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>>> PC Hard Disk Failure SMART Alert <<<

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Rcrew is offline Old Post 05-27-2003 08:30 AM
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Rcrew
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PC Hard Disk Failure SMART Alert

Ok, this is not a Dell Rant. I love my Dell.

However, my Saturday morning e-mail check etc rewarded me with my first SMART Alert. Apparently my C drive is going to fail (only hard drive).

Following instructions, I called support, they are sending me a new drive, and offered installation assistance which I declined. The tech told me I could install the new disk, and copy software over. Ok fine.

So, decided to try and back up the C drive to CD... after 1 hour, now says 37 days +++ remaining. Call Dell back for assistance, new tech tells me, first guy wrong, can't copy disk, will have to rebuild XP (pro), and re-install all my other software..... ****..... get my techs on the phone, they say yep, and it's not a fun job.

So, here I am, Sunday. I've figured out there's a bad block somewhere. The alert has popped up a couple more times, at start-up, defrag, and the error checking routine. Everything else I've been running seems fine.

I don't look forward to re-installing everything, and just hope XP smart update will pick up all the relevant service packs without too much trouble. Same with Linksys, video drivers etc. I guess one savior is that I don't boot leg anything. So I still have all the installation disks for all my software. I put Turbo Tax on my other PC, so I don't expect problems with the new spy authorization stuff. I don't think Quicken is as big a deal.

I'm sure something will complain about re-registering. Something will get lost, and it will take hours.......

It's going to be the little settings I had help here, and from my tech getting correct, mail, outlook, networks, routers, and file sharing between PCs.

In my work world, IBM mainframes, this just doesn't happen. Hard for me to believe that even though this disk is still functioning, there isn't some tool that would just mirror everything to a new disk.

Knock on wood, this is the first hard drive I've ever lost in a PC. That's over 15 years, and don't remember how many disks. Yeah, I hear about them failing on campus, but it's never touched me before...

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DanT is offline Old Post 05-27-2003 08:54 AM
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DanT
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If the new drive is the exact same model as the old one, you can try using 'dd' to copy it, and tell dd to skip errors.

Get the MFSTools CD and boot from that (with both old and new drive connected.) Select the boot option that enables DMA but not byteswapping (that will be the fastest). Then do this:

code:
dd conv=noerror,sync if=/dev/hda of=/dev/hdc bs=1024k
This assumes your original drive is the Primary Master (/dev/hda) and the replacement drive is Secondary Master (/dev/hdc). Hopefully, this will allow dd to skip the bad sector(s) during the copy. Of course, any data in those sectors will be lost, so you might have to replace one or two files afterwards. Unfortunately, figuring out which files may not be that easy.

But before you do all that, go to the drive manufacturer's website and download their diagnostics package. It should have an option to remap bad sectors if it finds them. Once you've done that, you should be able to copy the drive fine. But go ahead and send back the old drive, because it's more likely to have additional failures down the road, so you might as well head it off now, especially since a replacement drive is already in your hands.

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jasonl99 is offline Old Post 05-27-2003 09:15 AM
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jasonl99
Now New and Improved

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Do yourself a favor and buy Acronis True Image. CompUSA had it for $49 when I bought it. You can back up your entire drive onto CDR(s), boot from the True Image CD, and restore the backup. Once it's done, your PC will be identical to what you have now.

I recently did this on two machines (adding bigger drives) and I can't tell you how impressed I was with True Image.

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Cary B is offline Old Post 05-27-2003 12:13 PM
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Cary B
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If you do go the re-install route, there is a way to just back up two files in the windows/windows sub-directory that will, when re-installed on the new computer, tell you machine that the copy of XP has already been activated. I can't find the name of the two files, as they were on my PDA, and I lost some files without a current backup, but someone here should know what they are.

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geko29 is offline Old Post 05-27-2003 01:16 PM
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geko29
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You could use Norton Ghost or PowerQuest DriveImage to copy the old drive to the new.

As for keeping everything aok until you transfer everything, try to fix it as best as you can, using chkdsk/disk doctor/whatever disk scanner and/or the manufacturer's diag programs. Then, DO NOT DEFRAG it. The defrag program may inadvertently move data to a weak/bad sector that hasn't been marked yet.

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Cletus is offline Old Post 05-27-2003 03:36 PM
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Cletus
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SMART errors usually signal electronics/controller failure, not physical media defects. If you can find an identical (good) drive, you can try to swap the controller board from the good one to the bad one until you copy your stuff out.

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Boot is offline Old Post 05-28-2003 03:44 PM
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Boot
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quote:
Originally posted by Cletus
SMART errors usually signal electronics/controller failure, not physical media defects. If you can find an identical (good) drive, you can try to swap the controller board from the good one to the bad one until you copy your stuff out.


