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Old 12-24-2009, 08:13 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Problematic hard drive - yet it passed the test?

I have a computer here I was trying to dual boot with XP Pro and Kubuntu. Kubuntu was CONSTANTLY erroring out during the install and I had no idea why. On Windows as of yesterday, things seemed fine, so I wasn't suspecting hardware failure. The red flag to me was Kubuntu kept coming up with a popup of recently plugged in devices when I hadn't recently plugged anything in.

So I boot to Windows and run the HDD diagnostics, both the quick test and extended test from Western Digital's site. Both tests passed with zero errors.

Then, I heard something... So I crack open the case and put my hand on the top of the hard drive. I could both hear and feel it was powering off/back on in 15-20 second intervals. Then I booted back to Windows and navigated through the menu. I would just scroll my mouse up and down the program files list, anything with an expanded menu that would show up on the right side when highlighted - example - games highlights to solitaire, minesweeper, etc. Every time I would hear that little noise indicating the hard drive powered off, the system would stall until I heard it fire back up, THEN the menu on the right would show up.

So I thought, well it's a power issue. But this is a 400w PSU on a pretty typical computer, that should be enough. So I happen to have an identical 160gb WD SATA drive here (building two computers, both identical) and that drive is absolutely fine. It doesn't shut off/power up or anything else.

To be extra conclusive I even took out an 80gb WD SATA drive from another system I have and tried that as well. That drive also worked fine with no feeling or sound indication that it was powering off/turning back on.

Fortunately, I can at least use these 160gb/80gb drives to get these 2 computers rolling, since they're Christmas gifts and uh, it's Christmas Eve. :P

But it just begs the obvious question - how on earth did the Western Digital HDD Diagnostic test pass if the drive was acting like this? The quick test lasted about 5 minutes and the extended test lasted about 25 minutes. With it powering off/on 2-3 times a minute, I'm surprised the test didn't pick up on it.

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Old 12-24-2009, 10:26 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Problematic hard drive - yet it passed the test?

I'm surprised it passed the test, too. it seems obviously bad.
Even though you say the power supply is adequate, if you're building two identical systems, you should try swapping the power supplies. Maybe it's the PS that's defective?

Or if the systems are identical, swap the hard drives, but that depends on if you've activated Windows, registered, etc., since Windows keys off the hardware identifiers.

Or maybe it's the data cables? Got any other cables to swap with? If the OS is having a hard time reading data, even if it's just the cable, it could repeatedly keep trying to re-initialize the disk. So it's not necessarily a bad disk.
As for the PS, if it is defective, maybe only one strand of connectors, or one type of voltage, is bad? Got a voltage tester?

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Old 12-24-2009, 10:41 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Problematic hard drive - yet it passed the test?

I have a PSU tester, which has connections to test all types of your typical PSU connectors, such as the main molex connector to the board, floppy, 4 pin power, 4 pin auxillary power, 6 pin pcie, sata, etc. The voltage for the SATA connection shows to be fine.

It shouldn't have anything to do with Windows. I tried to "save" my installation I already made on the 160gb drive that was acting up by firing up Clonezilla LiveCD, a linux based cloning utility. Every time the drive would act up, I could see in the terminal output it was attempting to retry the data connection every 5 seconds till it grabbed it. Also, using GParted on a Linux LiveCD shows some iffy output. Sometimes it finds the drive. Sometimes it doesn't. I just kept hitting "refresh devices" and about 70% of the time it found the drive, while the remaining 30% it came back with unable to find any devices.

I also tried 2 different SATA cables, with 2 different SATA ports on the motherboard.

It also does it just at the BIOS screen. When I boot up, I go into the BIOS screen and just listen as it runs. This is where I made my determination that the other 160gb drive was okay while my spare 80gb drive was also okay, proving that there was something wrong with the 160gb drive I previously had in.

The only thing I did to this system is I had fired up Kubuntu LiveCD and was going to install it, but I fell asleep. So the system was running off of the LiveCD (idle) all night. But that shouldn't cause hardware failure. It's just a LiveCD.

I already did a fresh install from ground-up on the other 160gb drive. I'm going to downsize it to 80gb and clonezilla it to the 80gb drive too so I can get these systems rolling.

I also noticed, if I take the problematic 160gb drive and slowly "shake" it back and forth, it sounds like there's sand inside the hard drive... as if it's a salt shaker or something. My 80gb drive doesn't do this (also a western digital).
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