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Hard Drive Failure


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#1
aerdengi

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Hi,

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?

Thanks

Ali
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#2
Tyger

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What you need to do at this time is put as little stress as possible on the old drive. What I would do is remove it completely from the system, at least disconnect both cables, and make the good drive master (likely you are using cable select, if so you need only to switch the plugs so the black one is one the new drive) then install an operating system on the new drive. After you've installed the operating system, make the old drive slave and move any files over. this will give the the best chance of retreiving your files before the drive fails completely.

If you want to recover your programs as well, you could do a drive to drive copy, but you would need to use another computer, install drive to drive copy software in it, you can get it from the HDD maker, put the old and new drives in it and copy from one to the other.

If the sytem is reporting HDD failure that's almost surely what it is.

Edited by Tyger, 18 July 2005 - 03:04 PM.

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#3
warriorscot

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At 5 years a HD of that age is usually at the end of its life, swap them round as tyger said if it gives you more bother post back and we will try and help.
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#4
peterm

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More then likley it is crashing because you are running out of room
Do as Tyger says and load windows on the new drive then if you have the original software disc- like office- games etc reload them then copy the data you need of the old disc on to the new one you can do this by copy & paste. After you have what you need I would consider reformating the old drive and run scandisc on it. But only reformat after you have all your data
or you loose the lot
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#5
aerdengi

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:tazz: First, thank you to all who made suggestions. I followed the general idea with some mods, and at the end things worked out fine. I'd like to share my experience:

I went out and bought a Maxtor 250G ultra/ATA drive for $110 at FRY's! A pretty good deal I think. The drive came with software called MaxBlast 4 that works both under Windows and DOS, and lets you boot from the CD drive.

One option for MaxBlast is to create a new boot disk including copying all the files from the existing disk. Assuming the existing drive is still alive, it's by far the best option. However, I wasn't sure the hiccups on my system drive would let the process run its course, but decided to try anyway. Otherwise, just creating a boot drive, then installing Windows, then the apps, and copying over your data is rather involved.

I first used the MaxBlast 4 under DOS. Things seemed to work fine, but the copy of the system drive to the new drive took about 10 hours! (55 Gb of data). To do this, you mount the new drive as slave first, then once the copy is finished you remount it as master.

When I remounted the disk as master, nothing happened, and the system was unable to boot. As I later discovered, I had not enabled my OS to handle drives larger than 137Gb, even though I had Windows XP SP2. You need to specifically enable this feature, and not assume that it comes by default.

Then I re-tried MaxBlast 4 under Windows, crossing my fingers that the system disk would still survive. This time, the copy operation took about 6 hours! (faster than in DOS mode?). When I reinstalled the disk this time as master, it booted quickly and everything was perfect. However, I found that quite a number of applications did not run or behave correctly, and some of the icons on my desktops were replaced by the default windows app icon. I had to repair and/or reinstall a number of applications, including MS office, Itunes, Adobe photoshop, DVD player, etc. The reason I suspect is that the existing applications have license keys tied to the disk drive ID and once the disk changed, the licenses were no longer valid.

In summary, MaxBlast 4 is very convenient and works well. Copying over a 60Gb disk with the software takes long hours (6-10 hours), expect to reinstall some applications.

Thanks again for the support,

Ali
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#6
Tyger

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In summary, MaxBlast 4 is very convenient and works well. Copying over a 60Gb disk with the software takes long hours (6-10 hours), expect to reinstall some applications.

Thanks again for the support,

Ali

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It probably took that long because your old disk was failing. Fortunately you were able to recover most of your stuff. If people want to back up their files I highly reccomend an external drive, and that it be turned off when not in use so that power surges will not damage it.
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#7
makai

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The next time you need to do this, try CasperXP. It's not free, but will probably do it in under 20 mins. And... all your apps will not require reinstallation.

makai
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