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I observe strange error messages related to an external USB HDD, Seagate FreeAgent (not an SSD) on my Windows 8 desktop.

First, the OS reports that the drive has an error:Action Center Notification

If I click 'Restart', it reboots. I expect it to run chkdsk on boot, but it appears to not be doing it.

I've tried to run chkdsk /f /x manually. It looks like everything goes OK, no errors are found. But the check wouldn't finish. It hangs after the final step completes. The process does not seem to be doing anything: no I/O, no Memory size change, no CPU activity.

At this stage, the following warnings are repeatedly added to event log:

Event 153, disk.
The IO operation at logical block address 5e615f for Disk 2 was retried.

The rate of warnings is about 2 per second. Each address appears twice, then another one comes that is bigger by 8. The first address a warning comes with is not constant if I run chkdsk several times, but they start at about 5exxxx. I don't observe any drive activity (no specific sounds of moving heads).

If I kill the chkdsk process, an error is added to the log:

Ntfs, 98.
Volume I: (\Device\HarddiskVolume5) needs to be taken offline to perform a Full Chkdsk. 
Please run "CHKDSK /F" locally via the command line,
or run "REPAIR-VOLUME <drive:>" locally or remotely via PowerShell.

and the same Action Center notification pops up.

I've even tried running chkdsk with /r flag and another time while booting into command prompt. Every time the results are similar: all steps complete without errors, and then it hangs.

I've tried replacing the USB cable and changing the USB port the disk is connected to. Nothing seems to change. I'll try using a USB port from another root hub and write if it has any effect.

I've looked through the event log and discovered that yesterday the same warning was added hundreds of times with a rate of 10-20 per second and hitting the same address 10a1e53f. I can't tell what had happened before it because the warnings overflowed the log. The chain of warnings seems to have ended without any reasons. They just stopped.

The question is: can anybody explain what the heck is going on? Does it mean a disk failure and urge me to copy all data and avoid using the disk? Or does it mean a mainboard failure? Or a driver failure?

** UPDATE **

Thanks for the hints, I've got a decent HDD test utility (Ashampoo Hdd Control 2) and here's what it reports: SMART data

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Do you have a good backup of your data? – uSlackr Jul 17 '13 at 13:10
I would backup your data just in case anyways until this is resolved. – Jason Bristol Jul 17 '13 at 13:12
Yeah, thank you. I was also thinking a backup won't hurt. – Pavel Gatilov Jul 17 '13 at 13:31
What you are getting points to a problem with the hardwar itself. Its likely the reason chkdsk doesnt work at boot is because of the fact your dealing with a USB disk and your BIOS doesn't turn on the port until after Windows is booted. – Ramhound Jul 17 '13 at 13:36
try and run a chkdsk /f /r ? – DLMono Jul 17 '13 at 15:45
up vote 4 down vote accepted

As @Ramhound is hinting in the comments to your OP, those symptoms are signs of a dying disk. Backup what you can, and get a new.

Specifically the "getting stuck" at the same position of the disk is a classic sign of disk failure. The event log just confirms the problem by reporting that Windows had to retry a disk read operation at that specific position (read between the lines: because the last try failed because of a read timeout or some error from the disk).

Just for the fun of it, you can run any hard drive diagnostic tool capable of reporting S.M.A.R.T. information. This is self-diagnostic information generated by most modern disks that the operating system is capable of retrieving for debugging. It is probably what the action center did in the background. This Wikipedia article can help explain what the various values (and failures, if any) mean:

share|improve this answer
Thank you for making me look at SMART more closely. I actually checked it, but looks like I used bad tools. I've added the results of Ashampoo HDD Control 2 to my OP. They make it clear that I'm getting bad sectors. – Pavel Gatilov Jul 18 '13 at 17:32
I was a bit confused because I didn't see any actual IO operation failures, and chkdsk did not report file errors either. Looks like the drive was continuously reallocating data which prevented IO operations from complete failure. – Pavel Gatilov Jul 18 '13 at 17:42

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