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My Windows has been freezing and bluescreening after startup recently. After trying to copy out the data I determined the problem -- the hard drive seems to shut down after accessing a particular place.

Trying to make an image with dd under Linux always fails at the same point and makes the drive inaccessible, checking for errors with HDTune under Windows does the same thing when it reaches that sector. After restarting, the HDD works again.

My HDD is "HTS541080G9SA00 - Hitachi Travelstar 80GB 5400RPM 8MB Buffer SATA 2.5" Notebook Hard Drive".

I'm not particularly concerned with backups, but I have two questions.

  1. What could be the cause? I've had read errors in HDDs before, but never to the point of the drive shutting down. Is this simply a bad sector, or sign of the whole HDD dying?

  2. Is there a way I can mark the bad sectors, reinstall Windows and get on with my day (at least in the short term), or should I just give up on that HDD?

Edit for future reference: I'm marking this as solved, but I didn't try anything, I just ended up ordering a new HDD.

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You might try running spinrite6 level 2 on the drive, then try dd – Moab May 22 '12 at 13:22
up vote 3 down vote accepted
  1. While I never saw this happen in practice, a drive that shuts down when it reaches a certain sector is possible. This has been described in this HDDGuru thread: HDD shutting down when accessing particular sectors, but no solution is given.

  2. Just give up on that HDD, even if you get this problem fixed, it will not last much and you can't really trust an HD that has had this sort of failure. If you like to go low-level, you might want to tinker with MHDD.

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A failing hard drive is not likely to last much longer even if it works properly now. This sounds like you have physical disk damage to this hard drive; it is possible for those sectors to be marked as bad by running a chkdsk /r from a PE environment if you can even get to to format properly.

Even if you get it working, I'd say the odds are it will not last much longer anyway.

In my opinion the best options for it now can be found here.

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Yes, one bad sector on a hard drive can cause catastrophic failure. It is all luck of the draw. For example, if that sector becomes unreadable and happens to contain a piece of code that is essential for the OS to run, you would be in trouble. On the other hand, if the bad sector was housing part of a photo or something then the consequences wouldn't be as significant.

There are a variety of bootable disk utilities to test the health of Hard Drives. Just to be sure though, you could try Drive Fitness Test. This will tool will essentially go through the drive checking for bad sectors as well as performing a number of other checks in the process(although it looks like we may already know it is failing).

If dd is failing then try using something a little bit stronger, like dd_rescue to clone the drive at that point. It will skip over bad sectors and continue cloning. If there aren't that many bad sectors then you may be able to salvage most of you data.

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