I have a 5 year old Gateway desktop system (PENTIUM 4 1.7GHZ, 760MB Main memory, 2x 60Gb hard drives) running Windows XP Pro. Recently, the system started hanging up after a few minutes to a few hours (sometimes never until shutdown). The computer freezes where it was, no blue screen, just in the middle of whatever it was doing. If rebooted, the computer takes forever to come up alive (but it does). It is somewhat easier in safe mode, but it still ends freezing up after a while. A friend pointed out that it might be a HD problem, and a search on system failure logs indicated that indeed, every crash is preceeded by a system message saying: "HD is about to fail".
This 60Gb HD is pretty full with only 8Gb free space. The slave HD is empty. I just reformatted it, hoping I could back up the system drive to it.
Unfortunately, the system HD, while still accessible, does not work long enough to attempt a backup to the slave drive (tried but froze after 30 minutes) or also do a system restore (several attempts also froze after some time, including in safe mode)
It looks like I need to buy a new HD and install it. Here are my questions:
1) Am I jumping to conclusions? Could the problem I'm describing be caused by something else, e.g. faulty memory, etc.?
2) If I have to replace the HD, what is the best procedure, knowing that it was the system/boot drive? I have a ton of applications, and a few Gb of data, although I could try to copy and save the data on the second disk, even if it takes several reboots.
Should I create a system recovery disk, then install Windows XP on the new drive, then all the apps again? Do I even need a recovery disk to reinstall Windows XP?
3) I saw here that there may be applications that could make an identical copy of the system drive, such as ones that come with new drives. How fast do they work?