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so I wake up this morning and my mother drops the Dell laptop.

She starts it up and no desktop icons appear. I take a look (mind you I'm not totally awake yet), go to start menu, click a button (I forgot which one) and a window box pops up saying something a bout the hardrive (I think it might have said cannot be located) she's crying right now and waiting until 10 to take it to bestbuy. she wont let me touch the dell either. could this be because of the drop or from torrents (which never was a problem)? please help.

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If you can, back-up now. And if you have a backup, don't replace it. Your new backup may be faulty. –  Svish Mar 3 '11 at 14:11
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3 Answers

If the laptop was on while it was dropped, then shut it down immediately and don't let anybody boot it back up until you're ready to do a full backup. If it wasn't on, do the same thing but less urgently.

Hard Drives take drops very, very badly, if the drive is on then even sudden movements can cause damage, never mind an impact at decent velocities.

Torrents will never cause physical drive damage, so don't worry about that - but do worry about getting any data you want from that drive off of it now, before it's too late (And keep it all backed up next time!)

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Could be either or both, but if it started just after it was dropped, that is the more likely solution. Either the drive was damaged somewhat or it might have jarred a connection loose. More likely there was damage from the drop, but not total damage as it will still boot to Windows (for now).

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It's most certainly the drop. Think about it, you have a hard drive platter spinning at 5400RPM or 7200RPM, even if it is impact resistant (which most are) you still have a good chance of damaging it. It's possible the torrents could cause other problems (depending on where you downloaded them from), but judging by the timing of the error (immediately after the drop) I would have to say the drive is damaged. Have your Mom back up ASAP since Bestbuy is not going to be able to repair a physical issue with the drive. They will probably charge you 5X the price of a new HDD, tell you it's dead, and then put a new cheap one in.

If there is anything your mom wants off the drive make sure she recovers it before going to Bestbuy! They will probably run chkdsk or other error checking diagnostics, if the drive is dying these will put the nail in the coffin for sure.

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