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  • #2187871

    DOWNLOAD: Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist


    by Bill Detwiler ·

    Having a reliable set of troubleshooting guidelines can increase your odds of recovering from a hard drive failure. Our Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist walks you through a proven hard drive troubleshooting process that covers physical connections, BIOS settings, viruses, partitions, formatting, physical and logical errors, and Windows 2000 and XP Disk Management.

    Review the checklist:

    Let us know if our list is missing a step you regularly use to troubleshoot hard drive failures or if there’s anything we can do to improve the document’s format.

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  • Author
    • #3341501

      Disk tools

      by bagmaster50 ·

      In reply to DOWNLOAD: Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist

      I have found that hard disk diagnostics tools on a bootable floppy disk has been a life saver for me. I just had a Maxtor 60 gig that came back to life after using the Maxblast bootable cd to zero fill the drive. All of a sudden I could format and install an OS on it after I had already replaced it with a new 80 gig for the customer. I thought the firmware on the hdd controller had gone bad. The customer allowed me to keep the drive so now it has a home in an old Dell.

      • #3247598

        More disk tools

        by Bill Detwiler ·

        In reply to Disk tools

        • #3249069

          Ultimate Boot CD

          by dmuth ·

          In reply to More disk tools

          You can download a CD full of various hard drive testing and repair utilities at:

          Also iuncluded are utilities for wiping data on a hard drive, such as when you upgrade a machine and want to securely delete data from the old hard drive.

      • #3248994

        Customized Windows XP Boot CD

        by stevedart ·

        In reply to Disk tools

        There is a free program called PE Builder you can download at:
        This is a Preinstall Environment. Meaning it Windows GUI based boot CD.
        You will need a Windows XP CD to create the boot CD. In addition to basic tools like Chkdsk, the CD has a nifty networking client. It?s worth mentioning that anyone with a little skill can customize the boot disk to include Ghost, Partition Magic, MacAfee Antivirus and a host of other programs. It has saved me on more than one occasion.

      • #3123633

        Disk recovery tools

        by donny.wilkins ·

        In reply to Disk tools

        When a harddrive crashes in our shop, the first thing we do is to try to boot it in safe mode. If that doesn’t work, then we try checkdisk. We can only afford to spend a certain amount of time to fix the disk. Instead if using recovery software, we will take the disk and make it a slave on another pc. This works really well. Also, for laptop harddrives, we have a tool to connect it to another pc. The connection for the laptop can be taken off which exposes the pins. Our tool fits to the pins and also has a power outlet that can be connected. Then I boot up the host and copy all files needed for the owner. It only cost about $7 and can be used over and over again.

        • #3093641

          recovery tools

          by marcus.robson ·

          In reply to Disk recovery tools

          what is this tool that you have and how can I get a hold of one?

        • #3091936

          Notebook HD adapter and USB caddy

          by bhunsinger ·

          In reply to recovery tools

          I got one of those notebook to fullsized adapters from SED. I think they are made by Cables to go. They are called 2.5″ to 3.5″ ide notebook mounting kits.
          I have also had excelent luck with sticking the bad HD into a USB external drive caddy and letting it do it’s thing> Took all night to back up a drive, but it wasn’t visible when directly hooked in via an ide cable

        • #3253898

          USB caddy

          by ecarlson ·

          In reply to Notebook HD adapter and USB caddy

          I use a $9 USB 2.0 external laptop hard drive enclosure, and it has worked great so far on a number of hard drives, for copying/backing up data and performing general cleanup on laptop hard drives.

          Though, if you work with older laptop hard drives (like the under 10.Gig kind), many are thicker than the newer laptop hard drives, so you need a case that can fit thicker hard drives.

          Some laptop drive enclosures slide the drive in from the end, and therefore don’t fit the thicker drives. The one I have, the drive goes in from the top, so I just leave the lid off for thicker drives.

          They also have USB adapters with no enclosure, but mine has worked fine, and I like having the circuit board of the hard drive protected.

          One more thing to pay attention to is that some laptops use an adapter attached to the laptop hard drive connector and it’s sometimes hard to tell that it is an adapter, since it fits so perfectly. So if the hard drive connector doesn’t seem to match the laptop drive enclosure connector, you have to remove the adapter to connect it to the enclosure.

          – Eric,

      • #2582504


        by endoscopy ·

        In reply to Disk tools

        Using UBCD4WIN at you can create a Windows XP or 2003 bootable DVD. It is a seriously large add on to BartPE. It allows adding alternate bootup images like UBCD, Spinrite, Knoppix, and others. With some effort it can have almost all diagnostic tools added that are not already there. Unfortunately not computers have DVD readers. For those you need the UBCD4WIN with any added tools but separate bootable CDs for UBCD etc.

