Hard-drive Failure

27 08 2011

I had a bit of a scare recently when I turned my computer on after it had endured hot weather the day before without any air conditioning. Since the computer had been turned off, I was unconcerned about the computer having experienced any ill effects. But when I attempted to turn the computer on the following day, a terrible message appeared on the monitor declaring that there had been a hard-drive failure.

My heart sank knowing that everything I had ever written whether in English or PHP was surely gone. My most important writings, I do backup. But data such as my experimental code or graphics, I usually ignore when saving files on other media. Oh, well, gone is gone. Then, I recalled something I had learned quite some time ago. An error message may be valid or invalid. Almost reflexively, I hit the computer start button again and lo, and behold, my computer returned looking and behaving as if unaware of the shock it had given me.

At this point, I could have relaxed and focused on whatever had motivated me to turn the computer on in the first place. But, a nagging question distracted me. Why had I seen such an error message?

At this point, I did some research online and learned that sometimes a computer can become infected with a nasty virus that can falsely make you believe that your computer is having a serious problem. As part of the virus, a suggestion appears that if you pay a hefty sum for such and such software, install and run it, then you can restore your computer back to good health. I feared that probably some miserable virus had taken up residence on my system. Fortunately, I have decent anti-virus software — McAfee. While running it, I was confident that the virus would be found, nabbed and rendered harmless. To my amazement McAfee reported that there were zero viruses on my system.

After reading more online, I became convinced that I had gotten the error message because my hard-drive might really have the beginnings of a serious problem. Now, if I still had a warrantee, I would have called Dell and requested a repair person. Instead, I figured that I’d try on my own to see if I could find and correct whatever was causing the problem.

I did a CHKDSK /F at the command prompt and learned that all was not well with my hard-drive. That utility took a long time to do its job, too. But when it reported, it mentioned that it had found an orphaned piece of data and acted as if it had taken care of that issue. Then I used the defrag utility in Windows XP and waited a while for it to finish. The results were hardly reassuring. While the utility reported that it had done some serious defragging, the accompanying colored chart of the results looked less than impressive.

I decided that maybe I needed to purchase some software that would really be able to analyze the system and determine if there was a problem and fix it. So, I purchased SystemMechanic for less than $40.00 after reading a mixed review of it on CDNet. After installing it, the software analyzed my system and reported that my system was in poor shape. The Windows registry had nearly 900 errors and the hard-drive amazingly still needed to be defragged. So, I let SystemMechanic go to work on my system, after taking the time and trouble to backup all the critical files. After it was finished and reported that everything was now good, I felt skeptical. I had the software do a more intensive analysis and this time it reported on problems, including the hard-drive. I let the software run again, hoping that it would be able to fix whatever needed fixing.

The real moment of truth came today, when I turned on my computer. Would it produce another “Hard-drive failure” error or would it run as usual? With great anticipation, I pressed the start button and it started up just like normal.

Normal may sound scarcely exciting but frankly from a computer, I just want a steady, reliable machine, preferring instead to find excitement in the code I write.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

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7 responses

28 08 2011
Weak week « rBetz's wpBlog

[…] Hard-drive Failure (slevy1.wordpress.com) […]

29 08 2011
John

Sharon,
Another problem which can cause things like this are when sectors associated w/ the Windows boot/load go bad. The drive struggles to boot or find things. File accesses and/or searches are very slow because of the repeated retries.
http://www.grc.com has a product called SpinRite which does a non-destructive low level scan of all sectors of a hard drive, irrespective of what type of data is on the drive and can usually salvage the data and remap it to another sector and mark the old sector bad; if desired.

30 08 2011
Sharon Lee Levy

John,

Thank you for the info — I just may look into the product you recommend.

31 08 2011
Sharon Lee Levy

John, I’m definitely going to be checking out the tool you recommend. I also found this link which explains why SpinRite is superior to CHKDSK /R:

http://ask-leo.com/how_do_i_fix_errors_on_my_hard_disk.html

Thank you for helping me to avoid needlessly spending the $229.00 that the so-called techie support provided by the maker of my box demands before they do anything!

30 08 2011
John

One thing w/ Spinrite is it only works natively on Windows systems; for a Mac you would normally remove the drive and place it in a PC case or USB adapter.

I usually run a maintenance scan every 6 months or so.

31 08 2011
Sharon Lee Levy

One more link where one user leaves positive remark about SpinRite while others have negative comments about System Mechnic (SM):

http://www.neowin.net/news/review-system-mechanic—robust-pc-fixing-tools

17 10 2011
i am back | Ferror7's Area

[…] Hard-drive Failure (slevy1.wordpress.com) […]

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