Is there a way to fix critical structure errors on my Seagate hard drive?
August 20, 2004 8:43 PM   Subscribe

Yet another boring tech question: my main hard drive died on me. It's a Seagate, so I ran their diagnostic tool and it tells me I have 2 critical structure errors. What does this mean? Is there a way to fix it, or do I have to reformat, or worse, toss it out? Vielen Dank!
posted by muckster to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
I can't really guess what "critical structure error" means, since that sounds like vendor-specific terminology for something that might have a completely different common term. But there are generally two kinds of disk errors:

"Soft" errors aren't actually disk errors, but problems with the filesystem stored on the disk. If you're running Windows, the ScanDisk tool will ferret out most of these, and on just about everything else -- Linux, Unix, and OSX -- the fsck tool does the same job.

"Hard" errors are problems with the magnetic surface of the disk itself. They're not repairable, and although theoretically some drives are capable of working around these problems in practice once it happens the drive is pretty much toast.

There are a couple of other more uncommon things that can go wrong with hard drives, but they're rare enough to be worth ignoring here.
posted by majick at 11:05 PM on August 20, 2004

hmm, need more details on how and when it died. however, if the drive fails to boot you may need to mess with the boot sector.
posted by bob sarabia at 12:17 AM on August 21, 2004

Response by poster: It sounds like a soft error to me, majick--the "file structure test" failed, but the "complete surface scan" passed.

The drive died while I was attempting to repartition it with PartitionMagic. This has worked many times in the past, but this time, it choked on some errors and crashed. It went by too fast for me to tell what those errors were.

Should I try to take a look at the boot sector with any of the tools that come up in that search, bob? Is there a recommended way of going about this? Thanks again.
posted by muckster at 7:16 AM on August 21, 2004

Response by poster: I think what I'm really asking is, what are the common tools to address a problem like this? I have the Ultimate Boot Disk, but it doesn't seem to have anything that helps in this case.
posted by muckster at 7:19 AM on August 21, 2004

PartitionMagic does deep, ugly voodoo things to your filesystem and partition table. It's possible, although extremely unlikely, that your disk is in some sort of recoverable state, assuming you can repair the partition table (I don't think it's the MBR or boot sector -- as soon as you say PartitionMagic, it's safe to assume that a hosed partition table is why you can't boot).

It's at this point that I'd nuke the drive and start over, restoring from the backup that PartitionMagic strongly advises you to make before you do anything with it. There are tools out there that might possibly get you limping into a state where you could save a few files from the drive, but certainly you shouldn't get the idea that the filesystem on the disk is safe for regular use.
posted by majick at 8:01 AM on August 21, 2004

Response by poster: Here's what the diagnostic tool said, more or less. The fact that it saw 3 partitions and a number of files made me hopeful--but I assume majick is right and I'll have to start over.

Diagnostic Report
SeatTools Desktop

Disc Info: 3 Partitions

Diagnostic Results
Drive 1
SMART: Not Selected
90 Second: Passed
File Structure Test: Failed

Partition 1: Critical Errors
2 Critical Structure Errors
0 Non-Critical Structure Errors
328 KBytes in 8234 Files
28 deleted directories found

ERROR Summary:
Invalid File Size 2

Partition 2 (Harper) Results: Failed with critical errors
Partition 3 (Pix) Results: Failed with critcial Errors

Complete Surface Scan Result: Passed


System Meory Test: Passed

Drive 1
SMART: Not selected
90 Second: Passed
File Structure Test: Failed
Surface Scan: Passed

If you are not experiencing data loss and Seatools reports File System
Structure errors, they may be caused by a lock-up or failure to
shutdown windows correctly. Many times, these errors may be repaired
through normal system maintencance. If you are experiencing a hardware
error, you should isolate the cause and replace the failing component.
If you are unsure how to proceed with repairs, contact a computer
professional. After completing any maintenance tasks, run Seatolls
again to verify that all errors have been repaired. If errors continue
to occure, the system may not be stable. Again, contact a computer
posted by muckster at 8:16 AM on August 21, 2004

Response by poster: All right, I gave up--I'm formatting right now. Thanks all.
posted by muckster at 9:25 AM on August 21, 2004

If you can, turn on SMART -- if it's reporting developing physical errors, dump the drive, fast.

Note that all drives have a set of sectors used to automatically remap bad sectors, to cover for borderline sectors. If you ever see a bad block, it means that you actually have several dozen bad blocks, and you've run out of remap sectors. skallas is exactly right -- usually, if you have that many bad sectors, there's bits of oxide bouncing on the platters. Your data is being sandblasted away -- well, until a bit lands right under the head. Then, your data gets plowed away. It's known as "The drive went farming."

I have a very simple rule for my production drives. The moment they throw *one* warning or error, they're swapped. I've never lost a data crictical drive, and I've never had unplanned downtime due to a drive failure. (The reason for RAID-5 isn't just data tolerance, it'll let you swap a drive with no downtime.) The drives often are given to people, with the caveat that if they put anything they care about on them, they're likely to lose it.

At home, mirrored drives on everything, and the same rule -- one strike, and it's out.

Drives are cheap, compared to data.
posted by eriko at 7:09 PM on August 21, 2004

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