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My C drive suddenly reports "primary master hard disk fail"

Posted on 2005-03-30
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Last Modified: 2010-08-05
I think my hdd has crashed which has never happened to me before.  I am running Win 98Se on Pentium MMX 200 MMX.  I have never had any problems but suddenly I receive the message "Primary master hard disk fail" during normal boot up.  Computer picks up memory and secondary master and slave drives(CD ROMS) but fails at C prompt as described.  I have checked BIOS and everything seems normal.  When I boot using my Win 98SE boot disk the C drive is not available.  I should say I have received this message 2 or 3 times over the past week but on rebooting everything was as normal.  Now it seems my hard drive has failed. Do you think I have come to the right conclusion and is there any way I can recover any of my data? All suggestions gratefullly received.
Matthew
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Question by:medcomputers
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by:Callandor
ID: 13665994
Yes, hard drives do fail and once they start, you should replace the drive.  If you can detect the drive in the BIOS, hook it up as a slave and try GetDataBack (www.runtime.org).  If that is unsuccessful and the data is important, you can contact www.ontrack.com for data recovery, but it will cost you a lot.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 13666000
I would say yes.  IF BIOS says the drive is there, but it's failed, most likely, it's failed.  One thing you could try is pulling the drive from the system and connecting it to another system as a slave drive. But if it fails there too, it's failed.  (Look at it this way - you got what, 8 years out of it... that's a LONG time for a computer.
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by:J-A-L
ID: 13666064
Yup... ditto to all the above.
What I do... I generally replace my hard drive every year or 2 just to make sure it's not getting too aged on me... plus I generally get something a tad larger each time.  Also, may be an idea to have a USB external Hard Drive that you can backup to... making images of your system is important if you love your data :-)

If you have a boot floppy... see if you can mount the C: drive.  It's likely to be dead but, just in case, check it out.

Jeff
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Expert Comment

by:P1zz4
ID: 13666288
There are several possible solutions to this problem:

1. Try to set the primary master to "Auto".
2. If there is a "delay" in the BIOS for the hdds, turn it on. Maybe your hdd  is too old and the system cant recognize it in the time it has.
3. Replace the data cable.
4. Replace the IDE controller. If its on-board go buy another one, or connect the hdd to another pc to check for that.
5. If you have another hdd same as yours, change the circuit with the one from the other disk.

If all of the above fail there are possible solutions for data recovery:

1. Move the faulty disk to secondary position, and install a new one for master. Install windows on the master. Run a detect and repair tool like norton utilities or anything that can read raw data on hdds.
2. Install linux :)
3. Go to a data-recovery company.
4. Connect your hdd to the garbage IDE :)))

Just kidding :) If anything else fails, you can always trush it.

P1zz4
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by:Watzman
ID: 13666829
Well, first, it could be the motherboard or cable, although I do think it's the hard drive.  It could also be a power problem, I've had disk drive power connectors fail (they arc and overheat and eventually fail completely).  Try the drive in another computer as a 2nd disk drive before giving up.

Now, however, you said "I have received this message 2 or 3 times over the past week but on rebooting everything was as normal."

First, you missed your warning -- and a number of chances -- to backup your failing drive.

Second, if you are very lucky, that may happen again, and if the drive happens to work again, in that computer, in another computer, in any computer under any circumstances -- you need to use any such opportunity that presents itself to try to backup as much of the drive as you can.
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by:dheiert
ID: 13667609
One other suggestion that might give you one more chance..

Change the temperature of the system and try cold booting again.

If you have been leaving it on, turn it off and let it cool down...  Then try it..

If you normally leave it off, turn it on and leave it on for a while..  Even boot off a floppy and
leave it running.  Let it warm up for a while and try cycling power..  You may get one more chance
to get the stuff off of it..  IF it does come on, DO NOT TURN IT OFF!!!

Do whatever you have to do to backup what you want IMMEDIATELY!!!

Then get a new drive and pitch that one in the scrap heap...
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by:Watzman
ID: 13668122

Actually, the temperature comment is very relevant, but one thing that quite a few people have done with occasional success -- put the drive in a freezer, get it COLD, and try it.  This is a drastic move, it can ruin the drive, but I know of quite a few cases where it has worked, even though no one is sure why.  By no means does it always or even usually work -- it's just something to try as a last resort.

Ok, some other thoughts .....

Is the drive under warranty?  Warranties on disk drives can be up to 3 years, although many are one year.  The warranty is very relevant in terms of getting the drive replaced, but of course it's totally irrelevant in terms of your data.

And another thought, is the drive "spinning up" (are the platters turning)?  If they are not, and that's the problem, there's a move that sometimes works to get them going, it's a physical move, you hold the drive in your hand, horizontal (parallel to the floor) and you give it a sudden, sharp "snap" rotational motion centered around the axis of the platters, as fast and sharp as you can (you do this with the drive fully connected, both power and data, because if it starts, the goal is to recover the data realizing that once it stops, you may never be able to access that drive again).

Just some more thoughts.   Good luck.  And next time BACK UP YOUR DATA.
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by:sciwriter
ID: 13668240
<<Do you think I have come to the right conclusion and is there any way I can recover any of my data? >>

Yes, no and maybe.  Right conculsion that HDD is giving problems -- no doubt.  Right conclusion that it is just the hard disk.  Not necessarily.  Ppwer supply, motherboard, CD drive, many other factors can stop a HDD from working right.  

Can you recover data?  Only if you try.  Find another computer running 98SE to put this drive into -- NOT as the boot drive, but on the secondary controller.  Have another blank HDD ready to copy all the data off.  When the drive is dead cold, boot that system, see if it finds the drive, and persist until it does.  When it finds it, copy all data off as soon as you can to a new hard drive.  Out of about 5,000 drives we have done this with, fully 98% of them give 95% + of the data, as long as you do it right, and don't run the drive until it is gone.  The WORST thing to do is keep running it with worthless utilities like checkdisk.

The drive will only last so long in this condition.  Do it soon, just as described.
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by:ccchin
ID: 13669665
Try this...buy another IDE PCI card and install to your computer..and don't use the onboard IDE. Make sure your HDD is working.
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by:dheiert
ID: 13676654
Freezing the drive can also work and may not ruin it if there is no condensation...

Although, some drives have sensing equipment that will prevent power up below a certain temp...
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