Troubleshooting cause of repeated MBR loss
Hi I have a gateway 450ROG laptop that I bought in 2002. Worked great until about a year ago when it suddenly refused to boot. It would power on then stop just before booting the OS (XP, sp1). I swapped out the harddrive for a clone I'd made a few months before and that booted normally. The data on the old drive were fine, so I presume the MBR had become lost or corrupted. No problem. I copied the data to the other drive, then cloned that drive onto the one that had failed. Both worked fine afterwards.
Now the strange part. This exact scenario has repeated about 8 times since then at increasingly shorter intervals with every drive I've used. It seems to be independent of the drive type or manufacturer. I've experienced it with two 40GB Toshiba drives, with two 80 GB Toshiba drives and with two WD drives. The most recent time was with a drive that I'd used for less than a month. I removed that drive and copied the data from it as usual, but when I went to clone onto it, I found it could no longer be read as an external dirve (i.e., total drive failure).
I presume a hardware problem is causing these failures, but I don't know how to troubleshoot that possibility and can't find any information at all on causes (plenty about restoring the MBR, but I don't need that). Any ideas what might cause this or advice on how to troubleshoot the root problem?