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After a backup it said hard drive failure imminent wh

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January 24, 2012 1:25:08 PM

This morning, afer an over nite backkup a screen from phoenix technologies informed me that failure of my hard drive was imminent. what gives?
a c 342 G Storage
January 24, 2012 2:38:52 PM

Pheonix is a maker of BIOS's, so the message may be coming from the BIOS chip's functions to monitor what are known as SMART messages from the HDD's. SMART is a system inside the HDD (on its own controller board) that monitors the operations of the HDD. One of its functions is to keep track of a semi-hidden system to detect failing sectors of the HDD as they are used, and replace them with spare good sectors. Usually the problem can be detected before the sector fails completely, and the data on the failing sector can be read correctly and copied to the new good sector. This all happens in the background and you lose nothing, so you don't have to worry about it. But the SMART system tracks these events, and ultimately sends out a warning when the total number exceeds some threshold. That means two things. One is that your HDD has had quite a few faulty sectors corrected, and that projects to even more failures in future. The other is that the stock of spare good sectors is getting low, and if you do nothing the system may not be able to allocate new good spares in future failures.

So, what to do? Buy a replacement HDD and clone the old one to the new one as soon as you can. The SMART warning usually is issued before the failures are so bad that you lose data, so cloning now should work well and cure your problem. Then you replace the old HDD with the new one and discard the old one with flaws.

I had to do this about a month ago. During the cloning operation, many of the old HDD's sectors generated read errors, but I simply told the cloning software tool to ignore those problems and continue working through the HDD. My hope was that the bad sectors did not contain any important data. And that's how it worked out! I checked the clone copy for problems two different ways after it was done, and it has no errors. The machine is now working perfectly with the clone disk in place. So, acting promptly to replace the failing HDD when the error message showed up did exactly what it was intended to do - saved everything and prevented a major data loss problem.
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January 30, 2012 11:38:51 PM

That's a pretty comprehensive reply with the simple motivation of helping someone you don't even know and I thank you very much. Now I need to decide if I should replace the HDD or get a new computer,correct? is cloning the HDD difficult for a virtual novice?
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a c 342 G Storage
February 1, 2012 12:26:59 AM

Actually, no, it's not difficult. You need cloning software, and there are several good ones you can buy. Acronis True Image is one, also Easeus, and others.

However, you may well get good software free! Several HDD makers will let you download their custom cloning software free from their website. They do this as a service to induce you to buy THEIR HDD units, so here's the "hook" in the deal. They don't worry about what old HDD you are getting rid of. But their software will only make a clone copy TO one of their drives. For example, Seagate has Disk Wizard. WD has Acronis True Image WD Edition. Both of these appear to be customized versions of Acronis. Some other HDD makers have their own free utilities.

Make sure you get and read the manual for the software you download. The customized Acronis versions I mentioned above do a LOT more than cloning, so you should learn all their uses. The manuals also will help you with one small problem I've had with them. The most common story is someone who is upgrading to a larger HDD and replacing their older one. (That's not quite your reason for replacement, but that does not matter.)

When you run the cloning tool its first step is to be sure you specify the correct SOURCE and DESTINATI0N units. Don't get these backwards - the DESTINATION unit will get completely wiped out and loaded with new stuff, so make sure it is the NEW HDD you bought, not your old one! Next it will propose a bunch of settings for the structure of the new HDD. The steps it is preparing for are Partitioning and Formatting. A Partition is a chunk of the HDD that will be treated by Windows as a "drive" with its own letter name. You can have one or a few of these Partitions on one HDD unit, and you can set their size when they are created. But they are hard to change later. Quite commonly the user actually wants ALL of the new HDD to be one large Partition. But the default settings often presented to you make the Partition size on the new HDD the same size as the old one. If you approve this, you will have spare space called "Unallocated Space" on your new HDD that you CAN use to create a second (or more) Partition on, and then use it as a separate "drive". BUT if that is not what you want - if you want the WHOLE new HDD to be in the Partition - you can use the menus to change the settings to what you want. The manual can help you spot how to do this.

The whole idea of cloning is that you make a complete copy of absolutely everything on your old HDD, including putting certain key files in just the right places, so that it can become your new boot drive known as C:. Once the clone is made, you can connect it to your mobo in the same place as the old drive was, and remove the old HDD completely. Your machine will behave just the same as before, except that the C: drive will probably be a different size.

IF your old HDD actually has more than one Partition on it to begin with, the default settings are different. Most commonly they propose to make Partitions on the new HDD to match all the ones on the old one, but they set each new Partition's size in Proportion. That is, if the old drive's first Partition took up 35% of the space on that HDD unit, the cloning software will propose that its clone copy on the new HDD will take up 35% of the NEW HDD's space, whatever that is. Etc. Often this, too, is not what you want. Again, using the menu systems you can specify the size YOU want for each Partition on the new HDD, as long as the total is not larger than the unit.
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February 3, 2012 12:04:50 AM

Best answer selected by ddprx.
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February 3, 2012 12:09:16 AM

Thank you very much for your detailed answer to my question. I hope my meager brain will track well enough to get a new HDD installed and up and running. I will try to update you as to my progress.
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February 3, 2012 3:16:21 PM

This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey
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