hard drive on the fritz

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I've got a hard drive that's getting flakey.
The BIOS recognizes the drive, but Windows XP doesn't see the drive.  For
a short while today, I could see the drive and was able to copy some data
off it.  I'm guessing the drive is on it's last legs, and am trying to grab
the data and retire the drive.  It sounds fine, but I'm guessing it must
have some physical heat damage so the software recovery programs won't help
(I'm guessing).  It's a western digital caviar 120G drive.
The other drives work fine.

I don't know if this is related, but my power supply now beeps four times
when I turn the hard power switch on.  It boots the system fine and doesn't
beep at all when I start it using the power button on the PC.

Windows XP
2.5G Ram
3 Hard Drives (120G, 120G, 160G)
Ultra Power Supply (500W)
AMD XP 3000+

Re: hard drive on the fritz

Steve X wrote:
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It could be a power supply problem. I had an Antec go bad recently,
and once the computer was running it was fine, but it didn't work
so well at startup. There were leaking capacitors inside the power

You can try verifying the main rail voltages, using a multimeter.
The 12V and 5V are available on a Molex hard drive connector. The
3.3V will be harder to get at (backside of the main power connector).
You might find that the 12V rail is outside the 5% allowed
variation. And that could account for some of the problems with
the hard drive.

Your UPS could beep on an overload. The ATX power supply has something
called "inrush", where the main capacitor inside the supply charges
quickly when you turn on the switch on the back. A device is included
inside the power supply, to temper the effect. The device when cold,
has a high resistance, and that reduces the magnitude of the current
rushing into the main capacitor. The temperature of the device rises
while the power supply is running, and the resistance of the device
drops (so there isn't as much power wasted). If you toggle the switch
on the back of the supply rapidly, that doesn't allow the device to
cool off, so at the instant the supply is switched on again, the
inrush would be larger. My UPS will beep, if I toggle the switch
on the supply rapidly, and that is not a good thing to do. When
the power supply is switched off, allow half a minute for the
thing to cool off, so the inrush won't be quite as big.

In this picture, NTCR1 on the upper left, limits the inrush.


To give an example of a thing you can try, I cloned a drive the
other day using Linux. You want the output drive, to be the same
size or larger, than the input drive. You copy one drive to the other,
by booting a Linux LiveCD (Knoppix or Ubuntu), and then using a
command in a terminal window like this.

    dd if=/dev/hda of=/dev/hde

In my case, hda was on a motherboard ribbon cable, while hde happened
to be on a Promise Ultra133 TX2 PCI card connector. It took significantly
longer to copy than I expected (13MB/sec average), implying the Linux
OS didn't have DMA enabled somewhere. But in any case, the operation
copied all four partitions from one drive to the other, without having
any knowledge of what file systems were involved or anything. Such a
copy is sector by sector and sequential (less stress for the head assembly
on the hard drive), and copies the partition table and everything.
If the output drive (hde in the example), is smaller than the input
drive (hda), you might lose the last bits of the file system, which
potentially could be a bad thing. My drives happened to be exactly
the same size (same model).

If there were actual bad sectors on the source drive, I don't know what
would have happened. I scanned the drive for bad blocks, before doing
the copy, so I wasn't expecting to have a problem with it.


Re: hard drive on the fritz

On Sun, 2 Nov 2008 03:41:50 +0000 (UTC), Steve X

Quoted text here. Click to load it

No ultra 500W that I'm aware of has a speaker or buzzer in
it, I suspect it is only a unique symptom of that
motherboard doing it when AC power is first restored except
that AFAIK, the A7N8X-X doesn't have a buzzer on it either
but perhaps the case has a buzzer hooked up to the
motherboard speaker pins?  

You shouldn't need to keep turning AC power off to the PSU
except during these troubleshooting sessions, so as long as
it continues to turn on and run the system from the soft-off
state with AC power live, it may be ok.

Then again, maybe it's not ok, those PSU were kinda junky
and it wouldn't surprise me if the capacitors are failing by
now, and that could account for the hard drive symptoms.  If
all else fails, unplug PSU from AC for a few minutes then
open and inspect the capacitors around the area where the
wiring harness attaches to the circuit board.  With that
system it wouldn't be surprising if the 5V rail capacitor in
the PSU  has failed.  

Another thing you could try is temporarily underclocking the
CPU to the lowest multiplier and FSB setting it will support
(which is either 66 or 100MHz?) and by doing so you
significantly reduce the load on the 5V rail which might
allow some margin for the PSU and reduce ripple if the
capacitor(s) are failing.  After changing the clock
frequencies to underclock, I advise booting to and running
Memtest86+ for a few hours to confirm it's still stable, you
wouldn't want to introduce memory errors right before
copying important data off the hard drive.  I suggest
leaving this  hard drive unplugged from data and power
cables until all testing is finished and you're ready to
proceed with the booting for copying off the data.

Since you have valuable data on the drive, I would first
consider finding another system to temporarily hook it up to
in order to copy the data off and run the HDD manufacturer's
diagnostics afterwards.

Since some Western Digital drives have somewhat abnormal
jumper settings for Single versus Master device, confirm
that it is jumpered correctly.  You might want to try
jumpering it as Single device alone on (the end of) one of
the IDE cables if it's not configured this way already.  I
doubt that's the problem since you have previously had
access to it, but sometimes just fiddling around with it may
uncover other possible problems like a bad IDE cable (swap
in a different cable if you have one, or if you don't,
manipulate the cable by bending it around a bit and perhaps
the contacts in the insulation displacement connector will
make better contact).

It may still be as simple as the drive failing, but there is
still hope.

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