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Hard Drive Failures Cause Home Theater Hatred Print E-mail
Thursday, 28 June 2007
Imagine you made an enormous investment in time and money to rip your entire collection of music and movies onto your computer's hard drive, or more likely an external drive or storage device. The power of having such a vast collection of movies and music at your fingertips is the unadulterated sex appeal behind the idea of PC convergence. There is motivation to buy networking devices and media center PCs loaded with software from computer companies over more black-box gear from traditional home theater companies. You could potentially transmit a DVD through your wireless system to your den. You could maybe even access a few albums from your hotel room's Internet connection during a trip to Hong Kong, enabling you to have some new music on your iPod for the long flight home. You could also whip up a custom playlist for your themed dinner party. You would be the king of all things convergence. That is until one of your hard drives loaded with your vast collection of media catastrophically and irrecoverably fails. Increasingly, this is happening to computer users and home theater enthusiasts alike.

Ten to fifteen years ago the most important element of a high-end audiophile or home theater system was sheer performance. Today, the custom installers and integrators of the world have proven performance to be far less important than reliability. But in a PC-driven world, the demand for bigger and faster hard drives results in products that meet mass market price points but leave consumers with components that fail quickly.

As an example, look at many of the most popular DirecTV TiVo digital video recorders in a typical home theater's video system. Anyone who has owned a TiVo generally falls in love with its ease of use and simplicity, especially when trying to record and manage programming in HD. The problem is when a hard drive fails (and they fail frequently), leaving that old episode of The Sopranos or an interview you really wanted to see on Keith Olbermann stuck on your DVR's hard drive forever, with no hope of ever recovering it. To DirecTV's credit, they are quick to replace the hardware, however, in my system I must have cycled through six or seven different players - all with hard drive failures. The simple fact is, the parts that make up PC convergence products, like external hard drives, DVRs and many components inside the computers, use in the scope of a home theater component are not designed to take the abuse, or last as long as the home theater enthusiast is used to.

There is nothing a home theater enthusiast or even a home theater manufacturer can do to slow the growth of PC convergence. The idea, as well as the reality of convergence is coming to a home theater system near you, whether you like it or not. The moral of the story is, much like with your main computer, you must always back up your media - be it music, movies, photos or beyond - in a way that even if you have a massive failure in your system, especially on one of the growing numbers of hard drives, you can recover your loss. In my case, I have three backups of my music collection and when two of them went bad on the same day, amazingly I was safe. With the cost of DVD-R discs going down, many people use this vehicle as a backup. When recordable Blu-ray and or HD DVD discs hit the market with even larger storage capacities, it will be even easier to make a reasonable backup. Lastly, don't sell your discs. Legally, you need the discs in your possession to have the music or movies on your hard drive. While it's unlikely the hard drive police are coming to your house for an audit of your media center PC, another reason you want to keep your discs stored somewhere neatly, is that there is always the chance you may need them for a last-ditch backup.

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