Weird lockup

My Dell 8100 has just started behaving weirdly. Quite frequently it freezes for a long time, clocking, and strange sounds coming from inside. The sound is very similar to a floppy drive when retrying. However, there is no floppy inserted, and the sound is coming more from where the hard drive is located.

This behavior happens even if the machine is just sitting idle. That is, the noise starts up for a while.

After a while, the sound stops and the system functions normally.

The system was recently reburned with XP Home, and I do not believe there are any viruses, spyware, or malware, as I am very careful about such, with a NAT router, firewall, Anti-virus and anti-spyware. There are no new or unknown processes in the Task Manager.

Oh, yeah, SP2 was applied a couple of weeks ago.

Although this questions is probably more appropriate in some other section, I am putting it in the Hardware section because of the noise.

I am thinking Gibson Research's SpinRite might be a good investment.

Any ideas?

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philby11Connect With a Mentor Commented:
Hi there,
backup , backup , backup.
If this clunking is coming from the HDD then it is only a matter of time before the drive will fail.
What make of HDD is it? cause there are tools provided for free by most of the major manufacturers that will test & verify your drive.
ie powermax for maxtor HDD's
seatools for seagate

jasimon9Author Commented:
I just found Q_21089125.html which sheds lots of light. But still would like input on my questions.
jasimon9Author Commented:
More info based on gleanings from Q_21089125.html:

1. The machine has not had relevenat hardware changes since purchased 3 years ago (only a DVD burner added). Other than that it is an "off-the-assembly-line" Dell.

2. The machine has not been moved around.

These issues are pointed out as possible contributing factors in that Q.

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ITcrowConnect With a Mentor Commented:
It's the access head trying to recalibrate itself. This could happen in an over-used HDD or malfunctioning hardware.

If the sound becomes regular, then safest is to back your critical data up and follow-up with your vendor for any warranty replacements.

You could still use this HDD for temp data. Use of defrag will help a bit.
HDD can last in this stage from few days to few months, somtimes even
for the entire year.
kpaskeConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Repeat... BACKUP.  NOW.

If you've got anything valuable on that drive you want to keep, your first priority should be to back it up.

I have had the same thing happen to me.  The hard drive will start to click and everything on the computer locks up.  After a while, the computer frees up, the clicking stops, and everything is back to normal.  This also happened shortly after wiping my drive and reinstalling WinXP.  The end result?  The drive died on me very soon after and wouldn't even format.

I would run one of the manufacturer's diagnostic tools like philby11 suggested, but I agree with him:  your drive is likely to fail very soon if it is what I suspect it is.

I don't know about SpinRite, but I can offer you this:  buy quality hardware with a decent warranty period.  I've noticed a trend over the last 5 years or so.  More and more hardware is dead on arrival or breaks very prematurely.  I've heard Maxtor's are notoriously faulty.  I personally only buy Western Digital or Seagate.  Seagate offers a 5 year warranty, even on OEM drives.

jasimon9Author Commented:
I have never seem the unanimity expressed by so many (including the many posts in Q_21089125.html) -- the hard drive is failing.

Even though this machine is primarily a gaming machine now, it is always backed up except for the installed games. I am backing them up now as well. So I am not _too_ worried there.

I started some of the Seagate disktools. One of the tests did not complete, with a test failed "because of a reset by the host" message. So I am planning on running more tests after the backup completes.

Can't tell the hard drive model without opening up the case apparently, as Device Manager did not have anything useful.

More to come.
Device Manager should give a Name for the manufacturer but the system has a built in test for the hdd.. Upgrade tot he newest bios and press "ctrl" d when the DELL screen is up it should boot into a test.  Also you can go to the Dell web site and download diag software from them.  But by the sould of the drive it failing.... Also if the noise is intermittant check the fan on the Processor if it is stopping it will give you a hard freeze and can make lots of Noise.
I'll assume this is a hard drive failure problem.   SO, others get the points.

But, I'll toss in another way that noises and lockups can occur:   DUST.

AFter long enough of a time, dust will accumulate on the fans of the CPU cooler and grapics card cooler (if appropriate), and weigh down the fan enough so that there's now NOISE coming out- because the fan is unbalanced.    And, because the fan is running slower (and less efficiently), the components (CPU, or graphics card) get overheated--   then lockups or other problems occur.

SO.....        when you open the case next, vacuum it out- CHECK THE FANS.
jasimon9Author Commented:
I  bought 2 - 80GB Seagate drives from Best Buy on sale for $30 each (after mail-in rebates) and replaced the failing unit. At this price, can't afford the messing around like we used to do in the past.

Points raised and split between the first three responders, each of whom added insight.

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