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Hard disk crashing

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I am going to add my own question to the various hard disk questions posted recently, but from a different angle.

I frequently use my computer to check customers' hard disks. It is a new computer, P4 2.4-800, Gigabyte motherboard with Intel 865 chipset, dual channel memory. The OS is XP Home. Since October, when I set up this computer, I have put a number of hard disks into the drawer, and gotten various surprising (and troubling) results. I normally do a virus scan on the disk, checkdisk, and defrag it. I sometimes look at the partition with Partition Magic 7.

Here are some of the problems I have encountered. I never had any of these problems on my previous computer (P3 500, ASUS board, XP Home).

Notice that the partition is created with different geometry than Partition Magic uses, and a warning not to use the program to do anything with the disk. This disk showed up in XP as unallocated.

A warning that the data on the disk was corrupted and the Windows would attempt a recovery. (I have written previously about this disk, and reached the conclusion that the problem with the disk was physical.)

And the latest: a 15 GB disk that was running very slowly in the customer's P3-500 Win 98 computer. BIOS recognizes it. Windows XP shows as unallocated. WD Diagnostics reports no problems. When returned to the customer's computer, there was no partition.

What could possibly be causing my new system to do this to the disks? My colleagues here, including my disk expert who can retrieve anything from a disk, don't have a clue.

I would also like to hear reccomendations for disk utilities for technicians.

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by TheChas In reply to Hard disk crashing

For starters, XP adds files to the root folder of ANY new drive it sees.

Second, I suspect that most of the drives that have unallocated partition space actually have drive overlay software installed on them.

XP may be blowing away the drive overlay software when it accesses the drive.

Remember, drive / BIOS overlay programs need to be installed on the boot drive.

I would set up a W98 system with drive overlay software installed on the boot drive and check the drives there first.


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by csmith In reply to Hard disk crashing

OUCH! Using XP for troubleshooting is not a good idea, for all of the reasons mentioned, plus more.
Set up the troubleshooting PC with Win98SE.
For disk data recovery, try VirtualLab Data Recovery.
(Free download from
For that problem of slow running disks (The P3-500),
try Cacheman (Also and check the disk cache settings. (The optimum is usually twice the installed hardware cache installed on the Hard Drive.) (Typically 8MegMax with 2MegMin, for a new drive)
The Cache can get some very weird internal settings, that are hard to access, and can cause strange symptoms.
Regards, Chris

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by cglrcng In reply to Hard disk crashing

Or better yet just repartition & reformat your P4 machine w/ Win98SE on \ and XP on C and use the Win98SE side to boot into to check future drives, that's what I do.

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by cglrcng In reply to

And as we all know, more than 511 MB of RAM in a Win98 or Win98SE or Win ME machine will also cause strange maladies and weird occurances to rear their ugly heads.

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by jmarchetto In reply to Hard disk crashing

The only thing I have to add to Answer #2 is that if you are checking a drive from another XP system (or later NT systems), the drive might be formatted as NTFS (as opposed to Fat 32). Win 98 can not access this format w/o third party software (I have tried free versions and they always were buggy to me OR they only allowed you to view the NTFS partitions and not change them at all).

I hope this helps. Good luck.

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