Dying hard drives often act quirky; many times you can’t immediately figure out that the hard drive is the reason for the PC’s symptoms. A dying hard drive can exhibit the same symptoms as bad memory or spyware, which is why it’s important to have the right tools to diagnose it.
Within an hour of using such a tool, you’ll know whether or not it’s time to back up your data. Nobody wants to lose all their personal information, so it’s critical that you add hard drive diagnostic tools to your arsenal of testing software and use it any time your computer is acting in a suspicious manner.
Common symptoms for failing hard drives:
- Right after Windows XP loading screen, PC will restart (repeatedly).
- You get an “UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_DEVICE” error when Windows XP attempts to load.
- Occasionally, your PC will fail to detect your hard drive as it boots.
- Load times of programs, including Windows itself, are extremely sluggish.
- A repetitive clicking or grinding noise coming from the hard disk.
It is important to figure out how your hard drive is failing so you can decide what to do next. If it’s grinding or clicking, your hard drive is having a serious mechanical failure.
A grinding noise indicates that the armature is hitting the platter, destroying information as it goes. If this is the case, read this article for insight on how to proceed. Your hard drive needs no diagnostics; it’s dying fast! A clicking noise indicates that the armature is stuck in its safe, idle position. If this is your situation, there’s nothing you can do to recover your information short of professional services. Again, the issue is apparent so you don’t need diagnostics. In either case, the hard drive should be replaced immediately.
If your PC is exhibiting any of the other symptoms outlined earlier, it’s a good candidate for Drive Fitness Test (DFT), by Hitachi. It’s a comprehensive hard drive diagnostic package that performs several excellent functions:
- Foremost, it scans each sector on your drive for errors.
- Polls the SMART features of your hard disk for evidence of errors or faults.
- Tests the drive’s interface for proper transfer of information.
- Tests for evidence of shock (drop damage) if applicable to the hard drive’s electronics
- And more!
Hitachi’s DFT can be downloaded from their website. Download their CD image (2,730 K), as it is easier to work with and archive for future use. Once you have downloaded the image and burned the image to CD with a program like Nero or Easy CD Creator, it’s time to reboot your PC with DFT in your primary CD/DVD drive and boot from CD. From here on out, you will be inside the DFT program.
DFT receives fairly regular updates; while the interface for the program may change slightly, DFT’s form and function will always be fairly similar to the version (4.09) used for the purpose of this guide. Do not be alarmed if the version you’re using looks slightly different!
Step 1: Select Hard Drive Type
Initially, you will be prompted to select what type of HD you’re testing. Either option works.
Step 2: Accept the EULA (after reading it!)
This is the license agreement for DFT; please read it carefully before agreeing to the terms.
Step 3: Confirm Devices
Make sure that the hard drive you want to test shows up in this list. If so, hit “Yes.”
Step 4: Select Advanced Test
Here you may choose from quick or advance tests. Always pick the advanced test!
Step 5: Begin the Test
At this point, hit “Start” to begin the diagnostic process.
Step 6: Allow the Diagnostics to Run
Here, DFT will go about its business and analyze the integrity of the drive and its interface
Step 7: View the Results
At this screen, DFT will report the results of the diagnostic.
From here, it’s a matter of understanding what resolution code was provided by the DFT application. Cruising to page 29 of the DFT manual (PDF) provides a full listing of potential codes that could have occurred. Most commonly, if your hard drive has an issue, you’ll see a red box with 0x70 or 0x72 cited. In both cases, your hard drive has a physical malfunction and must be replaced.
On the upside, drives that fail with 0x70 and 0x72 can often be backed up to another disk before they fail completely. Please check out Icrontic’s easy or advanced data recovery articles, as your situation requires.