Mar 2, 2009

HDD failure imminent

I suppose people who work with computers for a few years saw similar message at least once. Unfortunately it's quite common for hard drives to fail. There is early warninig system that can predict a lot of these misfortunes. It's called S.M.A.R.T. and it is in fact quite smart :-) A lot of HDDs come with this monitoring disabled for (to me) unknown reason. Maybe it's performance reasons, maybe manufacturers don't want users to know their HDDs fail. Aaah...conspiracy theories :)

Enough of being smart though (pun intended). Recently, over 5 years old computer of my parents refused to boot when one of HDDs (320GB WD Caviar) was connected. No matter what I did, Windows wouldn't boot with that HDD connected. The HDD was (still is actually) under warranty, but I really wanted to save the data. Most important files were backed up elsewhere, but my music collection and some movies waiting to be seen were not. I'll skip the boring stuff. Since the computer had other problems my parents decided to buy new one. With 320GB WD Caviar connected even Vista would not boot (old computer was XP).

I made one final attemt to save data. I booted Ubuntu live cd. To my big surprise, Ubuntu did not just "see" the hard drive. It was able to mount it without problems. It didn't even complain. I just backed up the hard drive, did low level format (e.g. dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda bs=1M) and suddenly windows was able to boot without problems. I had one other problematic 80GB Seagate HDD that I remembered and the outcome was the same. Windows was able to see it after low level format. These HDDs were not system HDDs, so even if MBR was corrupted I shouldn't have mattered. I couldn't find anything final on the Internet about this type of HDD "failures" so any info is welcome. S.M.A.R.T. is not complaining so it seems that I have 2 good HDDs in my hands now. Linux saves the day! :-)



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