    • #3247648

      Hard Drive Failure…

      by b.wilen ·

      In reply to DOWNLOAD: Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist

      Hard drive failure is usually not a spontaneous event but one which typically exhibits sporadic boot failures prior to giving up the ghost…the user should be queried as to the characteristics of the drive during the last several months…the formation of bad blocks during Scandisk will also forcast an eventual drive failure. Also, the user should also give information if any type of software used to “fix or restore” (including antivirus fixes) the drive prior to failure. This information will aid in the post-mortem troubleshooting…

      • #3247602

        Very good point

        by Bill Detwiler ·

        In reply to Hard Drive Failure…

        B.wilen makes a very good point. I have an older Compaq laptop with a hard drive that’s been slowly failing for three years. The OS still functions and I can still use the machine as a portable Web browser, but I removed all important data years ago. I won’t replace the drive until it dies, but I’m prepared.

    • #3247506

      Freezing Physically Failed Drives

      by shellya227 ·

      In reply to DOWNLOAD: Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist

      I’ve done well with drives that have gone kaput (usually with the user advising, “it’s been giving me warning messages for months”) by puuting them into a freezer bag, squeezing as much air out as possible, then put it into the freezer for an hour. About half the time the drive will work for about half an hour, which is most cases is sufficient to either get the critical files or a ghost image.

      • #3249008

        Freezing with canned air

        by ecarlson ·

        In reply to Freezing Physically Failed Drives

        As I posted in the canned air discussion, I’ve used the spray from an upside-down can of canned air to freeze a hard drive long enough to get the data off. Your method is more environmently friendly though, and less costly.

        Freezing individual components is a well-known method for troubleshooting electronics to identify an intermittent or failing part.

        – Eric,

      • #3246189

        Try dropping

        by bnbromiley ·

        In reply to Freezing Physically Failed Drives

        Freezing temporly cracks the fused disk. A better way is to hold the hard drive about chest high and drop it flat on a carpeted floor. BUT before you do this put your hand on it while it is running to make sure it is not spinning, if it is spinning it is not stuck. If it is spinning I plug it into a CPU with a VERY high level of security as the slave [2nd plug on the tape] and try to access it in Windows Explore. If it will not open go to the Mfg. Web-Site and look for help. I try to prevent the problem form happening in the frist place by putting a second hard drive [slave] on any CPU I build and have the user place their files on it. Most major problems effect programs and effect the master drive, EVEN VIRUS . Programs can be downloaded again but if you lose your files your in BIG TROUBLE. Times Up.

        • #2613256

          The last resort

          by chaz chance# ·

          In reply to Try dropping

          My first venture into tech support happened many years ago, when I was teaching programming. The Word-processing department were using an Apple IIe network, and the hard drive in the server (a massive 40MB) was not spinning up. They had tried everything they knew how to do, and had given up.

          I had read about a phenomena called a “stuck drive”, which I thought fitted the symptoms. I asked if it was agreed that the drive was useless, and that nothing I did with it could make things worse. Then I dropped it onto a hard surface. The next sound was the hard drive spinning up.

          I was reminded of this quite recently, when recovering an old IBM PC which was not covered by the contract with our outsourced tech support. The same fix, used once again as an absolute last resort, brought the hard drive back to life.

          Sometimes the problem is not that the drive won’t spin up, but that the head mechanism sticks somewhere. A slight jar is all that is needed to get it out of the position where it is stuck. The risk here is that the same jar could send the heads skittering across the surface of the platters, causing damage which is unrecoverable without specialist equipment. You do have the alternative of sending the drive to a specialist company who will recover your data, but they tend to charge by the megabyte for the service.

          Dropping the drive, or the computer containing it, is a tool to be kept at the very bottom of the techie’s toolbox. It should be only be used when nothing else works. It should always be tried before giving up on recovering lost data and consigning the drive to the recycling facility.

    • #3248657

      Maxtor Disk Diagnostic tool

      by capnhook ·

      In reply to DOWNLOAD: Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist

      This is an important step in diagnosing a hard drive that is in trouble. I have observed that sometimes, after viruses have been eliminated from a drive, they will test as “Failing”, with the message to retrieve as files from the drive and then replace it. I think that one or more viruses are capable of writing a value to a drive that is neither a “0” or “1”. Because of this, the drive appears to be failing. On these drives running a low level format will correct the problem. Note that the advice to retrieve files from the drive still applies. I have found that this works on about 50% of the drives that show symptoms of bad sectors, especially in drives less than three years old.
      The Maxtor software works on all drives for testing purposes.

