Hard Disk failure

 
Rilakkuma helping fix my computer. He wanted to check the head room for the disk drive before we put in in.

Rilakkuma helping fix my computer. He wanted to check the head room for the disk drive before we put in in.

I upgrade to Windows 7 a week ago and everything seemed to be going fine. I normally don’t turn my computer off at night but my whole apartment building was having electrical inspections and they wanted to take the power out for a five hour period at night. I turned the PC off and in the morning was met with this screen showing that the hard disk had a problem.

The screen message that kept saying "no boot device". I thought it I kept rebooting it might magically work, but no such luck!

The screen message that kept saying "no boot device". I thought it I kept rebooting it might magically work, but no such luck!

After spending some time on the phone with DELL they told me I would need a new hard disk. Lucky I live so close to Akihabara, I was able to go and buy one straight away rather than waiting for the DELL suggestion of them sending me a quotation and then ordering.

The new hard disk ready to be put in to the machine and then start reinstalling lots of software.

The new hard disk ready to be put in to the machine and then start reinstalling lots of software.

It looks like the broken part of the disk is just the boot sector so I am confident to get back the data on the disk. I hope that is right, because all my original photos for the last year are on that disk. The flickr and internet images are a compressed version of the original, so whenever I need to print the data on the disk was required.

Taking the machine apart to put in the new hard disk.

Taking the machine apart to put in the new hard disk.

Rilakkuma inspecting the new disk sitting alongside the old one, and asking me why did I buy the same brand of disk that just broke.

Rilakkuma inspecting the new disk sitting alongside the old one, and asking me why did I buy the same brand of disk that just broke.

The disk hookup inside the machine wasn’t so hard. the DELL machines are really compact and tidy inside. Everything is color coded and looks very smart.

A few circuit boards, wires and things.

A few circuit boards, wires and things.

Lots of nice colorful wires here. Camera doing a good job of getting close.

Lots of nice colorful wires here. Camera doing a good job of getting close.

Time to put the case back on and start remembering what software is required. Fortunately all of the code and images for the website are on my server I host in the US. I switched to a dedicated server about 6 months ago and have been backing up that data every evening. I have never tried restoring that data so it might be worth a test run one day before a problem crops up.

The final touch, as Rilakkuma wipes the dust of the DELL case.

The final touch, as Rilakkuma wipes the dust of the DELL case.

I now have about half of my software reinstalled and will spend the weekend trying to get the data off my machine.

From all the messages I got on Twitter, I realize that a failed hard disk is more common an occurrence than I first thought. What is your worst experience with failed disks or lost data?

26 thoughts on “Hard Disk failure”

  1. Steve Law says:

    aniti-static Rilakkuma I hope ^.^

    1. shibuya246 says:

      Had him touch the metal first before entering 🙂

  2. taukeke says:

    Just a few months ago I encounter the same problem. I made a mistake by rushing to buy a new HDD as the problem turn out to be boot sector problem.

    I have 2 HDDs and luckily I have Windows 7 RC1 on it so I try hot plugging the SATA cable for the problematic HDD and voila Win7 detected it. So I quickly backup my relevant data and deleted the partition. After creating a new partition the problem went away.

    Now I have 3 HDDs on my desktop… still a good excuse to use it as extra storage space. 🙂

    1. shibuya246 says:

      How did you hot plug the SATA cable for problem HDD? I have win 7 so would like to try that

    2. BiteSizedJapan says:

      I think you can run “fdisk /mbr” in DOS on any disk when this happens: I believe NTFS stores multiple copies of the MBR, and when you use this command it “restores” a bad boot sector. I may be wrong tho, I switched to Apple a few years ago!

      The thing is tho: nothing should be trashing your boot sector. Any disk that did that to me: I’d recover the data and replace the disk even if it seems to be okay. You could always use the disk as a PhotoShop scratch disk or something (PhotoShop runs much faster if it can write its swap to a dedicated disk).

  3. Though the most likely possibility is a drive failure, that error message leaves some other possibilities open. A loose SATA cable connection or a bad SATA port could also yield this error (though if your new drive is working, possibility of a bad port is eliminated).

    My first thought is to disconnect and reconnect the SATA cables (you probably did this), and if that doesn’t work, head into the BIOS and run the DELL hard drive diagnostics (instructions here http://tinyurl.com/dellhdddiag ).

    Again, the drive is most likely dead — but if you’re one who likes to make sure hardware has failed for sure before chucking it out, you might give this a go.

    1. shibuya246 says:

      thanks. I tried the dell utilities from BIOS with the DELL guy but it could not even find that so we booted them from CD. Unfortunately the drive would still not connect. I think you are right it may not be the drives data but the connectivity to the drive itself. had to get back up and running again quick, so have new drive, but definitely want to find out what is problem with old drive. need that data.

  4. the FIXMBR command might be worth looking into here too. (sorry for the double comments!)

    1. shibuya246 says:

      where can i enter that command?

  5. BiteSizedJapan says:

    Lost too many hard drives to count! Worst loss was a novel (about 300,000 words). Once you loose something like that, you never ever take chances.

