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Recently I've gotten some errors relating to a particular hard drive. Like so:

Windows was unable to save all the data for the file [System Volume Information, $MFT, and similar windows places] The data has been lost. This error may be caused by a failure of your computer hardware or network connection. Please try to save this file elsewhere.

It was locking up my computer after it happened. I ran the ScanDisk/chkdsk XP equivalent error-checking tool. I ran a virus scan which seemed to pick up a few things. And, I swapped the power cable connected to the drive. After all this, the problem seemed to go away.

Today, similar issues have come back. The computer has even locked up on boot at the Windows log-in screen several times. I believe the computer is losing its connection to the drive somehow. Once, XP didn't even recognize the drive. I did notice before that the drive was not showing its name in the Device Manager. It just showed something generic like "Disk Drive". I currently have it unplugged so I can boot my machine without it locking up. Are these symptoms of a failing hard drive?

My other thought was that the PSU is failing or doesn't have enough power. Is this a possibility? The PSU is probably over six years old now. Most other parts have been swapped out at this point.

The drive is a 320GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3320620A, and it's been working fine for about a year. I got a new CPU and had to replace the motherboard about six months ago.

Edit: I finally found another PSU to test with, and I'm pretty sure it isn't that now. I've found that I'm able to pick off a few files under linux before the drive stops working. It doesn't like to copy large or multiple files. Maybe a sign of bad sectors as has been mentioned in several answers already?

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it's clear here the drive is failing. –  techaddict Oct 2 at 23:59

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Yes, these symptoms are for a failing hard drive.

But I would first rule out the PSU as the source of failure by replacing it (e.g. from some other computer or a brand new one).

It is most likely bad blocks on the harddisk.

I use SpinRite to save data in bad blocks. Even if there are a few unrecoverable bits in a sector (4096 bits) SpinRite will save all other bits and thus there is a much higher probability that the data can be saved (those bits may not be used by the file system or some file).

If SpinRite finds any unrecoverable data I would copy all the data onto a new harddisk and discard the old one.

SpinRite is a commercial program (USD 89.00) and is available from http://www.grc.com/sr/spinrite.htm .

I have never experienced it, but please note that by running SpinRite you may push the harddisk over the edge if it is about to fail completely. Thus try to save as much as possible BEFORE you run SpinRite.

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Thanks for the detail. I will look into this. –  Jay Sheridan Jul 25 '09 at 2:29

It doesn't sound like this is an issue with PSU and very well could be a signal for failing drive. Did you take a backup of the data?. It may be worth checking with spin rite.

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I was able to copy some of it while the drive was still working in XP. I do have the most important data on another drive (pictures), but it would be nice to have the rest. –  Jay Sheridan Jul 25 '09 at 2:37

Seagate has a good support website for warranty and returns with plenty of help on determining what is wrong and what to do. I had tried SeaTools for windows, but by that time the drive was too far gone. I realized there was a SeaTools for DOS recently and gave that a go. The "short test" came back failed as incomplete. The "long test" came back with the error that the drive had stopped responding to commands shortly after starting the test. Each test started with the warning that the drive was giving an over-temperature error with a temperature of greater than 70C. I expect this to be bunk because the drive was not plugged in less than five minutes before the tests. This confirms for me that the drive is dead, and I suspect it's a mechanical or electrical problem, rather than bad sectors.

For the record, I called Seagate's data recovery company to get an estimate. The support tech said that in-lab recovery starts at around $300, and in my particular case, he expected the price to be around $1700. Unfortunately, that's way too high for me. What data I haven't recovered yet myself isn't worth that much.

Also for the record, as a last ditch effort before sending the drive back, I tried the freezer trick, and on one attempt the drive actually lasted over a full day without crashing. It may have lasted longer, but after I got all the data I needed, I shipped it back to Seagate for a replacement. I don't trust the thing any more, even if it was "working."

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Spin Rite is indeed a useful tool to regenerate the data on a failing drive. SR in many cases can extend the life of a failing drive due to physical errors however it has little ability to recover from a drive having a chain reaction break down.

In those cases you might have to get an identical drive and copy the data. If it fails completely you will need break the old and new drive apart to make a frankendrive to get your data.

Just replacing the circuit board on the drive is a piece of cake compared to having to pull out the platters and rebuild the drive in the new chassis. I won't get into the procedure here, but needless to say you will have fun assembling your own sub 3 micron HEPA filtration work area.

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I have a drive that died to Windows. Scared the heck out of me. Luckily, Ubuntu reads it just fine. You might try reading with Linux before assuming your drive is dead.

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I've actually gotten a few files off of it using DSL. The drive still locks up after a little while, but it can at least be read for a little while. –  Jay Sheridan Jul 30 '09 at 2:59
    
In your case the drive did not fail but the partition table or core file system became corrupted. –  techaddict Oct 3 at 0:00

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