    • #3249110


      by bhunsinger ·

      In reply to DOWNLOAD: Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist

      I just got a customer 98 machine in that booted but did not open word or quickbooks. Placed it on our XP pro machine and niether the windows explorer or the Vii backup utility could see it. It passed the Western digital utility smart testing and the quick test and the physical disk was visible in Disk management. I checked activate disk and got 9.xx GB of unallocated data and now the disk will not boot in the customers machine

    • #3249082

      Config. missing

      by fulfergirl ·

      In reply to DOWNLOAD: Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist

      I just format and instal win98 my password I left blank but come up each time it boot up I went to check it off in config. but instead config I get General MIDI I went to run type in config. can someone please help thanks BJ

      • #3200712


        by kiltie ·

        In reply to Config. missing

        I couldn’t understand your English well enough, but if you are trying “config” in the run command, try msconfig instead
        Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools/System Information
        then select Tools/System Configuration Utility
        (same thing)

        As regards the prompt for a password? Do you have a network card installed?
        I don’t get that, unless I have Microsoft Networking as a client, I get round that by using Microsoft Family Login selected, and – apart from the first time, which you click through with no password entered – you don’t get prompted again.

        To do this:
        Open the Network applet in Control Panel, and see if “Client for Microsoft Networks” is the default, check the drop down list for Microsoft Family Login, and select that if listed, reboot (you may need your 98 installation CD)
        (tip: you might be able to specify C:WINDOWS/SYSTEM as the source for the files needed, it depends if the needed files are already in the System folder or not)

        If you don’t see it there, Click Add, select Client, click Add (again), select Microsoft then Microsoft Family Login, click OK, supply the Installation CD, or path to System folder and reboot

        I hope this solves your problem, I was trying to interpolate what your problem and needs were from your post, if not, please supply further details.

        Last point: You would be well advised to upgrade to a newer OS such as 2000, XP, or even Vista (if your hardware is up to scratch),
        or try a free Linux Live CD there are some very good desktop distros, that will make you feel at home, if you are used to a Windows look (Try Puppy Linux (Optimised version) – Google for it…. or Knoppix LiveCD),
        since Microsoft stopped supporting Windows 98 back in July this year. The beauty of these Live CDs are that you can try out the Operating Systems without affecting yout native OS at all.

        Having said that, I don’t follow my own advice at all, ALL my Machines on my home network are dual boot 98SE with another, such as Win 2k pro or XP Pro, with several Linux systems being evaluated among them.

        I find XP so frustrating (I like to get “under the hood”) and so prone to blue screens, so I keep 98 as a working OS, where I can fix most problems, with no blue screens to be seen at all!!!, it is very stable (once tweaked) and purrs like a kitten, never protesting when I want to do some systems work, unlike XP, which bleats moans, digs it heels in, refuses like a petulant child to do what you want, or worse!!! IGNORING YOUR STATED PREFERENCES!! Grrrrrrrrrrrr

        XP know best, don’t be silly little User

        EDITED: Even though I thought I had checked it carefully, I still spotted a typo after posting!!

    • #3249019

      One Word: SpinRite

      by ecarlson ·

      In reply to DOWNLOAD: Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist

      SpinRite 6 from can recover hard drives beyond what almost all other utilities are capable of recovering, and if run a few times a year, can keep a hard drive from having problems. I don’t work for GRC, but I have been using earlier versions of their SpinRite product for over a decade.

      – Eric,

    • #3244678

      hardware-caused drive crash

      by susan_shemin ·

      In reply to DOWNLOAD: Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist

      I had a bad RAM module which finally killed XP. I cannot even get a directory of the disk, and it’s looking for hal.dll which I understand is a file listing of the hardware. Any suggestions or points to websites to help me troubleshoot how to pull off my files or create a ghost of the drive? (I had 500 fonts there, and they are irreplaceable!!) Susan

      • #3244519

        Put the drive in another machine

        by Bill Detwiler ·

        In reply to hardware-caused drive crash


        I’m surprised a bad RAM chip corrupted your XP installation. I’ve seen bad chips cause XP errors, but usually replacing the chip solves the problem.

        If XP won’t boot, even in safe mode, your safest option is to remove the hard drive and install it as a secondary drive in another Windows XP/2000 machine. If you only have access to one computer, I would purchase a new hard drive (<$100), install it in your computer, and install Windows XP. You can then install the old hard drive in your machine as a secondary hard drive. Windows should recognize the drive and you should be able to retrieve the data.

        • #3200681


          by kiltie ·

          In reply to Put the drive in another machine

          I agree with Bill, a faulty RAM won’t cause the HAL error by itself, it’s something else you did, although having a faulty chip may have exacerbated it. MSKB have suggestions about cures for this HAL problem, or Google the term, or error message.