    We have in excess for 30,000 photos for various projects, not to mention 10+ hours of HD video edits for BiteSizedJapan alone. Our production machine has 4 drives in it, files get mirrored between two drives. We also have a backup that runs weekly to an external hard drive, so things like iPhoto and our workfiles are kept safe. Then we use Mozy (www.mozy.com) that continuously streams files across the Internet – if (god forbid) we had a fire or burglary and lost all our kit, at least we can than restore from Mozy (they will send you DVDs of the backup files for just the cost of shipping). I also maintain copies of the workfiles for BiteSizedJapan on my own laptop, and on our development server… and all of my emails are mirrored on my iPhone 🙂

    Okay maybe that’s a bit excessive, but I never, ever want to loose something like that again!

    1. achiisan says:

      Ya.. data loss is frustrating.. Thats why I always backup my important files over some drives at home (or at a cloud server). My backup hdd serves me of almost 4 years right now and it still works fine ^_^

    2. Neksus says:

      I totally understand, in the digital world nothing is too much or enough… never.

  6. Neksus says:

    Worst: 5000+ pics and 400GB of videos (not x rated but personal stuff, not x rated either ;)).

    Second worst: having my dad yell like a truck instructor at an oktober fest after 3 gallons of beer @ his computer bacause the hard drive had suffered burnt capacitors (those brown squares), burnt like smell of electric burnt, and needing to recreate a lot of recent text he wrote (hand drawn graphics etc.).
    He was happy on the other hand because days before I gave him (ordered to do) dvds to backup all his stuff. The yelling was funny.

    Third worst: reinstall everything, really all you can put back together, bookmarks, all those tasks that take time, and have the main drive to fail again (still under guarantee, yoohoo!!). That is the moment you feel assassin’s needs, or old doom “i’m death incarnated”.

    So, just having the boot sector screwed is like putting a little too sugar in your coffee 🙂
    Sucks indeed… but lucky. By just running win7 tools you’ll get all back to you.

    Good luck!!! Rilakkuma saves the day, yet again :))

    1. achiisan says:

      I also used DVDs for backup. USB sticks are not reliable as we know ^_^

      1. Neksus says:

        I had one falling from my pocket, like a 50$ bill gone with the wind….

  7. Neksus says:

    Just realized you don’t know for sure if it’s just a boot issue, sorry for rush reading.

  8. HELLOSHEENA says:

    Every few years for me.

  9. I really love Rilakkuma ^^

  10. whipcracker says:

    Hard Disk failure, Japan Living http://bit.ly/c7OIkM rilakkuma sure makes for a great helper, doesn’t he? Hope you were able to retrieve all data on the whole drive. My wife had a dell computer and the whole thing crashed. And dell support was of no help at all. Went out and bought an Acer laptop, that was 4 years ago. Glad you were able to get one in Akihabara. what was the cost?
    Will be sending you an email abought that product buisness you told me about.
    Here’s a link from my hometown of the worlds largest igloo. http://tinyurl.com/ygv6alo

  11. Cory Roberts says:

    I had my old HP laptop and it had a hard drive crash, although it did have a blue screen, but the good news is Rilakkuma has fixed your PC!

  12. I’d still try to go to the BIOS for the hard drive test. There’s not a big window of time for you to press the right key, so start pressing it fast!

    But if that’s not possibly and you want to try FIXMBR, you can follow the steps laid out here: (http://tr.im/PKMG) You’ll need to boot into the Recovery Console, but it’s pretty straight forward.

    1. shibuya246 says:

      looks like the problem is more severe than that. The drive receives power, but the firmware has gone into “brick” lock mode, which means there is no way to read from the drive at all. The solution, apparently is to find an identical make drive and switch the cpu board with the bad drive. that way I should be able to get to the data. The drive itself is fine, just the cpu for the drive is dead.

  13. Taukeke above had a good suggestion too (if I read correctly).
    Now that you can boot your new drive, you can connect your old (secondary) drive to another SATA port and see if you can view it (and the contained files) in Windows.

  14. thetooth says:

    I’ve only had this happen to me once and it was because the chip-set on the PCB had over heated and almost melted off >.>

    I lost a lot of data but luckily i got a new PC shortly later(as the old one was OLD) and have not had an issue since, btw that Dell case looks very well built indeed.

  15. Shockerz says:

    Last few months ago my main hard drive fail on me while I was thinking that all my data will be lost for ever but I never give up hope and found what’s the problem is. It was a logical failure to the disk so my whole windows XP needed to be scrap off. Before the format I did a copy and paste of data which worth 500 GB of multimedia files to an external HD that took.. what? 4 hours to complete transfer >.>

    Ubuntu LiveCD help me a lot because it can easily bypass the system and read the hard drive for me to recover the data. Woot! Now, I always keep a copy of Ubuntu LiveCD and extra hard drive ready for backup.

    1. shibuya246 says:

      that sounds like a long 4 hour wait. turns out the IC chip on the top of my drive has locked out access to the disk entirely. BIOS can not read it at all. I have to send it back to the manufacturer and they will replace the chip so it becomes unlocked. Everything should be ok after that, ….. .. I hope 🙂

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