Any HDD access attempt freezes machine (tricky one)

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Arcadion

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This is an obscure problem that I've come across before, but it was so long ago that I can't remember if/how I fixed it. I'm not even sure if it's software or hardware related. I would look it up on Google if I could think of the right keywords to use, so here goes.

I have a customer's HP Pavilion 523a here running XP Home, and it won't load Windows. More to the point, whenever any program (I've tried a DOS boot disk, XP install CD, Spinrite and Seatools) tries to read the hard disk it just freezes. I can't run any hard disk diagnostic tools over it because of this. I suspect that it's a corrupt FAT or MBR rather than a dead hard disk. If possible I would like to retrieve her photos off the drive before wiping it. I've tested the RAM with memtest86+ and it was ok.

Anyone have any clues on how I can get the data off this drive? If I can just repair whatever is corrupt (assuming that's the problem) I can handle reinstalling XP (if needed) myself.
 

JohnWill

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Why not take the HD out and install it into another machine for testing and data recovery? If it's a MB issue, you can still recover the data, then address the problem. I'd also stick another HD into the machine and see if it behaves the same way. That will narrow the problem down...
 
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G'day Arcadion I have seen a similar problem and it was a crook processor, it would freeze if you looked at it!!
Does it run Mtest86 off a different media with the hard drive disconnected?
The idea being to separate the two to ascertain if it were the drive.
If you have a first cylinder drive problem it should not cause freezing, I would have expected a "no operating system found" or whatever..
I have had a remarkabe win with a first cylinder H/drive fault using the HDD regenerator program,
http://store6.esellerate.net/store/ProductInfo.aspx?StoreIDC=STR793615240&SkuIDC=SKU9923428806&pc=
it most certainly is amazing, it actually does what the programmer says it will!! And it did not damage any files on the drive!
I have also had success with "simply Mepis" the live linux program, it is simple to transfer files from any MS windows drive to a flash-drive using "control drag and drop".
You just need to stop double-clicking!
I would be inclined to try the transfer in another machine if you have no joy.
Have you talked to it yet?? (LOL)
Cheers, qldit.
 

Arcadion

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I've managed to access the files on the drive by installing it as a slave in another XP machine, XP (on my workbench machine) checked the drive for errors automatically but didn't fix whatever was wrong with it. After moving it back to the customer's machine the freezing problem remains, I will see if I can get Seatools/Spinrite/etc. to work on it in my workbench machine.
 
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do you have another pc that can store everything thats on the hard drive until you can reformat it?




there many programs that can backup the entire hard drive as a image file or as a hidden partition in a hard drive.


i recomend backing up all files but windows.


it would be best to start frest with a new xp install.


when it gets fixed, install 2 copies of windows xp.

i'm sure you wont miss 2GB

make another partition that is 2GB in size, then install a second windows xp to it.

if you had a second copy installed, you would not have this problem because you will be able reinstall windows without losing files.

windows goes on drive C, all installed programs go on driv c. all other files (music, documents , hentai, yaoi, porn, movies, install files, bootlegs of programs, etc) go on drive D

this way both copies on windows xp will be able to access the files and if something bad happens, you can just reformat Drive C alone without bothering your files.
 

Arcadion

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I managed to get the important files off the drive (by installing it in one of my workbench machines), then ran chkdsk in Windows, it came up with an error saying it failed to complete, and the drive letter had vanished. I'm suspecting a faulty hard disk, now.

inuyasha320: Thanks for your input, but I have no intention of doing what you're suggesting.
 
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all installed programs go on driv c. all other files (music, documents , hentai, yaoi, porn, movies, install files, bootlegs of programs, etc) go on drive D
Aha, so that's where i should put it :D
 

Arcadion

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I don't know what's more disturbing, the fact that hentai and yaoi came up in my topic, or the fact that I know what they are... sukebe.
 
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G'day Arcadion, that certainly is a wierd problem.
I can't say I have experienced the exact symptom previously.
Usually you should be able to run the stand-alone programs like mtest or scandisk off a floppy, using their own system.
It would be interesting to see what the HDD regenerator program or spinright might show.
I really can't say the branded hard drive utilities that I have used were really much good.
I would be interested to see what you eventually determine as the actual problem.
Cheers, qldit.
 

Arcadion

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I've left it running a level 4 Spinrite at work overnight (will take something like 7 hours), it's found a lot of bad sectors which I expect are part of the problem. I had to install the drive in another machine first.
 
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G'day, velly intelesting, yes I think the HDD regen program would probably go for a couple of days on a really large drive with a scattering of problems. I am most certainly impressed with it, I believe spinrite is something similar except it can run from within windows. I read some of the info on it and was immediately "snowed" with all the settings etc. The hdd regen is simple DOS kind of stuff, more my intelectual level (LOL)
As a matter of interest considering hysteresis and retentivity, and the construction of these drives, what in you opinion actually happens when you run these programs??
Have you had any experience with how long the recovered drive clusters remain good or how long it is before problems again happen?
I am amazed that they work so well but that the drive manufacturers haven't locked onto the process, and still have those cruddy test programs on their sites.
Thanks for sharing the info, certainly interesting stuff.
Cheers, qldit.
 

Arcadion

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The author of Spinrite comes across as quite a snake-oil merchant, a bit too many different fonts, bold and exclamation marks for me. I use Spinrite to recover what data I can from bad sectors, then I use Ghost to transfer it all to a new hard disk. I would not continue to use a hard disk with bad sectors, regardless of whether Spinrite says it fixed them or not.

Update: Spinrite finished running on the drive, the problem of not booting (and the XP setup CD freezing before it even starts loading) remains, even after I ghosted it to a new drive (i.e. the new drive won't boot), I think the boot sector must be corrupt.
 
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G'day gentlemen, thoroughly interesting stuff!
I would love to run that HDD regen program on that drive, I am amazed at how well it works.
I had one drive here that was a real rogue, couldn't do anything with it, that HDD regen ran and picked the first cylinder with a problem then I used "smart Fdisk" which is another real gem of a Fdisk program, then re-ran the regen program and the drive was completely restored to normal. Of course this took a couple of days because I was re-formatting and running MS scandisk (dos) so that I could see the progress.
This was a forty gig seagate with many clusters crook, I have it mounted in a common use machine here and it has now operated for a week, problem free.
It certainly is an interesting area. The problem can surely only be related to surface molecular magnetic ability loss.
I have dismantled many of these problem drives and the platter surfaces have appeared absolutely pristine so was of the opinion that it can only likely be some magnetic retentivity loss and that there would surely be some process to rectify the problem..
Like when you have a floppy with bad sectors, if you reformat it repeatedly it generally does show improvement.
With regard to the spinrite author, yes!
Thanks for the info.
Cheers, qldit.
 
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