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Hard Drive Testing

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I have two hard drives. My main drive is a 15Gig MAXTOR (8 years old); the other is a 40 Gig Western Digital (5 years old). Because they're old I decided to test them. I tried using chkdsk with Windows, but I got a message saying that the test could not be completed. I don't remember the exact wording of the message. So instead I ran PowerMax for the MAXTOR and WinDLG for the Western Digital. Both drives passed. Does this mean the drives are in good condition necessarily? Can I get a better idea of the condition of the drives from reading the test results? Are there other tests I should do like a visual inspection? My computer is an 8 year old Compaq Presario 5000. What's the availability of hard drives for my computer? Also, I'd like to make the 40 Gig drive my main drive because of its larger memory. Is switching drives difficult to do? My main drive makes noise like its running something most of the time. Could this be because my configuration is small (630MHz processor, 192MB RAM), and it can't keep up with my XP o/s? I recently ran through many antivirus programs with techies on another site and deleted at least one virus I found, but the HD is still noisy. BTW, there's a warning when running the longer test with WinDLG that says data should be backed up before running the test because data could be lost or the drive could be damaged or whatever. How true is this? Sorry about the number of questions, but my understanding of computers is rudimentary. Any replies would be appreciated.
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Welcome to Geeks2Go!

'chkdsk' by itself doesn't tell you whether a hard disk is healthy or failing. It only detects and corrects data errors on the disk. in other words, it can only check the data on the disc, not the physical condition of the disk itself. Obviously if the XP 'error checking tool' keeps finding data errors then that is an indication that it's failing. But the diagnostic utilities from the disk manufacturers are designed to check and report the disk's physical condition irrespective of the data that's on it.

The warning about backing up your data before running the test is a normal warning which applies to any process like this. 9 times out of 10 no data will be lost, but you could be the unlucky 10th where it does happen. If you have a 'clone' of the disk contents (as I do) you can ignore the warning, but if you don't have one you'd be foolish to ignore it.

The constant 'noise' coming from the disk is most likely caused by Windows having to compensate for insufficient RAM (192MB is not enough to run XP smoothly. 256MB is the bare minimum, with 512MB recommended) Windows compensates by using some of your free hard disk space as "virtual memory" then constantly "swapping" data back and forth between RAM and hard disk (that's the noise you hear). Since a hard disk is much slower than RAM, Windows runs slower than it would if you had more RAM. It also means in your current situation the disk is working hard most of the time, which in turn means it will wear out and fail more quickly.

Edited by pip22, 12 April 2008 - 05:17 AM.

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