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Problem Hard Drive - Windows Installation Problems

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October 22, 2009 10:50:26 PM

Hi Guys,

I'm having a lot of problems with this disk of mine. It's an old-ish 300gb Maxtor (7v300f0) which I've been using as my system drive. It's been having problems for a while now (although I couldn't tell you exactly how long), but I ignored it until it really became a problem a few weeks ago. A whole bunch of sectors decided to corrupt themselves (including the ones containing W7's system files and a bunch of program files). I managed to get my data off after a load of hassle (which is way too long to write about here), and ended up repartitioning the drive to basically carve off the first 100gb of the drive (which is where all the bad sectors are). I was able to reinstall W7 and it was running perfectly fine.

This evening I was given a computer that somebody didn't want any more - turns out it had some things which gave it a slight performance edge over mine in some ways (CPU, motherboard etc.), and my current case is falling apart so I decided to move my hard drive, RAM, PSU and 9800GTX+ (replacing a 7300 GS) in to the new case. That's where my problems started.

Having plugged in my hard drive into the new system and sorting everything else out, I hook everything up and turn it on. It brings up the W7 boot screen, then about halfway through booting it bluescreens and crashes. I try this again (thinking it might be a fluke) and it happens again. So I think "Well, there have been some pretty radical hardware changes", boot up Puppy Linux, back up the files I need, then stick in the W7 install disc to nuke the 200gb partition and reinstall it.

I choose my language and keyboard layout, get to the install window, choose a custom install, then... nothing. The drive just doesn't show up in the list of hard drives, at all. This is strange, because it worked fine about a week ago when I reinstalled Windows after recovering the drive. So I call up the command prompt and try to navigate to the drive. It comes back with "The device is not ready".

Again thinking this is sort of strange, I boot up Puppy Linux again and repartition the drive again, giving the 100gb partition an even more obscure file system than the last so that Windows doesn't even try to look at it - the dead sectors was what stopped it from being discovered by Windows beforehand. I nuked the 200gb partition, thinking that those combined might fix the problem, run the W7 install again - still nothing.

The BIOS sees the disc, Linux sees both partitions and I can read and write to the 200gb one (I don't dare touch the dead partition), so there shouldn't really be an issue. The Windows installation wizard keeps telling me to load drivers for any disks that it can't see, so in an act of desperation I started looking for one. Maxtor's apparently just been bought out by Seagate and there are no longer any drivers for the disk at all, so that's a dead end.

Any thoughts, help or a pointer in the right direction to look would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,
Brutalspoon
October 23, 2009 7:20:00 AM

Quote:
Your having problems with a harddrive that you had problems with before.....well why dont you buy a new harddrive??

You dont need drivers for a harddrive. I really dont understand why your trying to diagnose a problem with a hdd you know has issues. Makes zero sense to me.

I've seen the same problem happen when the dimm voltage was set to auto and the system wouldn't load windows because the dimms weren't getting the proper voltage, but I doubt that's your problem because you already know you harddrive is shot.


Aww, dope *head desks* that could be it, actually - I swapped my RAM over without checking the specs on the 'new' motherboard, so that could be it. Stupid me, I assumed that since both my motherboard and the new one were made around the same time, and DDR2-800 RAM is pretty much ubiquitous, it should just work. Doesn't always work like that though, does it? :sweat: 

As for why I'm using a problem hard drive, I don't really have the money spare to buy a new one so I have to do with what I've got. What's more, the drive was working perfectly fine before I shut down my PC and transferred it to the new one, so there's no reason why it should suddenly decide to stop working in Windows (especially if I can mount it fine in linux and read/write to it without any problems).

As for the DIMMs not getting the proper voltage, linux appeared to work fine (although it took a little longer than usual to copy the file system onto the RAM), and right now I don't actually have any way of testing it again until I get the drive sorted.

Thanks for that, but it unfortunately doesn't really help me at the moment. Do you have any other ideas? Anyone else?
a c 329 G Storage
October 23, 2009 2:54:58 PM

First, I gotta agree, check out your RAM system and run Memtest 86+ to verify it is working trouble-free. You might need to adjust timings and / or voltage.

Next I suggest you go to the Seagate / Maxtor website and download their drive testing utility package - maybe Seatools for DOS. There are versions to install on a floppy disk or CD. You boot from the disk into a mini-DOS and run a variety of diagnostic tests on your HDD. They can tell you how serious the disk's problems are, or maybe it has no real problems.

