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how long till the internal HDD crashes ? :-(

634 Views 7 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  raptor_pa
Hi all,

This is my first post in this forum. My Toshiba A 200 is in potentially serious trouble and hence I would really appreciate if someone could shed light on my query. :-(

I have used this laptop for nearly 3 years now. Though used reasonable heavily, its been well kept. I haven't saved or deleted too much data on the internal HDD.

Now I use Ubuntu Linux as a dual boot option with XP. I have been keeping an eye out for the results given by "Palimpsest", a disk checking utility with Ubuntu. I have observed that there seem to be several bad sectors on the HDD. Although the figure was constant for many months, it changed last month as indicated by the reallocated sector count. I gather such statistics indicate that the HDD is near its end.

I am quite worried as to the health of the HDD. I would appreciate if someone could guide me as to how I can find out about the life expectancy of HDD.
Moreover, are there any free softwares or tests which can reliably tell me
more about the same ?

Thanks !
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There is no way to predict with accuracy when a drive will fail. That's why you always make sure you have your important data backed up.

Run the drive manufacturers disk diagnostic software and see what that reports. It's the most trustworthy.

There was a bug that was just fixed a few weeks ago. Make sure you are running the latest version of Palimpsest
check S.M.A.R.T is enabled in the bios this usually gives advanced warnings of possible problems
Increasing bad sectors is a sign of impending failure 10 minutes, 10 months, 2 years - hard to tell how long....
hey thanks all for the quick replies !

two questions -

1- is there any way to prevent or delay the death of the HDD ? say by minimizing some particular kind of usage ...

2- what is the best way to backup all my current data ? i am currently using the software of my Western Digital ext HDD to backup .doc and other such files.
i hope getting my data back after a crash will simply involve unpacking the contents of this ext HDD on to any computer ?

The software provided with a lot of the extrernals is not well suited for disaster recovery. Quickest simplest way is just to copy the folders/files you want to keep to the external. There have been issues with some of the HDD supplied software being tied to a user account, on a new install, even with the same username and password, at the level the computer works, they are always different. Also, a lot of what they provide is synch software, different from backup software. You could also use Windows backup which is already included with windows.
As far as preventing death, nope, it is always spinning, and seeking. Without extended diagnostics it is kind of hard to tell what is causing the bad sectors. Bad sectors are kind of generic and more a symptom than the actual problem. Kind of like having a fever, the fever is the symptom, but the same symptom can be presented by lots of different issues.
Thanks raptor_pa for such a lucid reply !
What you say about the problems with HDD software rings a bell. I have noticed with DVD's that not all the data is shown once the DVD is run on operating systems other than the OS on which it was first burnt . It seems that one needs to finalise or “lock” the DVD while burning it in a particular OS.
I once burnt a data CD on XP, then formatted my system, and now it doesn't allow me to access any data other than the one burnt in the last session of the multi-session disk. Perhaps what you say about HDD software being tied to a particular OS is similar to this DVD problem ?
I do get your point about backing up the simple and old way minus all the sophistication of software :) so, will make sure I have regular backups by copy-pasting .doc and .pdf files on to the ext HDD as well as a USB pen drive.
And I don't believe how I could have missed out on windows own backup software. Thanks for the tip !
Your fever analogy is spot on – I now have a better sense of what is happening with the HDD. You mention some advanced software. So how and where do I go around getting these ?
As as aside, I used to regularly take out the battery and run the laptop on AC power. As luck would have it, over a period of 3 years now there have been around 30- 40 occasions when the electricity got cut. You think this could have something to do with the bad sectors ?
Thanks again!
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Power bumps can definitely have an influence on bad sectors, but there are a ton of other issues. Most drives leave the factory with some bad sectors, these are marked in an area of the drives firmware called the p-list and remapped to spare sectors internally by the drive. As the drive runs other sectors will become bad. These are not counted ion the SMART Reallocation event count since they were factory defects. As the drive continues to operate other sectors usually begin to have issues being written to. When you write data to a sector, the drive calculates a numeric value for the data called the ECC ( error correction code). The just written sector is now read back, and the drive makes sure the ECC code agrees, if not the write is considered failed. The drive will retrry its base number of times, and then mark the sector as bad in it's g-list and remap it. The ECC ccde is also saved with the data so it can be validated any time it is read. This remapping happens only on write operations, if a read error occurs the sector isn't remapped.
The advanced diagnostics require a hardware software combination - that is pretty much designed for the recovery industry based on the costs - $3000 - $15000 depending which one you get. The reverse engineering that goes into learning how to talk to the drives, and how hey work is very costly. The drive manufacturer's don't release any details since it is a very competetive market, so to understand the drive it takes a lot of research tearing drives apart. Even with the tools, the solution is not push button, it still requires a tremendous amount of understanding the internals of a drive and being able to interpret the results.
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