So I had 3 mechanical HDD's (all different), and 2 SSD's (one old, one new-ish)


2015 - 2 weeks ago - Homebuilt system works fine.
8-10 days ago - Multiple power outages during last few days.

6-7 days ago - Windows froze on boot, found out 4TB drive was the issue. Unplug it.
5 days ago - Windows freezing on boot again, now my 3TB and old 320GB drive are causing it.
3 days ago - Decide my 3 mechanical HDD's are fried but SSD's are ok. Notice my PSU fan is rattling but otherwise ok.

So I buy a new SSD, and a new PSU (probably not necessary), and a usb HDD docking station. I install the new PSU. I set up the docking station and use it to pull data from HDD's, to my working SSD's.

2 days ago - Windows showing errors for basic tasks like trying to get into device manager.
Yesterday - Reinstall windows on new SSD.
Set up a big overnight copy of some data from the 4TB drive, to my oldest SSD

Today - See the copy didn't finish this morning, with an error, but that's no shock, if the drive is dying. But now, my 2nd-newest SSD is just gone from windows and disk manager. I thought my SSD's were ok but apparently not. I haven't checked to see if it shows in BIOS yet.

So here's my questions:

• Research suggests this could be caused by a bad power surge. I have a basic $60 Staples UPS with battery backup, is this still likely?

• Is there anything else it could be? Is there a virus that just kills hard drives, or maybe a virus that works them to death? I hestitate to scan them because they're dying and not fully readable anyway. My realtime protection (Avira) never popped up any warnings this whole time though.

• Should I just replace the whole computer? Or at least the motherboard? Can my hard disk controller somehow get fried and cause drives to die?

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    Not all ups's do a god job of clamping power surges. The only one I trust is APC brand. – Moab Sep 13 '18 at 14:43
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    How do you know for sure the hard drives are fried? Did you run any hard drive diagnostics on any of them? – Moab Sep 13 '18 at 14:44
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    I'd certainly check the SMART stats for the disks, and it may well be an unrelated shared component like the motherboard, CPU, or RAM. SSDs should not suffer damage from power outages, though there may be data corruption if a write was in progress or cached. Mechanicals can be damaged by abrupt power cycle changes, but its still unusual. also, don't rely on windows copy for moving large volumes of data. consider robocopy, or perhaps Teracopy, which won't stop on every error, but instead display all the errors at the end for you to retry. – Frank Thomas Sep 13 '18 at 14:50
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    Occam's Razor: The cause can be anything at all and you already need to replace your disks. Why not make a clean sweep and change the computer as well if possible? – harrymc Sep 13 '18 at 15:42
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    Since your question is answered, you might put up and answer detailing your decision and our input. – harrymc Sep 14 '18 at 17:20

Thanks to everyone for their answers. I dunno if I can pick just one because they were all helpful. I guess for future people in the same boat:

  • Best guess is, the hard drives weren't necessarily fried with a surge, the problems might have simply been caused by a power outage. They might have been in the middle of writing some data when my battery backup ran out of juice. Maybe the loss of power came at a really unlucky time like a windows update or something.

  • The reason I suspect they weren't actually 'fried' is... 4 out of 5 drives came back to life, once I took the right steps. The one that didn't is an SSD, and I'm told those are less susceptible to surges than mechanical drives, which all recovered. I still can't explain why 1 SSD is dead. But the other issues I saw may not have been surge-related, but just normal signs of older drives starting to go bad.

  • I also have found that my other components are totally fine. PSU (which I needlessly replaced), GPU, RAM, etc. are all running smoothly for the past month.

  • Windows can make this problem seem more major than it is, because when a SATA drive has a bad sector in Windows (at least, my version, win7)... it can bring the whole operating system to a halt. So you can't do the usual steps to fix anything, and it feels like everything is really hosed.

  • I DID have to reinstall windows so I guess in that sense, it was pretty hosed.

  • A USB hard disk dock let me talk to drives with bad sectors and other problems, without causing windows to hang. It's invaluable and only costs like 20 bucks. That should be a first step for anyone with this problem.

  • I underestimated the value of running the hard disk manufacturer's custom utilities (which include the SMART scan) that come from their website. These utilities brought one non-responsive drive to life. Remember to make sure a drive is found in BIOS first... if you can't get it there you usually can't get it in windows either. If you can get it in BIOS, then use diskmgmt.msc (disk manager) to find the drive, assign it a volume (right click and "import foreign volume" might work), assign it a letter, and reformat it if necessary.

  • I DID get a fresh drive for my OS. I was too broke to replace ALL my drives, but the OS is too important to run on a compromised / damaged HDD/SSD.

  • Also got a better surge protector. An interesting thing I learned is that the big UPSes with battery backup, are not necessarily as good at surge protection as a straight surge protector with no battery. Like the typical $100 battery-backup things that are about the size of shoeboxes, would have a rating of 800-900 joules of surge protection, while a cheapo $20-25 surge protector would be rated at 1400-2000 joules.

  • Use the dock to scan for and fix bad sectors on all drives. Yes, let it run overnight and take a zillion hours if necessary. Because if it's got bad sectors and you try to plug it into SATA again, windows will get upset and hang. And you don't want to use drives forever with the enclosure, it's much slower. A few people suggest that you should just replace drives once they show bad sectors, but I'm not throwing away 4 terabytes because 2 gigs are bad or whatever. I'm just using that drive for unimportant stuff I can easily replace.

  • I did get a cheap Buffalo NAS box as a backup solution, though offsite backup (cloud) is always best. For those who never messed with NAS (I hadn't)...You can stick two hard drives together into this enclosure (I chose WD red, was told they're reliable), and the NAS makes these drives accessible either by plugging the box into your router (using an ethernet cable) or by making them wirelessly accessible. They look and act like normal drives in windows, but you can even access them over the internet from another location. As you might guess... ethernet cables and wireless are NOT fast ways to talk to a hard drive. So while this works as an ok backup solution, I discovered I don't want to e.g. open and manipulate a bunch of files in photoshop on one of these drives, as there's all sorts of delays and issues. It's best to get your hard drives plugged back into SATA once they're scanned and happy. It's much faster than using hard drives via NAS or USB.

Hope this is helpful to someone, and thanks to everyone who replied.

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