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Windows 2000 Pro SP4 can not send or receive email with Outlook Express or Eudora after bad spot on HDD fixed.  System Browses fine.

Posted on 2004-09-11
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Last Modified: 2010-04-14
HISTORY:On a Windows 2000 Pro computer (not on a network), the system had a bad spot on the HDD that was fixed when chkdsk marked it as bad.
The user had been logging on using Administrator on this stand alone system.  The system had copied all of the older administrator settings to a user administrator.bak and created a fresh administrator user and folders.
To re-establish the old desktop and profile, I created a new user PAM and copied all of the folders and files from the C:\Documents and Settings\administrator.bak\ to c:\Documents and Settings\PAM.  This seemed to work with every program. I recreated the Internet link with the Internet wizard, and can browse with no problem.  One application complained about "C:\Windows\System32\Autoexec.nt The system file is not suitable for running MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows applications." I found autoexec.nt was missing from c:\winnt\system32, and I copied one from \winnt\repair, and this problem was resolved.
CURRENT PROBLEM:
I can browse the internet with IE, no problem (DSL connection via ethernet to external DSL modem).
I can not receive or send any email using Outlook Express or Eudora.  I am testing separate mailboxes on different mail servers at mail.mindspring.com and at smtp.usc.edu.
After working with earthlink tech support, I believe the problem is not the setup, but an OS problem.
Is there a way to fix this without reinstalling the OS?
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Question by:PAR1033
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by:Adam Leinss
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Are you serious?  The hard drive has bad sectors and you didn't replace the hard drive with a new one?  Eek!

If you want to do this right, then yes, you need to reinstall the OS AND replace the harddrive.  Connect to the network, make an image just for CYA sake and do it all over again.

Just curious, why is this machine not on the network?
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by:kidnme
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Yes I agree, replace the hard drive.

I see the issue as this. Possible a profile issue, possible your email software. Worst case some system files would be corrupt.

To narrow it down lets rule out the user profile issue. Create a new user and dont copy any files from any other profile. (Use this account for all the following tests.)

Log in with the new user account and set up your email profile from scratch, don't import any email settings. Try to send and recieve from a known good account.

Next, to test the email software, if you are using office 2k or above click help then look for repair. Repair, reboot and try to send and recieve again.

Finally, restore original system files then reinstall SP4. (this may be the cure, most times this will work for strange issues such as this.)
At a DOS prompt type SFC /NOW and press enter. You will need your system install disk. Next download and reinstall Service Pack 4. ( I think SFC overwrittes the updates so just in case be sure and do this last)

If none of these suggestions work and since your hard drive is bad you may as well reinstall the OS.

Good luck.

The Kid

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by:PAR1033
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Neither comment given was adequate.  
Comments: I was concerned with two responses that I should replace the hard drive, so I spoke to two hard drive manufacturers tech support.  They say that if there is a bad spot, that does not mean the drive should be replaced.  They recommend downloading the diagnostic program from their website and running that first.  The Maxtor tech said they prefer (but do not require) you to run this diagnostic program before requesting an RMA.  The report that the program generates with error codes helps them determine if the problem is routine or serious.  Drive manufacturers recognize that a certain percentage of a drives surface is bad when it leaves the factory.  Since there is some deterioration of the magnetic media over time, new bad spots can occur.  These can be mapped out, and then avoided.  The best tool for this is the one provided by the manufacturer for this purpose.  Western Digital once required their diagnostic run on all drives before getting an RMA for a return.
This is what I have understood and done for years.  First test the drive, then deceide.  Replacing the drive is safer, but it usually costs the customer more because of 1. purchasing a new drive. and 2. the enormous amount of time it takes to remove the old data, format and reload/setup/configure the new hard drive.
THE SOLUTION:  The problem turned out to be with the Norton Internet Security Professional that was loaded on the system.  I had disabled it, but the email did not go thru.  I used ping to confirm a connection with the mail.mindspring.com mail server, and then connected to it using at the command prompt using Telnet.  I then removed the Norton Internet Security and the email started working properly.  I reinstalled the Norton Internet Security Pro, and it still worked. I was done.

When I ran the CHKDSK /f to fix the hard drive bad spot problem, it gave a sector or block number of 33238 that it marked as bad.  I could see this was past the area the OS would be stored in, and so I felt the OS was probably not at risk.  So I did not reload the OS.  It would be safer to replace the drive and reload and setup everything, but the cost to the customer since they are paying, is to be considered.  Also, when you wipe a drive, or replace it, there is always a chance that some of the end users data will get lost.  They can not always tell you where it all is located.  This system is working normally now.  
Thanks for your suggestions.
- PAR1033
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by:Adam Leinss
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I agree that a refund is in order since the user fixed the problem himself.

However, I do not agree with his statement that the hard drive should not be replaced.  There is a "fudge factor" calling sector sparring that are used to decommission bad sectors (see http://www.cdrinfo.com/Sections/FAQ/SingleQuestion.aspx?QuestionId=1346).  When you start seeing bad clusters with chkdsk, it's time to replace the drive.  The customer may not like the cost of doing so or your explanation, but it is the right choice.

I will go further and say that hard drive diagnostic programs are pretty useless.  I had a IBM Deskstar that after a month went bad.  When I ran IBM's diagnostic program, it stated the problem was due to "Excessive shock".  Note that I never moved the hard drive.  An additional run of the program came back with a completely different result.

Also, for future reference, you may want to describe the environment from which this PC came from more clearly.  I was assuming from your description that this was a business PC in a business environment that was not on a network and not a consumer PC.
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by:kidnme
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Any hard drive with a bad spot is a bad risk, especially if this is for one of your customers. You put them at risk of totally losing their data. The cost is worth it to replace. Furthermore recent models of Maxtors drives have high failure rates, dell has stopped using them even.

I work with thousands of PC's daily and see hard drives fail, bad sectors ect. A bad sector is an indication of a bad disk. Replace it.

As aleinss has stated more information was needed. This is why this is a great place to solve issues. But an ongoing discussion needs to occur with feedback being the key to problem resolution.
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