Diagnosing a faulty hard drive
February 25, 2009 1:34 AM   Subscribe

My PC is no longer recognising one of my SATA hard drives.

This morning when I turned on my PC it did not recognise any of the SATA devices - OS HD (200gb Seagate), storage HD (500gb Seagate), and DVD writer (a cheapo Samsung job). After a bit of messing about I discovered that I can boot fine with just the OS HD and the DVD plugged in, but plugging in the storage HD - whether it's the only SATA device plugged in or in any combination with the others - causes the system to stop seeing any SATA devices (and once caused it to power off as soon as it powered on).

I have nothing on the PATA port. My motherboard is a Gigabyte P31-DS3L, my PSU is a Corsair VX450, and I run Windows XP SP2. The 200gb (working) drive is about three years old, the 500gb (broken) one is a little less than a year old. The PC has not been moved recently. I've tried them all on different SATA cables and off different sockets (although the mobo only has four) and with different power cables off the PSU. I've reset the bios to "failsafe defaults". Running Windows on the working drive seems as stable as usual.

Last night I left the PC downloading, set to hibernate when it had finished getting the file.

I'm assuming the drive has just flat-out died at this point, but before I RMA I'd love some ideas to get it working again, even just for long enough to rescue some data (the data on the drive isn't important enough to actually spend money on a retrieval service, but there are some photos and documents and things it would be nice to rescue; and yes, I've learned my lesson about backing files up now!).
posted by ArmyOfKittens to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hard drive freezer trick
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:05 AM on February 25, 2009

I doubt the freezer trick would work in this case, that's usually for mechanical failures. This is an electronic failure. Probably shot. You could try getting an identical drive and swapping the circuit boards, that has worked for me a few times when I had a hard drive that's mechanically sound but electronically shot.
posted by gjc at 5:51 AM on February 25, 2009

I think you've pretty much exhausted all of your options for diagnostics, unless you're interested in trying the affected drive in another machine. Looks like it's time to RMA + swap.
posted by kdar at 6:18 AM on February 25, 2009

Best answer: Your 500 GB Seagate is probably part of a batch with a known firmware problem. If that's the case, your data is still there, but you need to flash your firmware. See here to determine if your drive is potentially affected, and how to act.

I've heard that Seagate is worried about their image, so they may pay to retrieve your data - don't just send it in as any normal RMA without calling them first and complaining. Push to get them to retrieve your data.

Also, do some Google searching (for example), as some people have had success flashing their drive even after it bricked. Normally, you would have downloaded an ISO file to burn onto CD, boot from the CD, and flash your drive. Maybe you can still do that, even with the bricked drive?
posted by Simon Barclay at 6:57 AM on February 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Simon, that looks right on the money. Pootling around the forum indicates that my drive has the classic symptoms of brickitude caused by that firmware fault. I'll look into flashing the thing before I succumb to the whole "please don't look at my photos and embarrassing archived diary entries from when I was seventeen" data retrieval service.

Thanks :)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:11 AM on February 25, 2009

Please let me know how it works out.
posted by Simon Barclay at 1:51 PM on February 25, 2009

Response by poster: Flashing didn't work, unfortunately, but it seemed like a long shot anyway. I have a ticket raised with Seagate right now, to start the whole repair and recovery process. So it's looking good for me and all my embarrassing old photographs :)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:04 AM on February 26, 2009

Response by poster: Further update: Seagate have confirmed to me that *if* the drive died because of this formware issue, they can force-flash it with the new firmware and ship it back to me, good as new. If it's another issue, they'll replace the drive; in which case I'll lose my data, but I can't afford hundreds of pounds for a data recovery service right now. Or ever, really.

So it seems to be working out as well as could be hoped :)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:42 AM on March 2, 2009

Good luck with your data!
posted by Simon Barclay at 6:21 AM on March 3, 2009

Response by poster: The automail reminded me to come back to this thread, so here I am, confirming that I got the hard drive back from Seagate, data intact, firmware upgraded, and working perfectly. :)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:13 PM on March 27, 2009

Wow, that was pretty fast. Congratulations!
posted by Simon Barclay at 4:43 PM on March 27, 2009

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