Can our Mac be killing any hard disk we put in it?
February 21, 2006 10:56 PM   Subscribe

Can our Mac be killing any hard disk we put in it?

We have a G3 tower mac. It had a couple of SCSI disks in it, but they kept having disk errors so we tossed them and put a new ATA disk in there.

It started up OK but had problems after an hour or so.

I restarted it in single-user mode and ran fsck which found and fixed a couple of serious directory and catalog type errors. It restarted OK but had problems again. And again, fsck said there were serious disk issues. Lather, rinse, repeat, about four or five more times. They're not always the same problems, but every time this computer was run, the hard disk, previously diagnosed as OK, developed serious problems.

The conclusion I'm starting to come to is: something in this Mac is ruining any hard disk put into it. Is that possible? If not, what have I missed? If so, what can we do about it?
posted by AmbroseChapel to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
First things first: we need to figure out if
1) the hard drives are going physically bad, or
2) something is corrupting the filesystems on them
because the causes are likely to be completely different.

Are you booting off of these drives, or off of an existing OS install on a different drive? What version of the OS are you running?

What happens if you try using the new drive on a different machine? (If you have a Firewire drive enclosure, it makes it a lot easier to test this...)
posted by xil at 11:10 PM on February 21, 2006

Response by poster: Yes, we're booting off the drive. The new drive we put in had an old OS on it, probably 8.6, and we installed Jaguar on it.

It's not really practical to move the drive to other computers.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 11:34 PM on February 21, 2006

OK, if both 8.6 and Jaguar were corrupting the filesystems of the disks, it's probably a hardware problem. Bad RAM is what I'd guess.
posted by xil at 12:27 AM on February 22, 2006

For what it's worth, there is an IDE slot on my old (x86, Windows-based PC) motherboard that would proactively destroy any hard drive plugged into it and turned on. It would destroy the boot records and partition tables and make the drive very difficult to access, although there was nothing wrong with the drives physically. While it's a fun party trick to plug someone's drive into the cursed IDE slot, it's also obnoxious as hell.

Come to find out, there was at LEAST one pin bent, and I think one pin missing.

The other slots right next to it work fine and are on right now, serving up my file server. Just don't plug into that one, I tell myself.

Just saying that something as bizarre as an evil IDE slot IS possible, however disturbing the notion.
posted by disillusioned at 1:26 AM on February 22, 2006

Depends what you mean by "serious disk errors", like xil said. Unless the power supply is really, really, really bad, it's unlikely that a computer can physically damage a drive; in fact I (an EE) find that quite difficult to believe. Much more likely is that bad RAM or a motherboard issue is causing filesystem corruption, particularly since you've seen it with both SCSI and IDE.

Of course, you may be the exception that proves the rule... have you tried taking the now-bad discs out, reformatting and using them in a different machine?
posted by polyglot at 2:42 AM on February 22, 2006

Response by poster: I had no idea bad RAM could cause that kind of problem.

That's given me something to go on at least, and also, of course, hints that the 'bad' SCSI disks aren't bad at all and might have a new life.

I'll test them in another computer and I'll test for bad RAM by swapping stuff around.

I'm afraid I can't tell you exactly what the errors found by fsck were, (I didn't keep a note) but they looked serious to me!
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:32 AM on February 22, 2006

I've seen a few machines that appeared to have catalog errors caused by bad RAM; you may want to run a memory test on it (under OS X, you could try Rember - or use the hardware test CD that came with the computer).
posted by sluggo at 4:10 AM on February 22, 2006

Is your G3 a beige tower or a Blue and White tower?

The Blue and Whites came in two versions, one of which could cause corruption. Go to the "LowendMac" site if you have the Blue and White. That site has information on how to ID which version you have.

If you have version 1, my suggestion is to spring for a version 2 Blue and White. I have found them at OtherWorld Computing for about $150.
posted by leafwoman at 7:42 AM on February 22, 2006

Response by poster: It is indeed a blue-and-white. Thanks very much for the clue.

And ... there's no way to solve the problem? Some blue-and-whites are just plain bad?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:56 PM on February 22, 2006

Put in an IDE PCI card and plug the drives into it.

That will fix the problem of the bad IDE hardware in the B&W machines. I have two which are running 10.4.x swimmingly as a result.
posted by tomierna at 4:27 PM on February 22, 2006

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