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Mystery Hard Drive Killer....

Last response: in Components
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August 12, 2010 5:45:53 AM

I'm at my wits end. Upgrading from a Core2Duo machine. Bought HD5770 and a new 750W Corsair PSU and ran them in my old setup for about a month. Last week I ordered an i7930, Gigabyte x58A-UDR3, and 6GB Mushkin RAM.

First mistake I made was not reinstalling Win 7 Pro 64bit. I put new PC together, booted into Win7 and started upgrading drivers and things. It was acting odd, slow, and reboots would take forever with random freezes etc. Finally decided to wipe drive and start over.

New install of Win 7 Pro64. Went ok (though odd slow freezes during install. Maybe normall?). Installed some drivers, copied over some files, added some software. I would get lots of random freezes where everything locked up while the hard drive did nothing for a minute to two, then it would start doing stuff again. These were frequent. Finally during installation of Outlook everything froze permanently so I rebooted. Got black screen of death. Tried again and got Blue screen of death. Repeatedly got BSoD and nothing would get me past it. Stripped all RAM tried 1 at a time, booted into MemTest RAM checked out fine. Safe Mode didn't work, etc etc.

So I booted into my other hard drive running windows XP. It worked fine. I ran scan utility and my main HD showed bad sectors that were unrepairable. So it seemed like the hard drive coincidentally went bad when I upgraded my system. Maybe it got bumped or something, I don't know. So I RMA it to Western Digital and pay $20 for overnight on a replacement. While I wait I run through some stress testing with Prime95 and run some Sandra video card benchmarks trying to see if I can recreate any kind of PSU instability or other problems surface. Everything went fine though.

New drive comes today... I do a clean win7 install and again start to load drivers and software. Seemed good until (coincidentally?) I was configuring Outlook and things started acting crazy again. I would get long freezes that would unfreeze after a couple of minutes but then eventually it was all fubared and I had to reboot. Upon reboot I get black screen (just after the windows logo swirly) and it sticks there. Again, I can't get past it even with Safe Mode.

Again, I boot back into my other drive with Winxp and run the WD hard drive scanning utility and find more unrepairable bad sectors.

Ok... the hard drive dies in the same exact manner as the last one?? I mean, exactly. No grinding noises or anything. IT just starts having long delays and freezes with sporatic activity, then freezes up completely, then gets stuck on reboot in the exact same spot, then fails scan with unrepairable bad sectors.

Statistically it would be rare for two drives to fail that close in time to each other with the exact same type of failure. Thus, I feel confident something is causing this to happen. If its the PSU then why is it only failing gradually then on bootup? And why is no killing my old hard drive Windows XP even under heavy stress loads?

Could the motherboard be doing something funky with the voltage to the hard drive? Could anything else besides the PSU contribute to this? I'm sure its not possible that ATI drivers or other drivers could cause sectors to go bad right? If so, then they should at least be repairable since they aren't being caused by mechanical failure. Why is nothing bad happening in Windows XP. Things don't seem to logically add up.

I'm at the point of wanting to RMA my motherboard. But its such a drawn out, pain in the arse process I really want to make sure the mobo is the likely culprit. I know it is tempting to point to the PSU, but it is a brand new Corsair unit that had no problems running on my other machine for a month before transferring it over. Also, don't most PSUs just flat out die when they go, as opposed to gradually wavering on the voltage?

As I said, I'm at my wits end. If anyone has any insight on a solution I would very much appreciate the help.

Thanks,
Dan

August 12, 2010 7:04:48 AM

Have you tried booting with single stick of ram?
go through all of them one at a time, see if you get any issues with a particular stick or two,
Moto
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August 12, 2010 7:13:41 AM

To cut a long story short, it would have been so much better if you could have posted the BSOD error code.
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August 12, 2010 1:43:43 PM

Make sure PCIe frequency in the bios is set to no more than 100.
It will corrupt hard disks.
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August 12, 2010 1:51:24 PM

I can post the BSoD when I get home this evening. I researched the code previously and was unable to gain any clarity on the issue. It would be great if you guys could decipher it.

As for the RAM, I did try individual sticks one at a time when I was attempting to get past the BSoD. It didn't work. I also booted into MemTest while I was doing that and ran the utility on each individual stick and it tested out fine. I'm not sure how conclusive it was, but I felt ok about the RAM after that process.

Interesting about the PCI frequency. I'll check it. However, I have reset the bios many times during this process and my WinXP install has been stable throughout this.