Actually, it's the opposite. A SMART trip is usually a predictor of mechanical failure or the emergence of physical defects, not electronics failure.

SMART is basically a collection of thresholds. Those thresholds are implementation specific, but most likely include read/write/seek error rates, spinup time, data throughput performance, and data reallocation counts. If a predefined threshold is exceeded in any one of these categories, a SMART error is given.

Most of these thresholds are for things that your drive is able to handle without any intervention, but could signal bigger problems in the future if they start recurring with greater frequency.

For example, hard drive are designed to recover from read errors by re-reading the data with different parameters. If a certain block of data is particularly difficult to read successfully, the drive will automatically move that data to a new physical location. This is all invisible to the rest of the system. But if it starts to happen with increasing frequency, it could be a sign that there's a bigger problem developing. So, while the actual data recovery behavior does not cause an error, the SMART algorithms will generate a warning that something's amiss.

Another example - some SMART implementations record the amount of time it takes for a drive to get fully up to speed and ready for I/O after being powered on. If this time gets longer, it's a sign that the motor responsible for spinning up the drive may be wearing out, or something may be providing more friction/resistance than usual. If the time exceeds the SMART threshold, you'll get a warning to move your data elsewhere before your drive decides not to spin up at all.

Seagate has a whitepaper that describes SMART fairly well. The document explains that some failures are not predictable, particularly electronics failures. These would not be preceded by a SMART warning.

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Rcrew is offline Old Post 05-28-2003 04:15 PM
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Rcrew
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Knew I could count on the forum to help with this.

I hit the Seagate web site yesterday and pulled down their disk tool. Ran it.... tells me the drive is bad and must be replaced. At least it's consistend.

I'm still running fine. The new drive should get here today. According to Dell, they 'always' ship like for like, so I'm expecting a 40gb replacement.

Of all the options here, the linux dd seems like #1. My techs here are going to look at True Image, and I'm also going to look at the Norton and PowerQuest products.

Thanks, and I'll post an update.

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Cletus is offline Old Post 05-28-2003 09:53 PM
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Cletus
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Interesting. The last time I had a SMART failure, I was able to recover the disk precisely by doing the controller board swap.

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zaknafein is offline Old Post 05-28-2003 11:13 PM
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zaknafein
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I'm wondering if the dd path will work. It might end up with a SID mismatch. Not sure.

If so, run sysprep, then dd the drive again.

Be forwarned, dd takes a LONG time, and has no visual feedback. Be sure to boot with UDMA enabled. The MFSTools bootdisc would work erfectly for this, just be sure not to enable byteswapping.

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Rcrew is offline Old Post 05-28-2003 11:34 PM
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Rcrew
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Ok, I'm a little gun shy on the MSF Tools dd. Device IDs are a concern. I'm going to have to disconnect my Zip disk to add the new drive. I see that taking a number of steps, IE: open up, add new disk, create MSF Tools boot CD, shutdown ... etc.

I'm leaning toward True Image. One benefit I get is real backup utilities that I'll have going forward. I'm not sure how it will deal with the current disk error, nothing else will make a backup now. I e-mailed Acronis Tech Support asking that question, but haven't heard back yet.

That software is available for download, or my local Comp USA has it on the shelf.

If that don't work, I could always use my other XP Pro machine to try the MSF Tools dd.

The drive is sitting on my desk at home just waiting, so Dell got it out pretty quick. It's a Western Digital replacement though, not another Seagate. Maybe that's a good thing though lol!

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DanT is offline Old Post 05-30-2003 02:19 AM
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DanT
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Well, if it's a Western Digital and the old one is a Seagate, you may have a problem using dd. You need to find out exactly how many sectors each drive has and make sure the new one has MORE than (or exactly the same as) the old one. Look on the drives for an LBA number, or do a "cat /proc/ide/hdX/capacity" for each drive (where the X is a/b/c/d depending on where you hooked it up - See the Hinsdale Howto for more details on drive assignments).

If the new drive is smaller than the old, you'll have problems. If it's larger, then you just won't use the full capacity unless you use something like Partition Magic to expand it later. (If they're both 40G drives, though, you'd probably only gain a few megabytes at most, so not really worth worrying about.)

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Rcrew is offline Old Post 05-30-2003 02:21 PM
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Rcrew
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Thanks Dan. Why do I think this is still going to make this a long grueling weekend... progress so far.

1) The PC continues to run seemingly just fine.

2) E-mailed Acronis support yesterday to specifically describe my situation and ask what True Image would do if it is in fact a bad sector.

3) Acronis replied, no problem it will work.

4) Although I was in CompUSA and had the True Image box in my hand for $49.95, I decided I would just down load it.

5) Although they offered me, for $4.95, an opportunity to have re-download privilages, I said no, then instead of chosing save, I must have clicked on open, because next thing I know the install is running. Ok it worked, but I can never re-install the software...

