Imminent Hard Disk Failure

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firechicago
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Imminent Hard Disk Failure

Postby firechicago » Sat Feb 08, 2014 2:07 pm UTC

Looking for help/advice on how to best deal with a laptop that's throwing up warning of imminent hard disk failure.

So about 4 months ago, my laptop (a HP dv6t Quad edition running Windows 7) started throwing up warning messages about imminent hard disk failure. At the time I was in the middle of a couple of projects, and didn't have the time or energy to dal with the issue, so I just copied over any critical files and started using a combination of my desktop and my wife's laptop. I never saw any weird behavior from the laptop (other than getting a warning every time I booted up) but I haven't booted up the laptop since then. Now I have a little more time and energy and I want to see what I can do about repairing the laptop.

So my questions are:

1) What is the probability that the hard disk has nuked itself in the intervening 4 months?

2) Assuming the hard disk needs replacing, is this something I can do relatively easily and cheaply myself?

3) It would be nice not to have to reinstall Windows and all my programs, what's the best/easiest/cheapest way to get everything over to the new hard drive?

Thanks in advance for all your help.

wumpus
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Re: Imminent Hard Disk Failure

Postby wumpus » Sun Feb 09, 2014 5:56 pm UTC

Sounds like a S.M.A.R.T. failure. My initial memory said that after careful tests of huge amounts of hard drives, google found them useless. Recent googling says that is wrong, but doesn't give any indication of absolute failure, just "30 times more likely on specific types of reported errors".

Backing up is always good. Tested backups are much better. Make sure your backups actually work.

2. hard drives *should* be easily swapped. Typically they simply slide out the sides of notebooks. I know in Dell laptops, they are pretty well buried in the cheapest laptops and typically second (and third) drives are buried in the expensive models. Even so, it shouldn't be a problem. Try googling for a utube example of how to replace the thing.

3. I've used Linux and dd. Note that dd is sometimes called "drive destroyer" since if you get the input and output drive names reversed (which have no relation to what Windows calls them) you overwrite your important data with the stuff you were willing to lose. Be careful if you go this way (on the other hand, it is free and pretty straightforward), and it will copy all the information needed to boot (you will also likely need a windows tool to expand the partition, but I think I found it in windows).

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PM 2Ring
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Re: Imminent Hard Disk Failure

Postby PM 2Ring » Mon Feb 10, 2014 12:01 pm UTC

According to HP, some "imminent hard disk failure" warnings are false positives. The fix: update the drive firmware. See here for details.

Are you comfortable using Linux? If so, there are various standard Linux programs that could be useful. As well as dd that wumpus mentioned, there's an enhanced version called ddrescue which is very good for recovering data from drives suffering from terminal hardware problems. The badblocks program can scan a drive looking for bad blocks (duh); it can operate in read-only mode as well as the more thorough read-write mode. There's a suite of programs called ntfsprogs which can do all sorts of nifty things with ntfs drives, including making efficient & compact filesystem image files (ntfsclone) and resizing ntfs filesystems (ntfsresize).

dd is an ancient block-oriented copying program. Because of its age its command-line interface is a little arcane, but it's really not that hard to use. As well as using it to clone whole drives or partitions, it's handy for making backups of boot sectors &/or partition tables. In a pinch, it can even be used as a primitive hex editor. If the drive has bad sectors (as reported by badblocks) you can use dd to write zeroes to every sector on a drive (or to any subsection of the disk that you specify) - that will force the drive to map out any bad sectors, assuming it still has some spare sectors available in its pool. Of course, that will wipe out all your data, so make sure you have a working backup before you try this trick! :)

Of course, there are also Windows-based utilities that can do these things, some of which are freely available, but they tend to have the disadvantage that you need to run them in a working Windows system, which limits their usefulness when you need to do repairs to a Windows system that won't boot.

As for actually getting the data off your existing HD onto a replacement drive, that may be slightly tricky. In a desktop machine, it'd be relatively straight-forward: you'd just install the new HD and use dd or similar to clone the old drive. But many laptops only have a single HD connector. If your laptop's HD is a SATA drive, you can probably plug it into your desktop to do the cloning. Otherwise, you'd need to get some adapters so that you can plug it into the desktop machine's IDE & power buses.

Failing that, I guess you could use the laptop's USB connection. A quick Google tells me that your laptop has USB 3. So if you have a USB 3 compatible external HD, you could create a disk image on that (assuming your external drive is big enough to hold the clone) and then restore the clone onto the new HD. Of course that will be slower than a direct cloning operation, and it will be downright glacial if your external HD is only USB 2; I certainly wouldn't like to clone a terabyte drive that way.

cphite
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Re: Imminent Hard Disk Failure

Postby cphite » Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:28 pm UTC

firechicago wrote:Looking for help/advice on how to best deal with a laptop that's throwing up warning of imminent hard disk failure.

So about 4 months ago, my laptop (a HP dv6t Quad edition running Windows 7) started throwing up warning messages about imminent hard disk failure. At the time I was in the middle of a couple of projects, and didn't have the time or energy to dal with the issue, so I just copied over any critical files and started using a combination of my desktop and my wife's laptop. I never saw any weird behavior from the laptop (other than getting a warning every time I booted up) but I haven't booted up the laptop since then. Now I have a little more time and energy and I want to see what I can do about repairing the laptop.

So my questions are:

1) What is the probability that the hard disk has nuked itself in the intervening 4 months?


If you haven't been using the laptop then zero. A powered-off HDD isn't going to nuke itself. Bear in mind that "imminent hard disk failure" means that your drive has collected a certain number of issues - bad blocks for the most part - and once a certain threshold of issues is reached, you get a message letting you know that, statistically speaking, you're close enough to an outright failure to start getting your stuff off of there. You could keep using that same drive for years - or, you could lose everything the next time you use the laptop. More likely something in between.

It could also be a false positive; you may simply need to update your firmware. Do a backup before updating your firmware :wink:

2) Assuming the hard disk needs replacing, is this something I can do relatively easily and cheaply myself?


Absolutely. If you Google around you can probably find instructions or even video. The keys are to be careful (don't break anything, don't tug on anything, etc) and pay close attention to what plug goes into what, and how. You'll surprise yourself with how easy it is as long as you're careful. You can find a replacement drive on your manufacturers website - and then buy something with the same specs on NewEgg.com or some similar site.

3) It would be nice not to have to reinstall Windows and all my programs, what's the best/easiest/cheapest way to get everything over to the new hard drive?


Cloning or imaging would be easiest. With cloning you're making a direct copy to the new drive, so if you don't have a way of running both drives at once, an image would be your best bet. With an image, you're basically creating a compressed file that contains your data on some device (external HDD for example) and then extracting it to the new drive.

Carnildo
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Re: Imminent Hard Disk Failure

Postby Carnildo » Sat Feb 15, 2014 8:28 am UTC

wumpus wrote:Sounds like a S.M.A.R.T. failure. My initial memory said that after careful tests of huge amounts of hard drives, google found them useless. Recent googling says that is wrong, but doesn't give any indication of absolute failure, just "30 times more likely on specific types of reported errors".


The Google hard-drive study can be summarized as follows:

1) Certain SMART failures indicate an elevated probability of hard-drive failure within the next year. Others do not.
2) Only about a third of hard-drive failures can be predicted by SMART failures.
3) Hard drives are far more tolerant of elevated temperatures than anyone expected -- in fact, running them too cold increases the failure rate.


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