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Hard drive testing guide

Hard drive testing guide


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.

SCSI or SATA

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.”

Confirm device

Step 4: Select Advanced Test

Here you may choose from quick or advance tests. Always pick the advanced test!

Select advanced

Step 5: Begin the Test

At this point, hit “Start” to begin the diagnostic process.

Begin test

Step 6: Allow the Diagnostics to Run

Here, DFT will go about its business and analyze the integrity of the drive and its interface

Analyzing media

Step 7: View the Results

At this screen, DFT will report the results of the diagnostic.

Results

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 0×70 or 0×72 cited. In both cases, your hard drive has a physical malfunction and must be replaced.

On the upside, drives that fail with 0×70 and 0×72 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.


Comments

  1. Michael George
    Michael George Hi, I downloaded the file and extract it and burnt it to CD. However, I didn't get the same display as the one you posted. It showed me A:// in RS DOS.
    My laptop is Toshiba 2410. Does this software work with any type of drive ?? Thank you.
  2. Thrax
    Thrax It's supposed to work with any type of drive, but some motherboards throw DFT through a loop. As an alternative, you can try running Seagate's SeaTools for DOS utility that also burns to and boots from a CD. Perform a full/extended scan from the program's menu.
  3. Rochelle Lopyan
    Rochelle Lopyan DFT doesn't see my Hitachi SATA hard drives (2 drives in RAID1), in Toshiba Qosmio laptop. BIOS reports correct hard drives (200GB) but reports capacity incorrectly as 60GB (due to a hidden Toshiba partition that reports the size of the original hard drives, even though an Acronis backup was restored to the larger 200GB drive).

    Is it the controller the Toshiba laptop uses that is making the hard drives invisible to hard drive diagnostics? Do I need to remove the hard drives from the laptop and connect them to another computer via SATA->USB adapter in order to test them?
  4. Thrax
    Thrax It is very possible that the drive controller is causing the issue. :) You're absolutely right. Before trying a USB adapter, give Seagate's Seatools for DOS application a try. It performs the same function as DFT, but it can be friendlier to RAID and newer controllers.
  5. vinay
    vinay the DFT wrks fine till license and den gets struck at detecting IDE primary master..help me
  6. alipies
    alipies Hi Vinay

    I found that if I'm using a SATA drive, if I don't have a PATA device connected. it drive fitness locks up or freaks at some point. Once I connect the PATA, everything is fine
  7. Adrian
    Adrian Hi, My computer is windows XP, When It's supposed to start booting up. It wont. It says windows XP, Shows the flag and the blue bars don't even cross the barrel. It just restarts like that. I tried this. Didn't gimme any error. What could it be?

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