6) Ran the backup, says it will take 10 disks, gets all the way to volume 9, suddenly "Hey, you have a bad sector, we can't perform this backup"........ grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

7) E-mailed support again. Their reply "run Checkdisk or Scandisk in your Windows" that will mark the bad sectors, and we can create a backup.

8) I've already run Scandisk, it fails. But I haven't tried Checkdisk. I'll be trying that tonight. Then use up another 9 CD/Rs trying to write it, well hopefully I'll use up 10 since it's going to work this time!!!

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GoodSpike is offline Old Post 05-31-2003 03:31 PM
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GoodSpike
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Do yourself a favor and just backup your data, and run the File and Settings Transfer Wizzard to save your various settings (e-mail stuff, etc.)

With CD's, installing programs is not that tough, and you'll get a fresh install (and you won't have old hotfixes, etc. on your computer). You'll probably spend less time, and definately spend less money, just doing a fresh install.

BTW, if you have a hard drive going bad, the LAST thing you want to do is defragment the drive.

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Rcrew is offline Old Post 05-31-2003 11:43 PM
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Rcrew
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Update.

First, thanks for the note GoodSpike, but every backup I tried failed on the bad sector errors.

I did run check disk, and saw many files successfully relocated. After doing that, True Image successfully created a 15 CD backup of my drive!

So.... I swapped in the new drive, and off I went.... as usual with my luck, nope....

After a number of hours and trying many things, and talking to Dell support, I finally noticed that when I opened up True Image to restore my backup, the backup statistics show the backup came from a 37.27 GB disk. When I moved to the target screen, the new WD drive shows 37.25 GB.

I've already had an e-mail exchange with Acronis (hows that for support, on Saturday noless). They say it's about 99.9% chance that because the WD is slightly smaller, that is the reason it won't install.

Dell didn't even bat an eye when I explained what I thought the problem was. They asked me to run a debug script that blanked out the drive, but it still showed only 37.25 GB space. They immediately agreed to send me another drive, this time an exact Seagate match.

So, put the PC back together with the old drive, and here I am. Waiting until Monday to try again.

The only good news so far, since I ran the check disk and allowed it to repair as best it could, I haven't had a single SMART alert. I've powered up and down, several times, actions that previouly generated the error. So, knock on wood, I'll survive.

Now to go deal with the broken water line to my house that turned up yesterday.....

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Rcrew is offline Old Post 06-05-2003 06:48 PM
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Rcrew
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UPDATE....

Well, I still love my Dell, and I've enjoyed talking to the many, many, many folks at their tech support dept., some of whom I'm on a first name basis with now, ...including 2 supervisors....

So, two weeks later, where am I? Basically same situation. I received the 2nd drive a few days after the above post, unfortunately they sent me another WD. So, called back, talked again, they had some excuse about substituting because of back logs etc. And ensured me they would send me another drive, this time specifying no substitutions...

I got the 3rd drive this morning... yeah you guessed it, another WD...

So called again, and this time they assured me I would definitely get a Seagate, and I'll get by tomorrow...............

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zyzzx is offline Old Post 06-05-2003 06:57 PM
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zyzzx
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Wow, after receiving the third WD drive I'd be pretty upset. It seems like you are taking it in stride, Rcrew. Good luck getting the Seagate tomorrow!

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Rcrew is offline Old Post 06-05-2003 07:21 PM
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Rcrew
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I am upset. But I decided before I even dialed them this morning that I would be polite, listen to what they had to say, and just firmly explain they need to do a better job, somehow.

Now, if my PC wasn't working, I might be singing a different tune. It is a pain that I don't really want to update, add, or do much work on the PC since I'd have to create a new backup, image, or work with an incremental backup scheme. But, I'm not at the end of that rope, yet.

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DanT is offline Old Post 06-05-2003 10:43 PM
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DanT
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If tomorrow's drive is a WD, ask them for a bigger drive. That would eliminate the problem with the WD. You can copy/restore to the bigger drive, and then use a partitioning tool to expand the partition to fill the drive.

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Rcrew is offline Old Post 06-05-2003 11:17 PM
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Rcrew
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Thanks, Dan, I had a thorough discussion with Tech Support, Sales, and finally Customer Care about just that exact solution this past Monday. Best they would do is sell me an 80GB for $111, and then credit me with $55.50.

I almost went for it, but decided that since after 1 year of use, I'm only consuming 13gb of the 40gb that I have, it would be a waste, and unnecessary expense.

If they ship a 4th WD, I'll push that issue harder.

I found out Tuesday that I have access to Ghost from work. If I don't have a real solution from Dell by Tomorrow, I'm going to use Ghost to do a disk to disk copy to one of the WDs, and be done with all this.

It's turned into kind of a grudge match for me, really wanting to be able to use the True Image software I bought.....

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