What can cause bad blocks in two different hard drives?
September 19, 2007 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Two hard drives in a row have developed bad blocks. What could be causing this? Heat is not an issue.

My new big hard drive developed bad blocks within 40 days. I returned it and went back to my reliable small hard drive, which I've used for over a year. Now it's developed bad blocks too, only a week later.

There's no other new hardware. The motherboard and power supply (which I regard as possible suspects) are the same ones I've used for 2 years.

The motherboard and hard drives report temperatures between 33 and 39 degrees C, which is why I doubt heat is the problem.

Electrical supply? The computer is on a UPS. Another computer shares the same UPS and has no problems.

Cat? The computer is in a new location and it's possible my cat has jumped on the computer, rocking it while it's running. I've now taken steps to avoid this.

Coincidence? The bad blocks on the smaller drive seemed less severe than the ones on the big new drive. The big drive made clicking sounds, had SMART failures, and couldn't run CHKDSK. The small drive just showed bad blocks in the Event Viewer and screwed up a torrent download. CHKDSK seems to have fixed/remapped the bad blocks (although I don't actually know if CHKDSK found any problem, because I left it running overnight). I still plan to replace the small drive, if only because it's small.

Software? Is it possible for software to cause bad blocks or false alarms of same? I was running a SMARTDefender extended test while using uTorrent, which was the first program to complain about a CRC/bad block error.
posted by Yogurt to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You mention uTorrent. Do you run eMule or another client for the eDonkey network?
posted by donut at 11:20 AM on September 19, 2007

No, although I probably do have the software on my system somewhere, having tried it before. Nothing that loads on startup though. How might that software affect things?
posted by Yogurt at 11:52 AM on September 19, 2007

It's some kind of p2p-Application. It was just a wild guess, because IIRC the client and the way it downloads things stressed the harddisk. Friends of mine suffered harddisk failure because they used it frequently.
posted by donut at 11:58 AM on September 19, 2007

It's not like you're even comparing apples and apples, though. You mention that you've had the smaller hard drive for over a year, so I'd put my money on coincidence. Your new hard drive was clearly faulty, since SMART errors shoudn't show up until very much later in its life. It would have failed no matter where you had installed it.

That you just happened to install it in a computer that would later be used for an older drive that would develop problems of its own isn't indicative of a problem with your computer.

Also, with regard to donut: Software has nothing to do with bad blocks.
posted by odinsdream at 12:00 PM on September 19, 2007

Magnetic fields in the new location?

(Inspired by the friend who had all sorts of disk problems until she took the decorative magnets off the side of her case.)
posted by backupjesus at 12:06 PM on September 19, 2007

No way to know for sure, really, but I'm going to put my money on it being bad luck. Hard drives just go bad all the time. They're moving parts.

Unless you have a really high-end 'online' UPS (you'd know if you did), it's not really 'filtering' the power that much (if at all). It'll protect you from a power outage, but it doesn't mean that the power reaching your system is a pure 120V, 60Hz sine wave. Although I'd expect your power supply to take the brunt of the abuse. I'm not an expert in the field of power supplies / hard drive failure, but I wouldn't expect power supply issues to manifest as bad blocks on a hard drive.

Rocking a hard drive while it's running is bad, but not necessarily fatal. Worth preventing.

I don't think software could damage your hard drive. I strongly doubt that eMule would be directly killing your hard drive.

My vote? You're unlucky. Don't buy any lottery tickets for a bit, but buy a new hard drive. I could very well be wrong: it's hard to diagnose something like this remotely. But the odds seem to suggest that it's simply bad luck for you.
posted by fogster at 12:09 PM on September 19, 2007

A second for backupjesus' answer. If you have large hi-fi speakers on either side of your computer, it could wreak havoc on your drives - I know it did mine.
posted by eclectist at 12:15 PM on September 19, 2007

Sounds like coinicidence. You bought a newer large drive that was defective. Then you switched to your old small drive that has age and wear on it.

Also, I dont consider 39 degrees a safe temperature. If this is an idle temperature you really need more cooling. If you are peaking in the high 40s you really need to take care of this. Also if you have two drives you dont want to mount them next to each other. Theyll just heat themselves up more.

Lastly, utorrent attacks the same part of the disk during the download. I imagine its possible that heat plus aging disks plus writing tiny bits to that same 1 gig movie over and over again contributited to an early death, buts that assuming a lot.

Still if you a heavy p2p user you are working your disks pretty hard.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:21 PM on September 19, 2007

Thanks damn dirty ape. The drives rarely hit 40, even under load. Idle is usually 34C. And there's just one drive at a time, for exactly the reason you mention -- too much heat otherwise.

I'm not usually a big torrent user, but the few days before the small old drive's problem did see some heavy use. Sounds like the consensus is bad luck, which is probably the best I can hope for, since is doesn't involve buying anything other than a rabbit's foot.
posted by Yogurt at 1:39 PM on September 19, 2007

I'm no expert but I had an enclosure (which I've since dubbed "Death Enclosure") which would kill hard drives like crazy. They'd last 1 month or 2 and then develop bad blocks and die. I have no actual proof, but I think it was the power supply. Since I got rid of the enclosure my drives have been much more reliable. Like I said, I'm no expert (and I'm superstitious).
posted by sharkfu at 2:56 PM on September 19, 2007

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