My hard drive crashed last Friday. It started making funny noises, so I turned off my machine. When I turned it back on, it wouldn't boot. (Well, actually, it would boot. And freeze. And turn off. And reboot.) This was annoying but not catastrophic, as I have a Mirra backup appliance as well as several redundant copies of the really important stuff.
At least, that's what I told myself. The thing with Mirra, and all those redundant backups, is that they don't actually copy the applications. Just the data. And getting everything up and running again turned out to be a major hassle. I had installed a new hard drive into my Toshiba laptop and the system recovery disks they provided yelled "wrong machine" at me. Sheesh. What's the point of having system recovery disks if they only work with the original hard drive? I had taken the opportunity to upgrade to 100GB, and I wasn't about to go back to the store for an official Toshiba drive. (For what it's worth, I later found an utility on Toshiba's website that would trick my hard drive into saying it was a Toshiba drive.)
I could (and did) install a fresh copy of Windows XP, but of course it didn't have any drivers for my laptop. It didn't recognize my sound card, wireless network adapter, wired network adapter, or even anything beyond basic video. I had dial-up, though. :b A search through Toshiba's website revealed that I'd be spending a long time figuring out which drivers to install.
Fortunately, a friend turned me on to the excellent SpinRite, which found the disk's bad sector and repaired it. I was then able to boot the original drive with no problems. From there, it was just a matter of putting the new hard drive into a FireWire (that's IEEE 1394 to you, buddy) enclosure and using Norton Ghost to copy the old drive onto the new one.
I came out of it with all of my data intact and with a lot more knowledge about how to recover dead hard drives, not to mention a great stack of CD's in red cases for those "special" moments.
All in all, though, I would rather have remained ignorant.