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I am a semi new user to Linux, but in general I'm not too familiar with setting up a custom operating system and computer environment. I have a Sony Vaio laptop that I use to run Vista on and it's crashed a couple times. So I got a new laptop.

I have run multiple versions of Linux on my old laptop but they never seem to work and I have gotten messages regarding problems with the hard disk. I'm guessing there is something corrupted on my hard disk.

Is there a way I can reinstall, or even do it without reinstalling the OS, and let my system run separate from where there might be an error on the hard disk?

I'm somewhat new to the whole OS and Linux environment, so please don't respond with lingo I won't understand.

Maybe I could create a partition that is only blocking a certain part of disk, or something along these lines?

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Nice Question, I faced this problem for quite often due to bad disks but don't know what to do.. and I eventually end up in replacing disks..hope to get some good answers here... –  Kevin Boyd Oct 20 '09 at 7:57
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5 Answers

Usually, once something goes wrong with a hard disk, it will quickly spread over the disk if you do not stop using it. If it is a head-crash or electronic malfunction, you will ruin the rest of the disk quickly.

I would recommend getting a new hard disk for this, or have the whole system looked at by someone who knows about the hardware better, perhaps you know someone who can do this for free :)

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Agreed. Don't try to reuse a failing hard disk... It's not likely to work and the time spent formatting, reinstalling and restoring data is easily worth the cost of a new disk. –  Chris Nava Oct 20 '09 at 18:11
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Backing up what brandstaetter said (Backup and replace!!), but there's also the option of using the diagnostic/repair tools provided by the manufacturer which may be able to reallocate the bad sectors to redundant space on the disk. Find out the manufacturer of the disk and there will usually be a downloadable ISO on their site.

Now, you don't mention what brand of disk is in the laptop but some common tools are:

Seagate/Maxtor - SeaTools

Hitachi/IBM DeskStar - Drive Fitness Test

Western Digital - Data Lifeguard

These tools and more are available on the Ultimate Boot CD.

I prefer these tools to chkdsk/other OS based scans as a reformat of the disk won't reactivate sectors marked as bad in the FS - the reallocation is done on a hardware level.

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A surface scan with Windows Scan Disk or chkdisk should mark sectors as bad and not use them. Not sure what other utilities do this. But as Brandstaetter noted, you are taking the risk that the harddrive is going to get worse.

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I think there's something peculiar about Linux and the way it formats hard drives with its vast array of file systems. I too have experienced strange problems with the hard drive after having installed SuSE or Ubuntu Linux on them. Even just reformatting them didn't give me back full use. With a Western Digital hard drive, the problem went away when I used WD's low level reformatting utility which writes all zeros to the drive. However, with my Hitachi hard drive, I wasn't as successful when I used Hitachi's utility. I can install Windows VISTA on the hard drive, but no version of SuSE or Ubuntu. They claim they can't write files to the disk during installation. My sad story is that Ubuntu 9.10 updated my system software one day. After having liberally given my consent to install all recommended updates, the system wouldn't boot up again the next day. When I tried to reinstall Ubuntu, I kept getting installation failures. I then tried to install SuSE and it too failed. Reinstalling VISTA on the same drive, however, was no problem.

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I use a commercial product called SpinRite from GRC. You can see some testimonials

By operating directly upon magnetic storage media at a level below any installed operating system, this major milestone release of SpinRite is able to operate on all Windows XP NTFS formats, all DOS FAT, all Linux file systems, Novell, Macintosh (if temporarily moved into a PC) or anything else — it can even be used to repair and recover the hard drive from an ailing TiVo!

This product will create a bootable CD or USB flash drive and take low-level control of your drive, and throughly test every writeable part of your drive. I bought it in support of the Security Now Podcasts that Steve Gibson produces and it gives me great piece of mind when I scan a drive and find there are no problems.

SpinRite 6.0 can create a bootable diskette or generate a standard, CD-R burnable ISO file to create a "SpinRite boot CD". A bootable SpinRite can also be "installed" into any other motherboard bootable devices, such as USB flashdrives for easy, portable booting and use.

My XP machine used to stall on starting windows, quite a severe stall for about 4 or 5 minutes, and after running SpinRite and selecting the most thorough option to scan and test the whole disk it started booting into Windows much cleaner and smoother.

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