Dear hard drive, please come back to me.
February 17, 2006 7:09 AM   Subscribe

Is my hard drive really dead? Really? For real? Seriously?

My hard drive became inactive/unresponsive/dead last night, and I am wondering if there is something I can do to try to save it. Why I question this is that I was futzing with my system at the time of said death, and something smells fishy (figuratively.)

I had been upgrading firmwares and messing with settings and noticed that both of my optical drives had dissappeared from My Computer. During a reboot while I was troubleshooting this, I got a RAID error saying that one of my drives was not responding. I have 2 WD Caviar 80GB in RAID 0 (or whichever is striping). After switching out cables, and trying several different things, it became apparent that the drive was not working at all.

I put it in an external enclosure and it doesn't even powerup or initialize. I reinstalled windows on the working drive and tried the non-working drive as a slave. The system wouldn't boot or recognize either HD. (on the plus, the optical drives are now working fine.)

This drive is less than 4 years old, which is less than the typical HD life expectancy, so I am not ready to let it go so easily. Is there anything I can do to try to save it? I don't need (and can't even use) the data anymore, so that is not an issue. I tried rapping it on the housing a couple times to see if it was stuck, but no dice.
Thanks in advance!
posted by bradn to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
How about rolling back to the last firmware and/or setting the BIOS back to factory defaults (usually there's a certain keystroke to do this)?

Could be that that particular firmware version has issues recognizing your hard drives.

Same goes for any settings you might have changed.
posted by poppo at 7:20 AM on February 17, 2006

If it does not power up, even in another computer or a USB enclosure, then the drive is toasted and while you could probably attempt to repair it, you'd likely do more harm than good if you are not an expert in that area.

Try it in another machine and check.

If the data has immense value to you, there are services available such as OnTrack Data Recovery that you can mail the drive to, and they will basically take it apart, remove the platters, put them in a working drive and recover your data for you - sending it back burned to DVDs, CDs or a new hard drive of your choice. It is NOT cheap.

Unfortunately, if the drive doesn't power up, you're kind of out of luck.
posted by twiggy at 7:21 AM on February 17, 2006

Response by poster: The data has NO value to me, fortunately I was getting ready to wipe and reinstall, and everything was backed up. I just don't want to throw it away without trying.
posted by bradn at 7:25 AM on February 17, 2006

If the drive won't even power up then you'd have to replace the spindle motor, the controller, or the power connector. It's probably the connector or the motor. If you were having stiction problems you'd probably still hear the motor trying to do something.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 7:32 AM on February 17, 2006

Is the drive within the warranty period? You can check your serial number on WD's warranty check to see if it's still covered.
posted by zsazsa at 7:55 AM on February 17, 2006

This is a good lesson, however, in why striping alone is generally not a good idea. I'm always tempted by the speed boost, but I've had one major, unrecoverable data loss because I had two drives striped and one of them failed; and another that didn't result in data loss, thank goodness, because I hadn't learned my lesson and was stripping four drives. That's just dumb. Now I'm using RAID0+1 with those four. And I sleep better at night.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:10 AM on February 17, 2006

I think the drive is probably dead, but even if it did seem to work reliably, why would you want to use it? Even if you don't keep anything important on it, I'd think the hassel that ensues if it dies again would be worth something and you could probably find a larger drive for $50 or less after rebate.
posted by Good Brain at 8:33 AM on February 17, 2006

If the drive won't even spin up then it's toast. Sorry. Even if it did the data would be useless and irrecoverable since you've destroyed the mirror already (but I think you know that.) RAID-0 == evil.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:36 AM on February 17, 2006

It sounds like that dead drive probably has a dead controller board. If the two drives you have are identical then you could remove the board from the bottom of the working drive and put it on the broken drive then test. If it works then all you have to do is find a 3rd identical drive to harvest a working controller board from. Ideally the donor drive would have had a mechanical failure so chances are the board is still working and you wouldn't have to pay much, if anything at all to get a donor. Finding an identical drive would probably be the most difficult part.
If you try this, be sure to ground yourself before handling those boards or else you might end up with two dead drives.
posted by J-Garr at 8:46 AM on February 17, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help everyone.

This is an older computer, no SATA, and I am trying to get the best possible performance from it, so I will miss RAID 0. I don't want to spend any money on 2 more IDE (or 1 more 80GB) drives because I am due for an upgrade anyway. I will check the warranty site (thanks zsazsa) and if not, I'll live with it.

Thanks again.
posted by bradn at 8:52 AM on February 17, 2006

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