Hard drive fun and games

I had a Hard Drive (HDD) failure

For about the last week my PC has been playing up and my E: drive kept opening window to show me it’s contents all by itself. As well as that I have had a bizarre dialogue box come up every now and again telling me the PC can’t run this program and to contact the vendor.

The bizarre thing is that it wouldn’t tell me which program it was.

I set aside the coming weekend to deal with these issues which I thought were caused by a rogue program so the plan was to start to uninstall programs starting with the ones I had most recently installed and working backwards until the one which was causing the issues had been removed. If that didn’t work, I was just going to reset windows.

However, on Saturday morning when I switched my PC on it took ages to boot up, with the longest part being the wait for the bios splash screen, that immediately told me that something had changed, something hardware and that the bios was configuring itself to the new system.

Once it had booted, I checked the PC and spotted straight away that my E: drive was missing. For both the BIOS and Windows failing to see and HDD can mean only one thing, the HDD has failed for some reason.

I removed the faulty HDD

I had 3 HDD’s in my PC ( the C: boot drive is a NVME drive) 1 Toshiba 1TB, 1 Seagate 1TB and 1 Seagate 4TB HDD so I shut the machine down and restarted it this time I went into the BIOS first and looked at the peripherals screen, why? Well, I was going to remove the faulty HDD but I didn’t know exactly which one it was so by going into the BIOS and seeing what HDD’s the BIOS was seeing then by default the one it wasn’t seeing was the faulty one. On the peripherals screen the BIOS was seeing the Seagate 4TB and the Seagate 4TB HDD’s. This told me that the faulty HDD was the Seagate 1TB.

I shut the PC down and pulled it out from under the table to open it up. As I worked out which drive was faulty I went straight to it, disconnected it and removed it. I then put the PC back together and booted into the BIOS screen (this is to make the PC re read it’s configuration so it won’t take so long to boot in future) once I had checked it was seeing the remaining HDD’s I then did a save and exit and carried on with the boot. One it had rebooted I then told it to restart, this is it did, and it was back to it’s usual very fast boot time as it was before these issues started.

12 years old

When I upgrade a PC I remove the HDD’s from the old one and reuse them in the new ones and keep a little note of which HDD’s they were, turns out the faulty one came from a PC I had built in 2010 so this drive had been trundling away in various machine for 12 years, not bad I guess.

Rescuing the data

The faulty drive was my “downloads” and MP3 drive; this is where everything I downloaded was stored as well as my MP3 collection. The downloads I wasn’t bothered about because I can easily download the stuff again, however the MP3’s had been purchased from Amazon and I didn’t want to lose them.

I have a Wavlink USB drive dock and cloner and I happen to have an older spare Seagate 1TB HDD so tried to clone the faulty drive, but the Wavlink wasn’t even seeing it.

Now HDD’s fail for only a few reasons, either the circuit board fails, the arm gets stuck on a platter, or the motor fails with either a circuit board or a motor failure it’s an easy fix and replacing them sorts it out, and arm failing is slightly more complicated, but it can be fixed and as long as the platters aren’t too badly damaged you can still get the data off of it.

First thing to try was the easiest, swap out the circuit board, this took about 10 mins and put the drive back into the USB dock and straight away it was read meaning the problem was indeed the old circuit board. I then copied the data onto another drive in my pc, then I swapped the circuit board back putting it back onto it’s original drive. Why? Well it might not have been the circuit board, it might have been an arm or a motor failure and the movement taking it out and fiddling with it might have freed them, regardless of that, I don’t trust a HDD once it starts playing up so that’s why I put the board back on the original drive, I knew that one was fine. Once the board was back on it, I checked it and it was working so it went back to being a spare drive.

The faulty one I opened up and removed the platters from it then ran a magnet all over them to make sure any data on the was totally destroyed then I binned all the pieces.

I ordered a new HDD from Amazon

Why not use my spare drive? Well, the spare is only 1TB and it’s around 15 years old, I do a lot of 360 video editing and the files can be 250GB or more in size so it doesn’t take many to fill a 1TB HDD up

My new HDD arrived yesterday, all installed and working in my PC.

4TB 3.5″ HDD £52.95 not a bad price at all.

Most are around £80+ but this wasn’t advertised as a PC HDD but rather a DVR HDD.

What’s the difference between a PC and a DVR HDD drive? basically none, it’s all about marketing, the big boys can charge a premium for a PC HDD and people pay it, vanity pricing works for them.

When I say no difference, that’s not quite true the drive was MBR formatted meaning it has 2x 2GB partitions on it because 2GB is the largest partition size MBR can work with, simple to resolve just covert it to GPT in disk management them format it with NTFS and viola a single 4GB partition.

All up and running again

I put the new HDD into my PC, booted into the BIOS screen, made sure the BIOS was reading the new drive which it was, save and exit then reboot PC and it’s all up and running and working fine.

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