Another thing these utilities can do is force the disk to "fix itself". These days any new HDD comes with a secret store of spare sectors. The controller on the HDD's PC board constantly checks the unit's operation. If it detects what it considers sub-standard performance on a sector, it tries to copy that data to a new good sector from its "spare" collection and then retire the suspect spot so it is never used again. Ideally this happens BEFORE the data is unreadable, and Windows will never know about it. But sometimes the process fails to find the problem early enough or cannot fix it, and you end up with Windows reporting Bad Sectors. So, you run the Seatools for DOS tests and it will force the HDD to re-scan ALL of itself, finding and substituting spare sectors as needed. If it finds too many and starts to run low on spares, it reports this through the SMART system so you are warned that it is running low on spares and soon will NOT be able to fix things for you. When you get that message, it's definitely time to back up your data and replace the drive.

It is possible that this process will correct all the problems leaving you with an entire disk that Windows can use reliably - including the first 100 GB you have reserved. IN that case you could consider returning that space to use.

After checking out your disk this way, run Windows Scan disk on the drive - well, on all the "drives" that really are Partitions on the one physical HDD. See if Windows finds all of them trouble-free (should be, since the other tools fixed any hardware issues).

Now you really know just how much trouble (or not) your hard drive has. And you might just have fixed the problems so it can perform OK for a while.
Related resources
October 23, 2009 3:25:32 PM

Quote:
You seem to contradict yourself. If the drive was working "perfectly" before, why do you make the following statements in your original post??

Its obvious your drive was NOT working perfectly and it needs to be replaced.


Sorry, I can see why that seems a bit confusing. I did have a lot of problems with bad sectors and it did seem for a while that the drive was unusable. However, once I divided the drive into the two partitions, the 200gb partition worked fine and I didn't have any problems with it until I went to move it into the other system. Admittedly it's using the phrase 'working perfectly' in its loosest sense, but again I didn't have any problems with it which is why when it came to reinstalling Windows 7 on it again I was so surprised that it wasn't even showing up in the drive selection screen despite showing up fine in both the BIOS and in Linux.

Paperdoc said:
First, I gotta agree, check out your RAM system and run Memtest 86+ to verify it is working trouble-free. You might need to adjust timings and / or voltage.

Next I suggest you go to the Seagate / Maxtor website and download their drive testing utility package - maybe Seatools for DOS. There are versions to install on a floppy disk or CD. You boot from the disk into a mini-DOS and run a variety of diagnostic tests on your HDD. They can tell you how serious the disk's problems are, or maybe it has no real problems.

Another thing these utilities can do is force the disk to "fix itself". These days any new HDD comes with a secret store of spare sectors. The controller on the HDD's PC board constantly checks the unit's operation. If it detects what it considers sub-standard performance on a sector, it tries to copy that data to a new good sector from its "spare" collection and then retire the suspect spot so it is never used again. Ideally this happens BEFORE the data is unreadable, and Windows will never know about it. But sometimes the process fails to find the problem early enough or cannot fix it, and you end up with Windows reporting Bad Sectors. So, you run the Seatools for DOS tests and it will force the HDD to re-scan ALL of itself, finding and substituting spare sectors as needed. If it finds too many and starts to run low on spares, it reports this through the SMART system so you are warned that it is running low on spares and soon will NOT be able to fix things for you. When you get that message, it's definitely time to back up your data and replace the drive.

It is possible that this process will correct all the problems leaving you with an entire disk that Windows can use reliably - including the first 100 GB you have reserved. IN that case you could consider returning that space to use.

After checking out your disk this way, run Windows Scan disk on the drive - well, on all the "drives" that really are Partitions on the one physical HDD. See if Windows finds all of them trouble-free (should be, since the other tools fixed any hardware issues).

Now you really know just how much trouble (or not) your hard drive has. And you might just have fixed the problems so it can perform OK for a while.


Thanks for the advice - I'll try out the things you've suggested and get back to you.

I realise that it is almost certain that this drive is almost on its last legs, but I'd much prefer to get it working again than to spend money on a new disk if at all possible.
October 23, 2009 7:20:39 PM

Quote:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

32mb cache, 500GB, 5 yr warrant.


Thanks for that - I have had my eye on that drive for a while now, but as I said previously I don't really have the cash spare to buy a new drive so I'd have preferred to salvage this drive if I can.

It looks like it's no longer an option, which sucks. It's to be expected, but I was able to save it once and hoped I'd be able to save it again. I think it's just given up the ghost completely (not even puppy linux can read it now :( ). Looks like a new caviar is in order.

Thanks everybody for your help and advice. I really appreciate it :)  Unfortunately, sometimes even with the best help there isn't always a happy ending :/ 
!