Why is my laptop locked up?
February 16, 2005 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Laptop lockup whodunnit: the power to the hard drive, the hard drive itself, or something else entirely? Help! [+]
posted by gramcracker to Technology (3 answers total)
I have a Gateway 200, bought June 2003. It's worked perfectly except for a repeated hard drive issue that's really starting to frustrate me. I'm now on my third hard drive, and it's making THE NOISE again.

The hard drive makes kind of a click-and-whirr noise randomly when the hard drive is working and the computer is on--it's the EXACT same click-and-whirr noise that it makes when the computer turns off normally. Except, it does it while I'm working. I thought it was finally fixed when I got it back from the repair shop this time (under warranty, hard drive was replaced) but just two days ago, it started doing it again, severely, completely freezing my computer and losing all my data in the process. I'm obviously thinking it's not the hard drive now, but maybe a short in the power supply to the hard drive, or something else (what would that be?).

The problems generally occur after I've taken the laptop with me somewhere, ie, it gets jostled in my bag or something. It's never been dropped, and when I take it somewhere, it's always in a protective CaseLogic bag. The lockups happened a number of times yesterday, and I've found that if I kind of turn it on its side and tap it firmly, sometimes it'll stop happening. For example, I did that yesterday, and I haven't had the problem since. I called support and they're shipping me a box to send the thing back for new repairs, but last time I didn't have my computer for like 10 days, and it drove me crazy. Any ideas what this could be, so I can suggest it to the repair people, and fix this once and for all? Thanks!
posted by gramcracker at 1:30 PM on February 16, 2005

Oh, also, seemingly every time I get this problem and run chkdsk, I get:

CHKDSK discovered free space marked as allocated in the
master file table (MFT) bitmap.
Correcting errors in the Volume Bitmap.
Windows found problems with the file system.
Run CHKDSK with the /F (fix) option to correct these.
posted by gramcracker at 1:41 PM on February 16, 2005

You'll need a good disk utility, such as Steve Gibson's Spinrite or Norton Disk Doctor. This will tell you whether you're experiencing normal broken files, which can happen, or serious bad sector and disk read problems.

Click and whirr can be harmless -- it's essentially the sound of the hard drive's read arm returning to a "safe" spot where it doesn't touch the disk if it gets jostled. This is what we used to call "parking" a drive in the old days. If you get the click much more frequently and during normal drive usage, though, it may be an early sign of disk damage, with the arm moving back and forth to try to read a sector. There's a chance it's also a hosed controller, but that's less common.

In either case back up anything important before you have a disaster -- and using a disk utility can lead you into making a bad situation worse, just so you know.
posted by dhartung at 11:59 PM on February 16, 2005

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