Dead hard drive? (Error loading OS)

Any help would be appreciated.

I wake up in the middle of the night and hear clicking noises coming out of the PC, turn on the monitor and see a blue screen. Upon reboot, Windows XP SP2 starts loading, but then PC reboots by itself. Now I get an "Error loading OS" message, and the primary hard drive can't be detected.

I googled the problem, and it seems to have happened to people after a fresh install. However I've had this thing running for a while now. Most of the solutions suggested say to use the windows installation CD to perform a repair. But the only drive being detected is the secondairy, not the primary where the the Windows installation is.

Some people suggested setting the drive access mode to "Large" instead of "Auto" in the BIOS, but still no luck getting it detected.

Putting 2 and 2 together, I figure the clicking noise, plus the BIOS being unable to see the drive, lead me to believe it's a hardware failure. But I want to be sure before giving up on it.

I gotta find a way to try and save some of my files if possible, anyone have any ideas? I'd try to hook it up to an old PC, but my old one is IDE, and this one is SATA. I'm thinking of putting the slave drive as my primary, installng windows on it, and trying to recover my files from the dead one. Thing is, do I need to format it beforehand? It's my storage drive, and I don't want to lose that stuff either.
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  1. Here's my thoughts...

    Your hard drive is toast.

    Option #1
    To try to recover the files off that drive, you could go get another hard drive to replace the one that's likely dead, and use that as your new primary drive. Then plug in your old possibly dead drive and try to recover it. Newegg has 27 drives under $50, including a 250GB open box special.

    Option #2:
    You should be able to install Windows on your storage drive without re-formatting it first.

    Option #3:
    Go buy a PCI SATA card (<$20 at newegg), and plug your possibly toast drive into your old machine. Try to recover files. But you'll still likely need a new drive.

    Option #4:
    Go buy an external USB enclosure (< $20) for your old drive, which would let you plug it into your old machine (depending on it having a USB port, of course). But I don't know if that will impact recoverability.

    Personally, I'd go with option #1 if I had the money for a new drive. If the files on your storage drive are really important to you and you can't copy them off somewhere else, I'd leave that drive alone, so then option #3 would be my next choice. Option #4 is the worst choice, as it introduces another layer of unknown, which could cause hours more fun trying to troubleshoot.

    I realize the newegg prices may not be directly applicable to you, as you probably want this right away, but it should give you an idea of what it's going to cost. If you're particularly price sensitive (aka "cheap" or "broke" :) ), buying a used drive in a local craigslist/newsgroup would be an option... Then you can likely turn around and sell it if your toast drive is under warranty (as I'd assume many SATA drives still are), and you probably won't lose much/any money on the exchange.

  2. I was afraid of that =(

    I'll try the SATA card option and see if I get anything out of it.

    Unfortunately for me, Newegg doesn't ship to Canada so I'll be going shopping later tonight.

    Thank you for the help.
  3. Where are you from in Canada? I'm in Western Canada (Alberta), and NCIX and MemoryExpress are pretty good options. NCIX has the most options, it appears. They've got a couple of SATA cards for under $30.

    I've heard of Direct Canada, but never ordered from there. I've ordered from the other two with positive experiences. I've also ordered from, but found their shipping charges to be high.

  4. I'm in Montreal, Quebec.

    On a hunch, I swapped the SATA cables between my 2 hard drives, and then the primary was detected and the secondary was not. Turned out to be a defective cable :pt1cable:

    Thanks again for the advice, I'll keep them in mind in case (heaven forbid) hard drive fails again :wahoo:
  5. That's bizzare! I've seen cables fail "out of the box", but they're not typically something that fails with use. Glad it worked, and it didn't cost your anything! Of course, now you need another cable for your old drive, but that's still pretty cheap.

  6. Go to Addison, on the corner of Jarry and close to Papineau. I personally got a SATA cable there last week for 3.49$. It's dirty cheap and they work fine. I used it to connect my new WD 500GB AAKS drive and it work flawlessly.
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