Prescribe my sick, sick computer.
November 10, 2006 3:54 AM   Subscribe

The new hard drive I installed on my XP machine has been having problems, and I think the problem could be directly related to a tock! tock! sound that something is making...

So I installed this drive last week and I had some issues installing it, but long story short I've gotten it to work ok. I put some partitions on it (3, each about 100 gigs). When playing World of Warcraft, though, the computer automatically shut down and I got a blue screen of death, though not the normal one. This one said that I may have hardware issues and that I should check everything to see if it's ok. This blue screen-crash happened several times, and I did run several disk-integrity-checking apps, and all of them said my HD is fine.

Then, seemingly on its own, my computer ran just fine for a week.

Then today, when I booted it up, it booted up sloooooow. Like 10 minutes as opposed to 1 or 2. I got online and surfed for a minute and everything crashed. Then I went through a series of reboots: I would be prompted to start in safe mode, but it would reboot before this could happen. I got an error just after BIOS finished saying in all caps DISK ERROR (something something (sorry, I forget what exactly)). Another time I got an error saying my isapnp.sys file was missing/corrupt--I hunted for instructions to fix this in Windows Setup, but haven't needed to do it yet. Finally, also seemingly on its own, it rebooted like nothing was wrong.

Then I noticed the tock! tock! The sound is spaced about 3 seconds apart, and if I hear it, the computer is soon to crash. Obviously that's a hardware issue, but what is it? My hard drive? Motherboard? I'm waiting for the other boot to drop here, so any help you could give would be appreciated.
posted by zardoz to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Sounds like the disk is either failing or not getting enough power.
posted by doomtop at 4:32 AM on November 10, 2006

Backup important data. Now.
posted by edd at 5:03 AM on November 10, 2006

Tock! Tock! is "OMG! I CAN'T FIND THE TRACKS! OH NOES!!" in drive speak.

Very old hard drives used stepper motors to position the heads. Good thing -- no track markers needed. Bad thing -- steppers were large and slow, and kept us from packing tracks tighter.

So, we stopped using steppers and used voice coils to move the heads. Good thing -- voice coils are simple, fast, and cheap. Bad thing -- voice coils have no real "stops" to land in, so you need track information. In the first drives, this was the servo platter -- one side of the disk would have nothing but track marks, and the head over that disk would be used to find tracks.

Modern drives take that a step further. The track information is embedded under a data layer (or, on larger drives, a couple of data layers.) Thus, you don't lose one side of a platter.

How it works -- the head starts at track 0. As it scans, it counts the embedded tracks. If it loses count for some reason, it retracts the heads to track zero by turning off the voice coil power, which lets a spring return mechanism pull the heads to track 0 -- "Tock!"

When you can't count the tracks, you keep trying. "Tock!" "Tock!" "Tock!"

There are reasons this will happen on occasion, the biggest one being thermal recalibration as the drive warms up. But those are rare. If it's happening on a new drive, that drive is almost certainly failing.

Get anything you care about off that drive.
posted by eriko at 5:18 AM on November 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Ugh, click of death. I got shivers just reading the onomatopoeia version.
posted by owenkun at 5:36 AM on November 10, 2006

If it's booting really (as in excruciatingly) slowly, that could mean that Ultra DMA has been disabled by Windows, and you are using Programmable I/O instead. Windows does this if it detects too many errors reading or writing to your hard drive, as PIO is much (10-20 times) slower than UDMA, but more reliable. With PIO, everything read from the hard disk goes through the CPU to memory, instead of being written directly to memory.

You can check this in Device Manager (In IDE Controllers, and the Advanced Properties tab of each channel. Your Hard Disk is probably Device 0 on Channel 1.

There isnt much you can do about it, you can reset it to use UDMA again, but if your hard disk is getting errors repeatedly, there's probably not much point. I just thought I should point out that this could be the reason for the slowness. If it is, back up now, as edd says, and get a new hard drive.

If this is the case, and you do want to reset it to UDMA, look at this link. It might be worth doing to back up someway quickly, but it will probably reset after a while.
posted by Boobus Tuber at 9:10 AM on November 10, 2006

Listen to edd and eriko. Backup important data, and go get a new drive.

I had a similar issue earlier this year with a 120GB Seagate 7200.9 UDMA/100 IDE drive.

If you absolutely must boot the drive up again, here's a little trick. Turn on the A/C... and turn it way down. Cut the ambient tempreture and humidity in the room. This afforded me enough time to go out and buy a new drive. After I got the new drive installed.... a 160GB Seagate 7200.10... I booted and was abled to clone the old disk to the new disk... after which... the 120GB drive would no longer initialize.

I have since bought a DDS4 DAT20 SCSI tape drive.

And remember kids, backup early and back up often.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 3:00 PM on November 10, 2006

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