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??Failing HDD

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Registered: 01-08-2007

??Failing HDD

i am looking at a laptop for a friend, who says it has been running slower and slower and slower.  My first thought was a corrupt driver or something, but when I got the laptop, it takes 15mins to get past the windows loading screen, and a further 20-30mins to even get to a useable state. As he had nothing on the system, just a basic install, with office, I decided to just reinstall Windows, and tried a full reformat, via the windows install disk.  Started the disk format at 9PM last night, and by just before midnight, it had only got 65% through........  Ran some HDD diagnostics via a boot disk, and they couldnt find anything wrong. RAM checks all come up fine.  I have noticed the laptop runs quite hot, but I cant see any issues with the vents or heatsinks, unless the heatsink compound has failed.....  Retried this morning with a quick NTFS format, which was fine and its currently reinstalling windows.  I just wondered if this is a symptom of a filing HDD, or other fault....
Cheers
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Community Veteran
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Re: ??Failing HDD

I would say it is yes. Its the same symptom I've had with all my failed drives which software always reports as healthy. I don't trust hdd software diagnosis at all.
I need a new signature... i'm bored of the old one!
Community Veteran
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Re: ??Failing HDD

Well it reinstalled windows fine, took it around 40mins, for an install of XP PRO, SP3. Seems OK, but time will tell...
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Re: ??Failing HDD

You saying that has jolted my memory as I had a 80Gb hdd which was slowing down to a halt with everything. I never used it as an OS disk again but I seem to remember stuffing it into a machine somewhere as a backup drive and it seemed to carry on forever. No idea whats happened to it now as my network was dismembered moons ago.. Unfortunately I can't say the same for the others Sad
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Community Veteran
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Re: ??Failing HDD

I think when your format the disk the computer tries to read every sector and the ones it cannot read it just ignores.  I'm not sure they even show up as bad sectors under chkdsk.  So you almost certainly had bad sectors on the disk and when the computer tried to read a file on a bad sector it became very slow.  That's also why reformatting the disk took forever.  Now you have reformatted the disk these bad sectors are never used so everything is fine.  Except that these bad sectors are probably a sign your disk is reaching the end of its life.  If so, some more will arise shortly on areas of the disk you are trying to use and you will be back to square one. 
Community Veteran
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Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: ??Failing HDD

When you ran chkdsk did you get it to check for bad sectors. You could try running it manually (chkdsk /r).
I had a laptop that was taking ages to boot and kept failing to install widows updates. I ran a chkdsk and it took over 15 hours to run and reported loads of bad blocks.
It does sound like the disk is suspect.
Community Veteran
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Re: ??Failing HDD

See http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;302686&Product=winxp
"When you choose to run a regular format on a volume, files are removed from the volume that you are formatting and the hard disk is scanned for bad sectors. The scan for bad sectors is responsible for the majority of the time that it takes to format a volume."
I don't trust HDD diagnostics provided by the disk manufacturers because:

  • I have sometimes run them on a disk I thought was self-evidently faulty and drawn a blank

  • It's in the manufacturers' interest to take a lenient view so they don't get too many returns


alanb
Grafter
Posts: 459
Registered: 24-05-2007

Re: ??Failing HDD

I think I can shed a bit of light on this.
Disc drives have a certain amount of self repair capability (roughly since the introduction of EIDE standard drives).
What basically happens is that the manufacturers include a few spare tracks on the disc platters which are normally invisible to the operating system. When one or more sectors on a disc platter become unreliable or unusable, the drive electronics stop using a dud sector and silently redirect any read/write operations for a dud sector to a spare sector in the invisible tracks. This takes place entirely within the disc drive and to the operating system it appears that it is still reading and writing the original sector.
This approach will extend the life of a failing disc drive but it can't fix data corruption caused by it. So the drive appears to gradually become more corrupt as more failed sectors are repaired by the drive's electronics. The only way to get rid of the corrupt data is to recover with undamaged files from a backup or re-install.
Most drives include a diagnostic interface called SMART which records statistics on this and other stuff. There are loads of software tools around that can read and report the SMART diagnostic data.
I'm fairly sure this explains why the drive appears to be much better after formatting.
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Re: ??Failing HDD

SMART can be very useful, there are a number of utilities that will interrogate the disk data and tell you what's really going on.
Manufacturers hardware tests in general (where they exist) I've found to be quite good. Dell's for example. Wink
And Windows own checks at the most thorough level (chkdsk/r or equivalent) are also fairly useful.
The final test I use is the Mk1 earhole. Listen for the telltale clicking of a disk that is retrying to read data or jumping to the reallocated spare tracks regularly.
I've known disks that have had a read error carry on for years after a reformat.  Cool
Steve
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Re: ??Failing HDD

I use this which Is quite Informative and I can assure you It Is correct, ( Well It always has been In my case )
http://www.ariolic.com/activesmart/index.html
If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
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Re: ??Failing HDD

Well it installed windows fine, but took and age doing the first round of updates.  The green scroll bar was going on forever, and the disk was constantly being accessed. Also its started doing what I can only describe, as disk wirring, then silence for a couple of seconds, disk wirring etc etc.  This is mainly when installing stuff.  It then goes back to normal again after 10-15secs, but the whole laptop just hangs during this, and is completely unresponsive.
According to the laptop SMART has not been tripped, but I will check using others
BTW, the first full format just didnt complete.  i had to reboot, and then do a quick format. Obviously found lots of bad sectors.
Cheers
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Re: ??Failing HDD

Quote from: penfold
BTW, the first full format just didnt complete.  i had to reboot, and then do a quick format. Obviously found lots of bad sectors.

Bin it.
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Community Veteran
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Re: ??Failing HDD

Quote from: penfold
... Obviously found lots of bad sectors.

What happens if you actually run chkdsk?  But I agree with Okrzynska; hard disk drives are inexpensive to replace so it isn't worth wasting a lot of time over a faulty one.
Community Veteran
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Re: ??Failing HDD

Well, its having difficulty even booting now, even into safe mode..... When I do get it booted, its recovered from a serious error according to windows.....  ALso getting alot of blue screens, and kernal errors.  Not worth spending the time on, as Reed says, but I will run chkdsk /r, for interests sake anyhow.
Thanks for all the input.
Community Veteran
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Registered: 01-08-2007

Re: ??Failing HDD

I've been here before and spent days over dead hard drives with all sorts of bits of software which claim to accurately report the drives status and magically fix any problems. If the hard drive has physical defects, no bit of sotware will be able to fix it.
I've been there and done that with duff hard drives and its just not worth the agro. Unless you physically get out your tools, dismantle it, replace the platters (and anything else thats duff) and reassemble it, nothing is going to fix it. Unfortunately no amount of software you run will be able to do it either.
I need a new signature... i'm bored of the old one!