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I have a machine with a dying hard drive - bad sectors are starting to multiply :-(

The first sign (24 hours ago) was that it had an unmountable boot volume. At this time, I tried booting to safe mode with command prompt, which worked, after which I rebooted normally and ran a chkdsk. It has since been working as well as I could expect, but slowly getting less reliable. So I scheduled another chkdsk on both partitions (C: - boot, D: - data), having freed up a lot of space on both partitions to give Windows a little more scope for repairs (hopefully?). I then rebooted.

On reboot, it protested about the unmountable boot volume again, so I booted to safe mode. I got the same list of drivers loaded as yesterday, and then no change to the screen for the past 2 hours. However, I see a flickering hard drive indicator light - not always on, but seldom ever off. What is happening? Is the chkdsk that runs in safe mode one which produces nothing on the screen and so chkdsk could be doing its thing... or is Windows still trying (but failing) to boot into Safe Mode?

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I recommend that you boot from a Linux LiveCD/USB, get your important data off the drive stat (if you don't have an up-to-date backup), then replace the HDD ASAP. – Karan Dec 12 '12 at 4:15
2 hours and 40 minutes after the reboot, it finally let out a bleep, and when I got to see the screen, Windows XP appeared to be loading normally (not safe mode) and now a chkdsk is occurring. Hmmm... I am happy that I already have the data off it - just wanting to see if I can patch the bad sectors and still use the HD, or whether it is slowly going to degrade on me and be completely unreliable. – omatai Dec 12 '12 at 4:41
You should use Disk defragmentation after running chkdsk. – Manoj Agarwal Dec 12 '12 at 5:41
You might be able to use the HDD, but once one develops bad sectors it's mostly guaranteed to be on a downward spiral, and I never trust it ever again with important data. If you must continue using it, I'd suggest you use it as a secondary drive or take it out and put it in a case and use it to store data that you won't miss if lost. – Karan Dec 12 '12 at 16:55
My thoughts exactly. Still no explanation for exactly what it was doing for 2 hours and 40 minutes, but it's no longer a concern. Thanks for offering an opinion :-) – omatai Dec 12 '12 at 21:56

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