Suicide Drive

As you can probably guess, it's another hardware failure post. Seems I'm cursed or something because this happens a lot more than it should be. It's not like I abuse the PC either.

So I'm sitting here the other night roaming the forums and posted a response to someone. Firefox appeared to lock up. Ok, fine. I tried to copy my text in case it got lost, couldn't do it. Tried to right click the taskbar to kill it, couldn't raise a response. Tried ctrl-alt-delete, got nothing. System hard lock. This really isn't something that happens to me much. But when it does, resetting the PC usually fixes it and I go about my business. Not this time.

This time I'm greeted at the door by the infamous Blue Screen of Death(tm). Specifically one most PC techs will dread - Unmountable Boot Volume. During the time I worked for Behr, that generally meant the drive was toast and you weren't going to recover from it. Well, as it stood, my backup was 2 1/2 weeks old and I wasn't about to stand for that. So I tried the logical thing and hooked up and old drive with a working XP install. Windows would have none of that, too many differences in the hardware and it BSOD'd due to driver conflicts. So that was out. I ended up spending the next 90 minutes or so rebooting and getting to various stages of the load screens only to BSOD with the same error. I was about to give up and declare a loss. Just for the hell of it, I pulled the drive out and dangled it by its cords and gave it a slight thump on the desk. It booted all the way into Windows - after taking a detour through chkdsk land and informing me that the file system was corrupt and the MFT was being truncated to correct it. Ugh, nice.

So the race was on. I started copying the most important stuff first, things I'd actually been working on for the last 2 1/2 weeks. Yes, Oblivion mods. A lot of updates had been done recently that have not yet been pushed public, along with projects that are still work in progress. As I began copying, I noticed things were proceeding at an extremely slow pace. I leaned over and listened to the drive - that dreaded sound - *click* *click* *click* *scraaaaaape* then copy some stuff. Wash, rinse, repeat. Over the course of the rest of the afternoon this went on, with the sound eventually becoming loud enough to hear without leaning over it. I managed to get everything I needed to update back off the drive and on to my external Iomega USB. Thank God it had enough room, a 150GB device that ended the day with 2GB left.

So then came the task of buying a replacement. Tried to open Firefox, turned out to have been nearly destroyed and would no longer launch. Went for IE next, turned out it too had been thrashed to the point of crashing trying to launch. Same with Opera. Google Chrome however still worked, so I made my way over to to scout drives. This stuff has gotten really REALLY cheap lately. So I ordered a 500GB Hitachi drive for $50. FIFTY BUCKS!!! The 400GB I bought was $170 brand new 3 years ago. So with that out of the way, I opened up Thunderbird so I could make sure the confirmation email arrived. Only to find that all of the account data had been destroyed. Oi. Went looking through its folders and found the mail folders were there, added them to the backup drive, inched it just below 1.4GB free space with that. Clearly I need to clean up my email. Had to amend my order to have call instead to confirm. Which they did, 20 minutes before 5pm. They're local to me, but anyone who knows anything about California traffic anywhere near 5pm knows you'll never make it from Chino to Walnut in 20 minutes with heavy traffic. It's a challenge to do that with no traffic. Yes, the folks at still think this is 1985 and that 9-5 hours are perfectly normal. News flash, this is 2009 and people expect you to keep proper hours!

With all that done, I shut the system down. Went to watch O'Reilly and Hannity and then get dinner. Figured I'd pretend to be normal for once and go to bed at 10 or so. Well, couldn't sleep, so got up and wondered what would happen if I fired the system back up cold. It booted, still clicking, and lasted maybe 20 minutes or so before I heard *click* *bounce bounce bounce* *SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAL* until I couldn't stand it and killed the power. Seems I was playing with fire in a bad way. That squeal as you might expect was the drive head crashing to the surface after hitting something. I wiggled it slightly and confirmed - heads are crashed to the surface but it sounded like something else was loose in there. Was getting sleepy again though so I put it down and crawled back into bed.

Spent the next day (yesterday) setting up the new drive - which is whisper quiet btw - and had a bit of a stumble with XP SP3. Seems the disc I made with SP3 merged in causes the network driver to freeze the system once it's installed. Couldn't get anywhere past that. Ended up having to use the XP+SP2 disc instead. Which worked perfectly. Go figure. I decided on leaving SP3 out this time around just in case that network issue cropped back up later. It's weird because I've had SP3 running since the day it came out and had no trouble. Except on thinking about it, my Windows Update broke around the same time and I ended up ignoring it. 18 months with no updates, living dangerously :) In going through some of my stuff last night and this afternoon, I'm finding that files I touched in the last 3-4 days before the crash didn't get copied. Guess that's what happens when the MFT is truncated. You lose shit. Oh well. 3-4 days is easier to recover than 2 1/2 weeks.

About an hour ago, I looked at the drive again, and realized something. The label says it's a 1TB drive. This would explain one thing I told Dwip about awhile back about having noticed a huge chunk of unallocated space. Since I bought it listed as a 400GB and paid a 400GB price for it back in 2006 I figured it was an error and didn't put anything in the newly formatted space. Guess I could have. Wouldn't have mattered either way. It was also advertised at the time as having a 1 year warranty, as most junk hardware did back then. But just for the hell of it I cruised over to Hitachi's site and find that the serial number comes back as having a FIVE year warranty. Woohoo! Guess I'm getting another warranty replacement drive out of this :) In a way, too bad, because I am seriously dying to open this baby up and see for myself what actually happened inside. My theory is that the drive motor threw a bearing or something and it rammed the head or got lodged under it or something. The rattling inside is coming from two different sources. I'll probably never know either way now.

One other side note to all this, as if this wasn't long enough already, along with Windows Update breaking, more recently I'd been seeing a huge proliferation of those thumbs.db files that the system makes when a folder is marked to display as thumbnails. Usually fairly small and usually stay where they're told. Except in my case they were showing up all over the place in folders I never asked for them in and they were HUGE files, many MANY megabytes in size each. So I figure either way I was going to get stuck with a reinstall since this sort of thing is an indication XP is thrashed anyway. Keeping up with deleting them all was a pain, but the system was still usable. I was rather hoping to hold out for Windows 7 though.
"It is pointless to resist, my son." -- Darth Vader
"Resistance is futile." -- The Borg
"Mother's coming for me in the dragon ships. I don't like these itchy clothes, but I have to wear them or it frightens the fish." -- Thurindil

Well. I guess that's that then.

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Posted on Aug 6, 2009 3:55 pm by Samson in: | 7 comment(s) [Closed]
I think you may be beating me out for hard drive deaths now.

Amazingly, me too.. At least you'll be getting a brand new 1 terrabyte hard drive that you only paid a 400 gigabyte price for.. even if the prices have dropped enough in those three years that you might've paid less by waiting til now to get a 1 terabyte drive instead. ;)

Overall, sounds like it was a LONG day for you, condolences.

Heh. It's not exactly the kind of race one wants to be leading, really. I dislike having to do refresh formats as it is, but being forced by hardware that screams it's last cry before laying dead is that much less desirable.

Hmm. I don't like how Hitachi handles RMA. They expect me to send the drive to them first - unlike Western Digital who were at least kind enough to offer an option to have the replacement sent to me with proper packaging to put the dead ones in. Too bad I don't have anything Hitachi is going to consider "proper" packaging without having to go pay someone to get it.

Just grab W7 RC1. It updates to RTM anyway.

Sounds like a pretty good endorsement for WD to me.

RC1 has an expiration timer that doesn't go away just because it updates to RTM.

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