Thanks for the feedback.

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August 12, 2010 1:59:48 PM

Could be a rare case of PSU failure! But i would wait for the BSOD error code anyways!
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August 12, 2010 2:10:01 PM

Does Win7 pull a ton more power from my hardware than XP? Even under heavy loads running video benchmarks and Prime95 I could not cause the PSU to fail in WinXP. Nonetheless, I will pickup a voltmeter today and try to do a real test on the PSU this evening. Thanks again for the feedback.

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August 13, 2010 3:02:50 PM

Formatted same drive and tried again. Once again, things went smoothly untill...

I installed the latest Catalyst and it went ok, and rebooted ok (thought slower than without any display drivers installed.

Then I installed Office 2007 and it went ok (didn't ask me to reboot). After that I installed all of the recommended win7 critical updates. When it finished and tried to reboot it took forever shutting down (understandable since it was "configuring windows files"), but did not reboot.... for 20 minutes.

It stuck on a black screen again. I left the room after 6 or 7 minutes. When I came back in 20 minutes it had actually finished rebooting. I tried rebooting it again and it came up with some kind of scan screen and did some quick file scan and then rebooted fine.

I tried again and it hung up on black screen again.

Then I tried in safe mode and it booted fine in safe mode and run really smooth and fast in safe mode.

That's where I am at now. So it seems like its some kind of software/driver issue and not necessarily hardware related at all, right?

All three times, I definately could not smoothly reboot after installing Office Enterprise 2007. It would make more sense to blame it on the Catalyst drivers, but it initially reboots ok after installing Catalyst 10.7. Is it possible that the Catalyst drivers are doing something that makes it progressively instable until it evnetually quits booting alltogether?

And what to make of my previous two installs that would not even boot into safe mode? Can a driver or software problem be severe enough that even safe mode won't boot? I'm now wondering if the bad hard drive sectors previously reported were inaccurately reported when scanning from my other hard drive and windows xp.

Also, what good is safe mode if it won't allow me to uninstall Catalyst or other software while in safe mode?

My goal here is still trying to determine if there is a hardware problem that I need to RMA, or a software issue that I can work around. If its hardware related I feel it has been narrowed down to the PSU or the Motherboard.... though the hardware theory isn't supported by the fact that windows xp runs fine on the other hard drive with all of the smae hardware (other than hard drive, of course).
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August 15, 2010 11:19:40 PM

I am having this same exact problem. I have a new PSU in the system with some older hardware. I have now gone through 3 hdd's over the last couple of months after having Win7 running fine for a year in this machine. I just had another new WD drive go bad that I paid for out of pocket. I am at wit's end with this. I know it has to be some kind of hardware inside of my machine causing this, but I don't have the money to put into it. I need a solution on this as well. I would prefer that the solution to include the installation of Win7 to stay installed on my machine.
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August 15, 2010 11:46:41 PM

Also as a quick note, all of my HDD's weren't the same type or model
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August 16, 2010 12:48:48 AM

Well, I'm somewhat stable now. I am starting to strongly suspect it was a driver issue mostly caused by Catalyst drivers fro my 5770. I'm also starting to suspect that some of the bad scans on the hard drive might have been mis-reported to a degree. Anyway, once I was able to boot in safe mode everything would run great. It seemed like after a lot of Windows Update installs and reverting to older versions of Catalyst, things were running a lot better.

Then I finally went in and overclocked some stuff and amazingly everything got a lot more stable. It even boots up fast now.

I am actually wondering if this stupid motherboard was causing some instability with the way it fluctuates the voltages to the processor and other components. Some kind of power save stuff.

So, I know that probably doesn't help your situation, but if you happen to be using a Gigabyte x58A UDR3 v2.0 motherboard then you might want to clock it up a little bit and bump your voltages. Also my RAM voltage was set to 1.5 and I bumped that to 1.64.

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August 16, 2010 1:16:15 AM

Well I can't boot into safe mode. Eventually my HDDs get more and more bad sectors according to Seatools.
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August 16, 2010 9:54:51 AM

bad sectors can be caused by bad RAM and unexpected shutdowns. Check your RAM with "memtest 86+" and check your hard drive with "HDD Regenerator". Update your motherboard BIOS and check CPUand VGA card temps.
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August 17, 2010 2:27:32 AM

Yeah, it was bad memory. Been 24 hours now formatting it to repair the damage.
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August 17, 2010 7:06:38 AM

Glad you pinned it down man,
Moto
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