ago I successly coaxed the Student Union's dead VCR back to life by dropping it about a foot into a table. I explained to the people who needed it that there wasn't really anything to lose by trying it.

    Ents rule.

  34. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Facepalm

    With all these

    stories of hitting stuff to get it moving... please remember the number 1 rule of hitting stuff with a hammer to get it working

    never ever tell the crayon eaters what you are doing, how you a doing it and why you are doing it.

    Because a light tap to free up a stuck bearing becomes a 3 day job to remove said part after the crayon muncher has twatted the thing with a 5lb lump hammer "because he saw you use a small plastic mallet to give it a light tap"

    Icon.... for your expression when you see the wreckage.....

  35. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

    The "crazy hammer guy" who got your PC running and saved all your data? That's gratitude for ya.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Jeffrey Nonken,

      "The "crazy hammer guy" who got your PC running and saved all your data? That's gratitude for ya."

      Not been in IT long have you ???

      Gratitude is the thing that tends to reduce with rank of person you deal with or difficulty of the fix/job you actually did.

      The people at the 'workface' always thank you, but the working through the night or over a weekend tends to be not noticed by many more senior people.

      Sad but true !!!

      Of course there are exceptions but those are remembered because they *are* exceptions !!!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Crazy hammer guy that fixed it

      "Alessandro" here: the boss ended up sending me back anyway having told me to explain said accountant that my daily job was in software engineering, with an occasional side job in system engineering. I also explained that if any other engineer in a 30Km radius would have been sent, the verdict would have been:

      Sorry, all of your data is lost. Buy a new computer and enter all data again...

  36. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    We had an old Sun 'pizza box' workstation at Boeing that died. Just short of its weekly backup. I was walking by as the IT guy was explaining 'stiction' to the poor user, who was not thrilled with having to re-do a week's worth of work. I stepped up and said, "Well, there's nothing to be lost." Picked up the box, flipped on the power switch and gave the whole thing a violent twisting jerk. The disk spun up and I suggested that they run the backup right now.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HVAC blower motor

    My dad has an old HVAC blower motor that wouldn't start spinning when power was applied, but give it a little turn by hand and it would spin right up. Useless for an under-the-house motor, but he put a grinding wheel and power cord on it. That was when I was a kid; still running strong.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: HVAC blower motor

      Or maybe just replace the start capacitor?

  38. Colonel Mad

    Some people don't realize they are talking to the right person

  39. Blacklight

    Pencils

    Our old 8088 and then 8086 used to have a batch file we ran to "park" the heads on the disks prior to shutdown. But we started with a 20MB "hardcard" (and a Hercules b&w graphics card, along with DOS 2.11...)

    But later we had a dead hard drive, that we could restart with a pencil in the drive spindle, releasing it. We did back it up then

  40. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Happy

    Surface tension

    Some years ago during the original tablet fad we had one of our VPs bring us a MS Surface (Pro 2 or 3 maybe?) that would power up for a second, then shut off. The user's data was of course not backed up and was urgently needed as he was "flying out to a customer in four hours". I tried a little of everything to revive the @#$%! tablet and had no luck. (was never fond of these) Not looking forward to peeling the self-obsoleting glued-together device like a banana to try and extract the hard drive, I discussed the situation with a colleague. We agreed that we'd like to just take a hammer to it, which gave me the idea that with nothing else to lose, as I'd likely have to destroy it anyway, I'd beat the thing on my desk a few times and see what happened.

    After detaching the pizza box keyboard, I gave the formica top of my desk a stout whack with the tablet, then another. Nothing. Feeling my frustration seething, I did it a few more times, with increasing force. By this time someone hesitantly asked if I was alright, coworkers were nervously looking towards my desk, things were beginning to fall off my shelves, and the person I'd discussed the problem with was laughing maniacally. Success! The device came on by itself during the last assault and stayed running. I quickly copied the data off it over the LAN. I prepared another tablet for the user with time to spare. Everyone lived happily ever after, and my colleagues had a new respect for me, possibly born of fear.

  41. JohnHMorris

    Ahhh the uses of WD40. Many years ago visiting my Mum and Dad (of blessed memory now) I asked about the WD40 which was kept in the house. Apparently useful for lubricating sticky joints. Like knees. Was a known property. In Canada anyway.

  42. ecofeco Silver badge
    Pint

    Memories

    Best comments ever. I've done 99% of everything desribed in these posts yet forgotten half them.

