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Corrupt HDs on 2 systems in same loc.

By Craig ·
Having a problem with a cusomter's systems which have run 2 years without fail, and now, within the last 2 months have crashed. System#1 "crashed" while booting "Unmountable_Boot_Device" (WinXP). Although BIOS would see the drive, nothing would access it. Connected to another system via ext USB enclosure and WinXP choked on it. Booted using PC Check and discovered bad tracks (about 12) near the beginning of the drive. Reformatting didn't clear these. New drive - reinstalled WinXP. Customer moved their second system to where the first system had been and... it crashed also within 2 days. Same error, same corruption in the same spot on the drive! FixBoot, FixMBR didn't work. ScanDisk won't touch the drive. As this location is in a jumble of cables and between a refrigerator, monitor and a couple commercial coffeemakers, I suspected EMI. Placed a clean drive at this location for a couple days and checked. Still clean. No damage detected to the units' PSUs, RAM or anywhere else but the HD. As this customer leaves their systems running 24/7, and this damage only seems to emerge during boot (where I suspect the damage is), we're not 100% sure WHEN it actually happened. We suspect about 2 months ago during a power surge along that circuit, but, the system is plugged into a UPS which still seems to be working fine. Anyone heard of this?

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by Craig In reply to Corrupt HDs on 2 systems ...

Dell Dimension 4600C systems with Maxtor 6E040L0 40GB HDs.

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by dmiles In reply to Corrupt HDs on 2 systems ...

If nothing other than the primary HD is connected to the primary controller, then make sure that controller is enabled in BIOS.

If that's ok or is N/A, then try a different IDE cable, even if the Slave HD is connected to the same cable as the Master HD.

If that does not work, then connect a different power cable to the primary HD.

If still no luck and nothing other than the primary HD is connected to the primary controller, then connect the Slave to the primary controller, and try booting from it.
If it fails to boot, then suspect a bad controller.

If a new IDE/power cable does not fix things and the Slave HD boots from the primary controller or is already connected to it, then the PS is probably not a factor.
Suspect a bad primary HD.

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by Craig In reply to

My apologies. Let me add some detail about these systems. Dell Dimension 4600C's are very slim systems - and highly customized. Pri IDE cable has single connector to a single HD (only 1 HD can fit in the case). There is only a single Molex connector for an HD (the CD-ROM is powered by a floppy-style connector). The PSU is custom/proprietary.

I'm thinking more of an environmental issue as: 1) System 1 was on the circuit that surged back in May, but System 2 was not, 2) System 1 showed minor corruption in May, right after the surge, but was fixable with ScanDisk (the "crash" occurred mid-May and was unrecoverable) - System 2 has shown no prior problems, 3) System 2 ran fine (booted/rebooted), until it was moved to the location System 1 had been in - it initially booted fine, but during a reboot 2 days later, it developed the same issues as System 1 (unrecoverable). Whatever the cause, it would have to be affecting two systems simultaneously, in pretty much the exact same way. Most of what you suggest isn't possible due to the physical build of the system. I will keep the other items in mind. Thanks much for your suggestions.

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by willcomp In reply to Corrupt HDs on 2 systems ...

Some rambling ruminations:

1) A power surge would more likely affect hard drive electronics. You appear to have platter damage.

2) Assume both drives were same type and age with about equal run time.

3) Damage to platters can be caused by head slaps due to power fluctuations (not likely if UPS is doing its job) or by jarring while drive is running. See if the cleaning crew is moving things around.

4) What are temperatures where PC was located? Small form factor Dimensions have fairly poor cooling and Maxtor drives run rather hot.

5)EMI would probably affect entire drive and not be limited to boot sectors.

Commonalities that I see are:

a)Drive type and age



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by Craig In reply to

Thanks for you response. 1) Platter damage possible - although it doesn't seem to be "increasing". I have since wiped the drive (bad tracks still show), installed WinXP and am running the drive in an old system of mine, booting and running every morning/day - so far no continuing problems. 2) Scary thought that this model could have a problem after 1.5-2 years. They have a third similar system that resides in a back office that has shown no signs of a problem yet (all purch'd the same time). 3) I know nobody there touches the systems when they're working/running. They have no cleaning crew. 4) Very cool environment - pastry retail - they keep it quite crispy. Systems have good space around them - good ventilation. 5) I agree. I have added some additional info above regarding this problem. Thanks for your "rambling ruminations" - all ruminations are greatly appreciated.

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by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Corrupt HDs on 2 systems ...

The most obvious thing is that the box is moving on the desk/floor or wherever it is. Even a small vibration when a HDD is running can allow the heads to come into contact with the platters so as there is a refrigerator near by what's the floor like?

If it is a concrete slab on the ground you'll be fairly safe but it it is a wooden suspended floor even the fridge starting and stopping can move things a great deal. Sit at the desk and have someone walk around the room while you watch the case to see what happens. If it is moving at all I think you've found your problem. Unfortunately the fix isn't an easy one particularly with these systems as they are of very limited case volume and everything runs hot so the problem is worse.

If that is the problem about the only solution is to remove as much of the stuff as possible to stop the vibrations and reinforce the floor. Of course you should also get a Civil Engineer out to have a look at the structure to make sure than there are no major faults developing in the building.


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by Craig In reply to

Thanks for you response, Col. Unfortunately, the environment has no noticeable vibration (that I've ever felt). Location is a pastry retail shop - systems are located on a long counter/cash wrap, and not in positions where they are being bumped or moved. Thanks for your input. I have added additional info/comments above.

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by kawarimi In reply to Corrupt HDs on 2 systems ...

I have the same problem on my own home PC with XP SP2 installed and solved it :).
My environment is, the PC's power is plugged into an 4 gang extension power outlet which causing power surge to my PC's power supply unit, I tested my casing with a test pen and shows there is current charged my casing even though I unplugged ALL power cable to my PC devices and AC power source, the casing still "charged" with current, I get minor shock every time I touch it.
After I leave every thing unplug till next morning, the casing went back to normal then I boot up with XP CDROM to run the XP Recovery session, type "chkdsk /r" to perform recovery to solve your "UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME". well it solved mine and now I'm enjoying my favourite MP3s.
You can get official article from,;en-us;297185

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by Craig In reply to

While we are currently considering a power issue, there is no noticeable "charge" to the case - I've never been shocked working on it. CHKDSK failed to run, reporting "unrecoverable errors" after about 30 seconds. Thanks for your response. I have added info/comments above.

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by Craig In reply to Corrupt HDs on 2 systems ...

Since the initial posting, we have gleaned some additional information and have some additional thoughts comments:
1) an electrician tested the circuit in the work area where the damage is occuring and it tested fine.
2) same electrician noted a small amount of "melting" around one of the UPS' outlets (surge protection only - not a power backup outlet) - which we believe is where their refrigerator was plugged in. This has since been moved to its own outlet, straight into the wall. All outlets in the UPS check out fine, even the melted one, but its obvious now where the surge hit.
3) Just a rambling theory, but its seems the damage may be occurring while the system is running, somehow. These systems aren't usually shut down (run 24/7), and since the damage only manifests at boot time, we can't determine exactly when it happened - the systems didn't crash while running, but when rebooted. So either the damage was *caused* during the boot, or had already been caused, but not in a location that affected Windows, and did not appear until rebooting. Again, just a couple thoughts.
- In the meantime, we have: * moved the refrigerator off the UPS and onto its own outlet * moved the computer off the top of the counter into a cubby underneath (where it has its own dedicated circuit * replaced the UPS. We will be monitoring closely from here.

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