One fine Sunday evening I was preparing myself for the Monday morning. I get a call, and thanks to my Lumia 710 which synced to LinkedIn contacts, I got to know it was the professor from a reputed institute in Ahmedabad. The last time he called was on the day (or night) before his PhD review where he had forgotten the administrator password for his Netbook which contained his research documents for presentation. So I figured, this time also it would be a similar case.
However unlike last time, this issue was different – his hard drive had crashed. I got to realize that unlike last time I couldn’t solve it on phone. I needed to check things personally. Hence I called him at Pratikar, Monday morning.
I skipped my morning jogging and reached office @9:00 so that I could start off quickly, and he was here at some 10:00 am. Fortunately I wasn’t alone, Kunj came early, too.
It was a HP Netbook. We opened it, after seeing some online video on Youtube, and we then removed the hard drive. It was a Toshiba 320 GB Laptop hard disk. I knew it meant trouble, but still I connected it to our machine.
For a moment it seemed that I was saved. We had a release that day and the quicker I fix that, the faster I can get done with the release. However closer inspection showed that the disk was “clicking“. This problem is common and it is known as the “click of death” – sometimes your hard drive is detected in the BIOS, but not by the OS. In this case, however, the OS was detecting only two partitions – Windows and Recovery.
The professor told that the data was in partitions named PhD and Data. I couldn’t detect them. He had limited time since it was his due-date.
Moments later, the disk got undetectable – not being seen in the BIOS, too. The problem just worsened, the drive was weak.
So I sent him to Micronics data recovery apparently for two reasons:
1. I wanted to focus on the release of our software.
2. I would take more time in diagnosis since problem was new for me. Micronics people are experts in hardware-level diagnosis and also associates of Pratikar, so they would be able to fix the problem easily.
Also, it was important to get it fixed asap since otherwise the professor would have to be “detained for six months” as he said.
However, the Micronics people said that it would take them 3-4 days at least, and minimum Rs. 8000-10000 (which is pretty normal for a hardware-level recovery). The professor asked me what to do. I thought, in 3-4 days even I can fix it.
“Kaushal, I trust you. I would trust you more than someone else. If you can do it, I will bring it to you“, the professor said.
I agreed. My mistake.
He dropped it at office. He asked me how much it would cost. I didn’t reply. I didn’t know whether I could do it! I asked him to give me some time.
The professor is now all over my communication channels – SMS/Calls/Whatsapp. On all places, he repeared the same things – Please keep this in priority, I need it. And yes I took it seriously. The day was over mostly in unsuccessful attempts.
The next day was Rakshabandhan. I had promised a day off to my family; I already had a jam-packed situation since my aunt was here after three years and then leaving for Canada later in the night. I wasn’t able to touch the hard disk. The professor called me. I promised him that I would inform him about the recovery possibility by 11:30 AM the next day.
The next day I shook off my holiday hangover and I went to office early as in around 7:00 AM. I needed to fix the disk.
It was a common BSY error. What happens is that sometimes due to firmware issues a hard disk goes into BUSY state, being too busy to accept replies from the BIOS, hence getting undetected. To solve this error, you need to run a set of firmware commands, which again, vary by models of hard disks. These commands are run by connecting the hard disk to Hyperterminal by connecting the disk to the PC via a specially crafted serial cable. If done improperly, it can erase all data on the disk.
I took the risk. Soon I was able to see the partitions PhD and Data, too. I was excited to inform the professor – I called him. He might be in a lecture so didn’t reply.
I left him a message that his data has been retrieved. Also, I needed to charge him, so prepared an invoice and sent him.
Ideally what we do is, once we determine that we are able to retrieve the data we give the client a quote, and the client can then choose to either pay, or not. If he doesn’t want to pay, we don’t charge him and he can happily take his disk back.
A regular BSY fix recovery costs Rs. 10,000 anywhere in Ahmedabad. I had to show some sanity so I created an invoice with the same amount and I mailed the professor, after which I SMSed the details.
He was there at 4:30 PM to take the data. I asked him if he checked his email for the invoice. He said he didn’t get time to check the email. I happily copied it to his external hard drive from his problematic drive. Kunj was staring at me. We don’t normally give the data before client pays.
I was waiting for the “How much should I pay?” question. Finally he asked.
“Normally, I would charge Rs. 10,000. However since ______________________, you feel free to pay whatever you want.”
He said that his data was important, and that he would have paid any amount. He also told that he’d give me a nameless cheque within two days.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Four days, no contact with the professor. I don’t like asking for money from professors since it was, and partially is, a profession I respect. I asked Kunj to dial a call. The professor told that he has sent an email. We checked it, and I was shocked.
The email is shown here, unaltered and privacy-protected:
It has been really surprising to know that you charge almost 10 times compared to market rate.
I have inquired at other places, and given the same hard disk for the retrieval, person has just charged me Rs. 700 for complete data retrieval ( including songs, movies, and back up).
Rather I am bit disappointed that u waste my two days before retrieving my data and i missed my deadline. If you want to charge exorbitant amount then you should have retrieved it on the same day.
I could feel that you unnecessarily send me to micronics systems to get the idea about your charges.
On the same day, i have inquired at other places about the charges, none of they have given me estimates more than 3000 for my HD retrieval.
You promised me that you will carry hard disk at home on tuesday and work out over night. It was my mistake, i blindly trusted you and didnt ask for your estimate.
The another person was ready to come at home and take hard disk and retrieve on the same day.
I really feel its been cheating from your side, and your are taking undue advantage of the situation even though we have came to know each other with reference of ______ sir.
The maximum reasonable charge what i can give you is Rs, 1000.
Now, those who know me, know that money isn’t a part of my game. I would be happy to get that Rs. 1000/- too. Except that he called me a cheat and held me responsible for the time delay. Tuesday was Rakshabandhan btw.
This incident is rotating and revolving in my mind. I need to re-evaluate myself.
p.s. Thanks for taking the time out to read this, it made me feel better.