          A few more alternatives, if you can slave a spare drive or have a CD burner, is to use something like a Linux Live CD to access the main drive and copy to the spare drive or to burn to a CD R/W.
          Similarly with Bart’s PE, which give access to a XP like environment in which to salvage the data.

          Both options are free, the only costs are the hardware, if you don’t have them already.

          Then you need to rebuild the OS from scratch (FDISK, Format C, reinstall etc) and copy your data back afterwards.
          There are other disaster recovery tools available free, such as Ultimate Boot CD, or Hirens Boot CD. Google the names to find those links easily.

          an aside:
          I do seem to be coming to these threads late, but I blame TR for putting the link into Sept 6th NetNote newsletter *** wink ***

    • #3243394

      scandisk under DoS

      by laguh ·

      In reply to DOWNLOAD: Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist

      I have a couple of machines running 98SE (yeh i know..obsolete). Anyway, periodically they lock on me, and i’ve found that rebooting and running scandisk turns up disk errors – typically data that has to be saved as new files, or incorrect reporting of free space. I have 5 partitions on the 120 Gig disk that are roughly equal. Vexed with slow operation under windows, i took to catching machine on boot and F8’ing out to run under dos. No multiple restarts on drive C:, like under windoze..and no restarts. A couple of times i’ve gone through each partition with scandisk and fixed all errors, then rerun and found even more errors. Now i always run all the way thru after fixing all errors, to make sure that i get ‘no errors found’ for all 5 partitions. I plan on copying over to another drive (diff mfg) and see if that helps.. alternately one of those add-in disk controller cards – to handle oversized drives might help. Nobody else uses the machines, and i’m running antivirus and a firewall pgm (provided by my company – that makes us update at least once a week. So that’s nnot it. If i find it..i’ll let u know.. Cheers..

    • #3245064

      Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist

      by Anonymous ·

      In reply to DOWNLOAD: Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist

      I have found that if the harddrive is overheating, it is spinning, but won’t show you data or crashing then put it in the freezer, I put it in a plastic bag sealed, I then will drop it after I try it and it still doesn’t work. The drop test and freezer has been quite successful in recovering data. I had one drive that I could run for about 10 minutes and then would freeze it again and get another 10 minutes to pull the data. I was successful in recovering all important data and saving a couple of thousand dollars in recovery process.

      • #3262134

        Two things

        by bwilkins ·

        In reply to Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist

        Three things I didn’t see mentioned: When you are checking to make sure the IDE cable is plugged in, try checking the IDE cable itself–I’ve only known it to happen a time or two, but sure was frustrating when drive would boot in a different machine & not “its” machine. Also, when talking to client about software used to self-diagnosis and repair..ask them if there has been any static shock; or if box lives on the floor, has it been accidently hit with a foot. Both have happened to me: client installed his own modem but gave the board a shock when he did it, and the one on the floor just got tripped over, it didn’t fall over, but took a jump & a slam a/g a chair. The freezer trick works good, but depending on why it went out, you can sometimes hold the drive up to a light bulb and get it real hot..this can loosen things up inside and give you one last shot at recovery–just reboot sparingly, it might not want to spin-up again.

    • #3078553

      Keeping an eye on rate of Hotfixes on a Network Drive

      by zczc23119 ·

      In reply to DOWNLOAD: Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist

      If you are NOT keeping an eye on the number of Hotfixes on you Network Drives you are failing the first sign of early warning detection on a Disk that is about to fail.

      Many reports are available to the Network Administrator and one is the Number of Hotfixes. If you are not keeping an eye on this log ? you should be. This is you earliest warning that the physical properties of you disk are failing and the report should be viewed Daily ? It will save you a lot of time and frustration in the end.

    • #3077331

      how about a Windows XP failure…

      by susan_shemin ·

      In reply to DOWNLOAD: Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist

      “Bad” RAM modules caused Windows XP to freak out. I kept trying to troubleshoot — with Windows not in the least telling what was wrong — and by the time I pinpointed the RAM problem, my laptop drive was missing the hal.dll file. Now there’s no directory structure and it only wants to reinstall Windows when it sees the Windows XP disk. Any suggestions — or pointers to where I can get help? (Microsoft ignores me…)

    • #2565661

      Hard Drive failure

      by oflander ·

      In reply to DOWNLOAD: Hard drive failure troubleshooting checklist

      Recently while helping a friend solve a hard drive failure, I hit upon a possible solution that worked. He had reformated the drive, wiped it clean, filled it with all zeros but could not get it to load windows or fix with recovery programs. I told him to take out the ram card and try again. He never thought about the ram. It was a lucky guess on my part and the PC is now back up and running and windows installed and recovery discs worked to bring the whole system back. Remember things go to ram first then to the system drive. Hope this helps someone else.

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