January 29, 2012


repair crew
My Lenovo ThinkPad W520 workstation will be out of service for at least four days.

Granted, that includes Saturday, Sunday (today) but I had things to do. My warranty provides onsite, next business day service. That would mean Monday but ... the technicians are booked. I get to wait until sometime on Tuesday.

What Happened?

When I startup my computer, an error message says
Detection error on HDD1 (Ultrabay HDD)
I have two fast internal 500 GB hard drives configured to act like one huge hard drive (RAID0 striping). This high performance option writes portions of a file to each drive at the same time. This helps when editing video and doing other disk intensive tasks. (Another option is RAID1 mirroring which puts the same files on two drives. This is safer because if one disk stops working, you have a backup.)

There is likely a problem (in decreasing order) with
  1. the connector between the hard drive, Ultrabay and motherboard
  2. the motherboard
  3. the hard drive

Why So Slow?

If next day repairs aren’t available, that means
  • too many defective machines and/or
  • too few technicians
Both problems are resolvable and each is a concern. In today’s world, any day can be a work day. Restricting service calls to Monday-Friday feels arcane. After all, Lenovo sells 24/7.

Don't Panic

I can't afford to be out of service for days. Thanks to pre-planned redundancy, I'm not. The cloud is the main reason. That's where I have key files (Dropbox), email, contacts, tasks, etc. I can access them with my iPad, netbook and smartphone. Multiple Internet connected devices provide cheap insurance and more productivity.

I can keep working with my netbook for simple tasks requiring Windows. For instance, I composed/posted a blog post and podcast 153.

I'm definitely less productive but reasonably functional. I can catch up in other areas, such as thinking and creating more content. Phone calls and meetings aren’t affected.

Can't Do

I can't work on two PowerPoint presentations. One is for a live session in three months but the organizers want a draft to start the slow process of applying for  Continuing Education credits for attendees. The second is for a live presentation this Thursday.

I can't work on video. I wanted to practice editing and publish at least one. That's one of my Pick Four goals (see Reach your goals with Pick Four from Zig Ziglar and Seth Godin).

Don't Know

If a hard drive is defective, I will lose some files. Mainly raw video. The core files are well-protected by Dropbox, SugarSync, JungleDisk and an external hard drive.

Why aren't the video files backed up? Uploading to online storage is slow and bandwidth caps get in the way. I could have local backups but was compiling all video in one place first. Also, my backup drive is nearly full.

Next Time

I don't want a next time. Here's what I could do
  • have another computer, rather than a netbook
  • have real-time syncing to an external hard drive (in addition to overnight incremental backups)
  • read the warranty fine print
I can't do anything about the fine print but can become better aware of the limitations.
In the unlikely case that I lose anything, the damage will be limited. If you are not using Dropbox or SugarSync, do consider them.


PS Losing Internet access would be worse. I'm thankful that the horror of Rogers Ultimate have been fixed.


  1. Hi Promode - You gave me some food for thought. First my condolences on the breakdown and repair turn around time. Second Kudos! to your 'backup' strategies - you in such a minority inspiring to others I hope.
    Interestingly, in corporations and non-profits I have worked for pc providers e.g. Dell, IBM will offer (at a cost ) service agreements stating same business day (with the fine print .... "too late in the day same day turns to next 'business' day")or next business day. In both of these agreements "business day" is the operative word.
    However I have noticed - "weekend service agreements" are not typically offered. Odd because I am finding that in business weekends are just as much an 'up' time as the typical Monday to Friday business days are.
    And in the business world we have the luxury of IT folks or one individual that goes into their IT bag of ingenuity and gets you your pc back whether hardware or software related. However when it does come to need for service agreements to be acted upon - Weekends have not been an option either. Odd because I am finding that in business weekends are just as much an 'up' time as the typical Monday to Friday business day.
    Admiringly yours,

  2. Thanks for your comments Lesley. As luck would have it, one hard drive was defective and has now been replaced.

    The challenge was reinstalling the operating system etc. My computer has no DVD drive because of the second hard drive. Tech support couriered me new disks even though I had no way to use them. Not their problem. Luckily, I found an old Plextor drive from 2003. It worked and the machine is running once again.

    New problems have arisen. I can no longer use the fingerprint reader. The keyboard light stopped working. The light that shows hard disk activity is always off. The light for Bluetooth is always off too. A cable may be bad. I'm afraid to call back until I get some pending work done.