    Pints all 'round!

  43. jcitron

    In the early 1990's a small video-training company I worked for had a 2 1-GB Seagate SCSI drives RAIDed together at RAID 0 for video editing. I know it's RAID 0, but these weren't for permanent data and only for video editing before the content was written to tape.

    Anyway. The drives would heat up and sticktion would kick in when the drives were turned off. I told the user not to turn the drives off, but he would and then the next morning it was my job to get the RAID working again.

    I would repeatedly power up the drives and turn them off and bang the box on the floor a few times while they were spinning. Eventually, there would be a scrunchy sound and the drives would come to life and everyone was happy until the process was repeated again. The drives were replaced eventually with much bigger 9 GB drives and these new drives never had that problem.

  44. -martin-

    No Hammers, but still brute force

    I had an old Compaq laptop given to me, in the mid nineties - I was still at school and used it for learning to program and school work. The hard disk started to fail on startup, you could hear it trying to spin, but couldn't - a wack (from my fist) used to sort it out...for a while. Then it stopped. While I kept some important stuff backed up on floppy disks, I didn't have enough disks for everything. So I proceeded to take the disk apart, and manually move the heads out of park. Believe it or not, this actually worked and continued to work for some months..pop the top off, flick heads out, pop the top back on and slot it back in, by the end I wasn't even putting the screws back in. Oh, and I did this with the power on!

  45. Luiz Abdala Bronze badge
    Coat

    Percussive Maintenance.

    I like the name "Percussive Maintenance" better...

    But yeah, crazy hammer guy works.

  46. Dolvaran

    I don't recall the make of hard disk, but the PC was a 286 MOD purchase of indeterminate origin. On discovering that the disk was stuck and refusing to spin up, we discovered that a comb was just the right size to slip into a slot in the front of the disk and jemmy the thing into movement. Worked every time.

  47. SeanSkiVT

    I had used that method to bring a fuel pump to life on an old Saab, but never on a computer component. Brilliant!

  48. willi0000000

    i have no idea why they didn't want The Hammer Guy™ to install the new machine . . . he solved their problem, told them how to backup and made the point perfectly clear and memorable!

    i'd have demanded The Hammer Guy™ back.

  49. venkatarangan

    As computers became sophisticated, Solid State drives replacing the (un)beloved Hard Drive, and of course, cloud computing, the reliability we get from our devices are very high that we get complacent on having backups.

    One thing I will give it to the older systems was that we (users) had the power and control to figure out what went wrong and try to fix them, in today's systems we (and so do the OEMs) have NO idea on how they work, and what went wrong.

  50. VE3ID

    Don't keep your floppies in a fireproof box

    A business software developer customer of mine bought an 80 MB QIC24 backup drive for $3000 from me. He tried to sell it to his client who owned an asphalt plant, but the guy thought that his backup floppies were all he needed. So my customer went and demo-ed it to his client anyway, because he had spent some time there developing and there weren't any compatible media to take his work home with. In this case 'demoing' meant a full image backup.

    A few days later, the asphalt plant burned down. The heat was to intense that the only recognisable thing left was the Faraday shield around one of the VT100 terminals.

    The client proudly went to his fireproof box to get his backups, and found them all melted! Fireproof boxes do not double as Thermos flasks!

    Naturally, with the client having $250,000 in receivables to collect from his general contractor clients, my customer made a killing selling him his own data back!

  51. Aseries

    Just BOOT it up

    Back in the late 1970s I serviced an aging mainframe system at a large metro newspaper. The combination device for reading and punching cards as well as printing was an even older device. The technology of the "printer" was based on numerous relays. The printer was having startup problems. I pulled out the box that controlled power, it was completely filled with relays. After cleaning the relay contacts it came back to life. I noticed the box had a large black mark on the outside. While I was attempting to clean the black mark the computer operator remarked to not bother, that was where they would give it a swift kick when it got cranky.

  52. That 8 Bit Guy
    Go

    Hammer Time!

    So that PC XT must have had either a RLL or MFM drive, and possibly full height.

    Due to the weight of these 5mb hard disk drives, a hammer would be the only tool to use for recovery and "interactive" purposes.

    Hopefully the hammer technician checked to see if the terminator plug was still attached......

  53. J. Cook Silver badge

    There's a reason why my 4 pound deadblow hammer has "drive adjuster" scrawled on it in sharpie...

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