Recently - I went to boot up my home workstation - where I started the restructure of my blog site; It asked me to enter a recovery disk - which I never created.
My boot drive had been a 1TB SSD and based on my notes - it had died in 3 years.
I have an MSDN license and thought I just need to download the ISO image and rebuild it with a new hard drive.
The latest image Windows 10 1903 - had notes you had to start with an earlier version -which I ignored.
I found that the 1903 image was now over the 4.7GB standard DVD size - and it looked like I needed to buy some Dual Layer DVD writable disks. 20 disks at $34 and a new 500GB SSD for $44 felt like I had a good start.
The write to the DUAL LAYER disk looked like it worked - but when I put the DVD into the drive for install - it was not a boot-able image. I thought - maybe I can find instructions on making a bootable USB drive; and as the installs were going into that USB stick - it occurred to me - when I built the box 3 years ago - it was WIndows 10 and had a bootable image; I dug out a box from storage - and the disk worked and I had the printed license in the boox.
You forget how much goes into building a computer - until you have to build it again.
Windows came up - but no network. I had to use my personal laptop to download drivers for Network, Audio, Chipsets. I had to go to the Video Card Manufacturer and get their audio/video drivers.
Once I had a network connection - I went to the windows update - and let it run through 3 years of updates - which lasted into the night.
In the morning the WIndows version had reached 1903 and I was able to start re-installing software that I had to install.
I realized that one of my drives had not been recognized - and had to go to Disk Manager to make is visible.
I had a few years of files on that drive that I was afraid I had lost.
I did lose my photo images - I have a catalog backup - with thumbnail images of the original photo.
If I find a window of time to locate some backup disks with the photo images - I may be able to rebuild that.
Losing years of cataloging and indexing efforts of those photographs - and perhaps not being able to recover them, is making me take a look at other options.
I may find other things missing - which may surface around doing my taxes next year.
You just never expect the hard disk crash - but you do need to be better prepared. (Which I should have been.)