Hard drive on the fritz?
June 16, 2006 12:44 PM   Subscribe

Time to get a new hard drive? I got a BSOD. When I restarted, my second hard drive was gone. I opened the computer case, unplugged the cable, plugged it back in and the hard drive came back. But for how long? Is this a sign that the hard drive is about to give up? The drive is about 3 years.

I dont know if this is related - the last couple of days my computer has frozen without warning a couple of times (it's never done that before) and before the last crash I heard a lot of unusual hard drive noises.
posted by Termite to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
If you don't have your hard drive backed up, it is definitely time to get a new hard drive anyway, just to back up both of your existing drives. Whether or not today is the day your hard drive is dying, one of these days they will both die, unexpectedly, and you will lose your data and/or might feel compelled to pay $500-$5000 for data recovery. Backup now. Backup next week. Rinse, repeat.
posted by xueexueg at 1:02 PM on June 16, 2006

1. Backup any critical data

2. Analyze the S.M.A.R.T. Data to see how your drive is doing. (Errors in writing etc.)

3. Backup again. Just in case.
posted by defcom1 at 1:22 PM on June 16, 2006

Also, I'd suggest running memtest86 on your machine... frequent crashing could mean that the RAM has gone bad. The best way to do this is to open your case, and remove all RAM but one stick.

After a pass has gone by, try the next stick. If at anytime you see errors, no longer use that stick.. it's what is crashing your machine. And the good news is that most RAM manufacturers have a lifetime warrenty.

Since it seems that windows xp doesn't support RAID, just get another drive and copy everything there. Like the others are saying.. one day your hard drive will die. Murphy's Law says it will happen when you least want it to.
posted by triolus at 1:32 PM on June 16, 2006

Could be bad caparitors. Ditto the advice above -- back up the idea if you haven't already, and test the drive. But just on the evidence you've provided, there's not to go on to narrow the problem to a single component.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:42 PM on June 16, 2006

Since it seems that windows xp doesn't support RAID

I'm not sure what the person in the thread you link to was smoking, but you can most certainly run a RAID array using Windows XP. Perhaps not "Home" edition, though I don't see why it would matter. They might be talking about software-controlled RAID, in which case... well duh. Nobody in their right mind should consider trusting bloody Windows to keep your data safe.

But many (many, many) motherboards support onboard RAID these days (just about every single motherboard manufacturer offers a RAID-enabled board). Or you could just pony up the $100 for a reliable, dedicated card-controller like the Promise TX2000. Heck, my old AMD 1.8 motherboard had a built-in Promise chipset for RAID 0, 1, 0+1 for old school IDE drives). These days it's practically all SATA, which is inherintly easier to build RAID systems for.

As to the OP's original problem: if your drive was kind enough to give you warning before it goes (most of us never get that kind of kindness), back the motherfucker up, ASAP. Even if it's a controller issue, or shit, even a driver issue, it's better to be safe than sorry. If you haven't done a proper backup of at least your "irreplaceable" files within the last year, you begging for a system-generated ass whooping.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:22 PM on June 16, 2006

I've had this happen before on a drive that lasted years longer. I think sometimes the cable just vibrates loose and needs to be reseated.

Everyone's totally right though. Back it up.
posted by joegester at 5:03 PM on June 16, 2006

Thanks for your replies. Backing the drive up was an obvious thing to do when I got it back (now it's gone again, ha!).

The computer continues to freeze up - will a malfunctioning hard drive cause this or is this a sign of a deeper problem? Thanks for the suggestion to run a memtest - but if the hard drive and RAM are both faulty it makes me wonder how much longer this computer is going to last. I've had it for 5 years. I haven't done any recent hardware or software changes, except for that last Windows update.
posted by Termite at 1:43 AM on June 17, 2006

The computer continues to freeze up - will a malfunctioning hard drive cause this or is this a sign of a deeper problem?

It can. If your computer goes to write to a hard disk that it thinks is there and it suddenly isn't, or worse it goes away in the midst of of a disk operation, there is almost nothing the operating system can do to recover, so it is often fatal. If an application requested the write then the application will get the error, but if the OS requested it then it's possible that the error will cause a kernel panic (which on Windows often leads to the BSOD).
posted by kindall at 7:41 AM on June 17, 2006

A malfunctioning hard drive can definitely cause freezes, especially if Windows has put a page file on it.
posted by flabdablet at 7:49 AM on June 17, 2006

It sounds like you've been running the same version of Windows for 5 years. Have you ever reinstalled your OS?

If I were you, I'd do the following:
  1. Back up all important data (sounds like you've done this).
  2. Make a DVD of all the programs you normaly use, in install-ready format (SETUP.EXE + associated directories, normally). Make sure you have any applicable serial numbers safely stored somewhere.
  3. Backup all your system files you care about (browser bookmarks, any lingering My Documents, etc.).
  4. Go to the various websites of the major component manufacturers for your system and download their latest and greatest drivers. These are important: usually Windows will be able to auto-detect your hardware based on it's on-disc database, but if you've got any funky hardware, you'd do best to have the drivers on hand.
  5. Either download or make your own slipstreamed, updated Windows install. It's not as hard as it looks. If you've already got a legit copy of Windows, you should be completely within the spirit of the law to use it to create a backup. If you've already got a not-so-legit version, you're already going to Hell so you might as well save yourself some time and download it in a torrent. Bill Gates won't go poor because you didn't re-buy his software.
  6. Buy a new hard drive. They're crazy-cheap.
  7. Drink some beer.
  8. Make sure the XP boot disk actually boots.
  9. Turn off system, remove old hard drive, throw against something hard.
  10. Install new drive, install new (clean) OS, update drivers, reinstall applications, copy over old system settings, and you're all good.
Should solve your problem. Don't forget the beer.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:17 AM on June 18, 2006

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