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Could you list a series of steps coming from your experience that one can use to check if an internal laptop HD (let say, SATA drive) is definitely broken?

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Step 1 - Verify that the BIOS can see the drive. Reboot and enter your BIOS's menu and verify that the drive shows up there and has correct specs.

Step 2 - Rule out the OS. Boot from a CD/USB and verify that the drive is present and readable.

Step 3 - Rule out the other hardware. Try the drive in another machine/enclosure.

Step 4 - Run diagnostics. Many drive manufactures provide drive diagnostics on their web sites. Many also require you to have a failing test before sending the drive in for warranty replacement. These tests are useful even for out of warranty drives. If the manufacturer doesn't provide test utilities, there are open source "rescue" CDs that can run more generic tests.

You may wish to swap #2 and #3 depending on how easy it is to perform one or the other.

Step X (last resort) Put the drive in the freezer for a few hours.

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Step 1 - Unfortunately my BIOS doesn't clearly show connected HDs. I can see the HD "serial" (e.g. ST9500XXXXX) in the POST messages and in the BOOT menu. Step 2 - Alright, I tried with Linux live distro. COuld you provide specific commands? (e.g. fdisk -l) Step 3 - Didn't do it Step 4 - I tried with native "Lenovo HD Test", and R-studio. Can you sugest more? –  Dave Jan 23 '13 at 20:40
    
Based on the POST results I would say the drive electronics are probably OK. First thing I would do with #2 is to try to mount the drive. If that fails, run gpartd or something similar and verify the partition table is visible. DON'T CHANGE THE PARTITION TABLE. If it's not visible then the data on the drive is damaged. If you can't see the drive at all with the partition tool then it's likely dead. if you CAN see the partition table then the drive is at least slightly alive. ;-) –  Chris Nava Jan 23 '13 at 21:53
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You could always use Parted Magic as that CD OS that you boot to. partedmagic.com/doku.php Yes, it is Linux. Yes, it contains a ton of hard drive utilities. –  Bon Gart Jan 23 '13 at 22:01
    
Nearly every BIOS I've ever seen lists the internal hard drives. Check for a menu item like "CMOS" or "Boot" –  Chris Nava Jan 23 '13 at 22:02
    
I would personally use an Ubuntu CD as I have those lying around. If you are downloading something specifically for rescue, go with one designed for that purpose. It will have more utilities and be better organized for that task. –  Chris Nava Jan 23 '13 at 22:17

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