driving into problems, again?!
September 6, 2012 1:59 AM   Subscribe

My second hard drive in 6 months appears to have developed issues. What should I be looking for?

A while ago I replaced the hard drive on my PC after serious issues booting up (Vista 64). Now the new one also appears to be having problems. Last night it would boot into safe mode, but just hung when booting normally. A disk check showed a bad cluster in emdmgmt.dll.

It appears to have booted up now. I dont know whether this is relevant but the disc also appears heavily fragmented.

Is it just coincidence that two drives have developed issues?
Could this be caused by some other component failing; the power supply or the ram (both of which are relatively elderly)?
posted by BadMiker to Technology (13 answers total)
Dodgy PSU could cause errors while writing I suppose. Dodgy RAM might write bad data but a bad cluster is a hardware problem. Where do you source your drives?
posted by epo at 3:16 AM on September 6, 2012

It's a Samsung F3 1TB.
Possibly from Ebuyer.
posted by BadMiker at 3:26 AM on September 6, 2012

Might be worth checking out the heat situation in your enclosure- I've had drives die early due to heat. If the drive is noticeably hot to the touch, try blowing out the dust bunnies, etc, and make sure you've got decent ventilation.

It's possible that it's a bad PSU, but usually that manifests as electrical issues (blown caps, etc) and not media failure.
posted by jenkinsEar at 4:10 AM on September 6, 2012

Samsung drives are now made by Seagate, unfortunately, and the quality has suffered. So you may just have a bad drive.

Heat as stated above could be an issue. Also possibly vibrations. Is the drive secure in the case? It's preferable to have some little rubber grommets in the drive case to minimize vibrations but not all cases have them.

Still the best thing to do is probably just to make sure your case is ventilated, then buy a new drive and hope for the best.
posted by selfnoise at 4:57 AM on September 6, 2012

Did you do fresh install, or restored image of the drive (that was taken when drive was good), or just cloned the bad drive into new one?

If it is the last one, you moved corrupted data onto new media so garbage in garbage out. You will have problems even though hardware is fine, but data on it is bad and is cousing problems.

I would back up all your stuff except the operating system and run Samsung diagnostics on it. This will tell you what if anything is wrong with it. Also a full, not quick, format will show you how many bad clusters you get, but OEM diagnostics check a lot more things that make a drive work. WHen there is a problem it will give you an error code or something that you have to use to replace it under warranty.
posted by AdamG8GXP at 5:14 AM on September 6, 2012

Thanks for the responses. I think it should be well ventilated; the side is off the case, but I'll check there's not been a build up of dust. It was a fresh install so no possible contamination.

Samsung (seagate) are not particularly helpful; if windows can find the drive then "run a SeaTools Enterprise diagnostic on the drive. If it passes, the drive should be in good working order. If it fails, Seagate recommends replacement."


So far the only fault (I know of) has been with one cluster. What puzzles me is that it is a cluster associated with a System file; this is what happened with the previous drive and makes me wonder if there is something else going on during a System process (start-up / shut-down) which is causing damage.

Are power spikes due to switching a nonsense?
posted by BadMiker at 6:51 AM on September 6, 2012

This may not be a hardware problem. Vista is not one of Microsoft's better releases.
posted by valkyryn at 6:55 AM on September 6, 2012

Surely even Vista couldnt cause a 'bad cluster'?
posted by BadMiker at 6:59 AM on September 6, 2012

How about humidity? Computers like humidity levels between 45% and 60%. If the humidity is too low, static electricity can cause all sorts of issues. Too high can cause corrosion.

Low humidity is great for shuffling your feet on department store carpets and then shocking your little brother on the back of the neck, but not good for computers.
posted by wrnealis at 7:19 AM on September 6, 2012

If you're running your machine with the case open, it's highly likely that there is insufficient airflow across the drive, and your issues are heat related. Is the drive warm? Heat death manifests as an accelerated rate of sectors going bad on the drive; that might explain how fragmented it's getting as the disk controller desperately tries to remap dying sectors to good ones.

Most modern tower designs rely on the closed case sides to channel air around the unit - here are some illustrations that I've randomly googled. If the side is off, then the fan (usually the PSU fan) just draws air sideways from the room across the PSU, instead of drawing air in from the front of the case and then across the components.

In order to run your machine "open" like that, you should take care to set up some airflow of your own -- say, a house fan pointed at the "hot" components (in order of cooling importance: drives, graphics cards, cool air across the cpu heatsink, then memory and circuit boards) -- AND you'll have to be mindful of dust build up. Closed cases usually have filter screens across the air intake and outflow which help to reduce the rate of dust buildup and let you get away with longer periods between dusting. With an open case, especially if exposed to rooms where people smoke, or there are pets, etc, you should probably be giving it a light dusting/vacuuming on a monthly basis.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:27 AM on September 6, 2012

In what utility does it tell you that you have a bad cluster?

If you load up a linux live cd, you can run smartctl and see if the drive has actually remapped any sectors or not, instead of guessing.

Re: vista: software cannot cause a hardware failure in a hard drive. If the drive has no remapped sectors and passes the manufacturer's test program, chances are good the drive is fine and just the data on it is fucked up.

Are power spikes due to switching a nonsense?

It certainly doesn't make any sense to me. What are you trying to say?
posted by gjc at 4:46 PM on September 6, 2012

Thanks for the help.

I've run Samsung's diagnostics which identified a load of bad LBAs, all near the start of the drive. Everything now appears to be OK.

I've closed the case (though the drive was only slightly warm to the touch and, seeing the inside of the case, I dont think there's any airflow engineered into it.) I've also a new PSU on the way.

I remain puzzled by why both drives should show errors in the 'system' area though. This is why I was suspicious about the system procedures; start-up & shut down. But this obviously isnt even an obscurely common problem!

No smoking gun then, not even a smoking HDD...
posted by BadMiker at 1:34 PM on September 9, 2012

WHat is Samdung's policy about bad LBAs? Do the results from their diagnostic tools allow you to replace the drive under warranty? By the way, you should use the manufacturer's tools that boot from CD and not run under Windows.

There really is no "system area" on a drive. The beginning of the drive is just written to first with data so anything can, technically be anywhere on a drive. For example, formatting a drive will built your file system and that data will take the very start of the drive, then I could copy my pictures to it (from another computer) and then install operating system on it, and it would be written in that order.

Bad sectors mean HDD will die soon and you need to back your stuff up and not use it anymore. It is a hardware fault.
posted by AdamG8GXP at 9:11 AM on October 2, 2012

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