Possible for certain software to increase chance for hard drive failure?

Posted on 2005-04-08
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-04-26
We've had a high number of hard drive failures occur within the past 6 months. The systems are IBM manufactured with two Maxtor 160GB Serial ATA hard drives installed. I estimate the failure rate at about 30%. The failures have always occurred on the primary drive (master).

I'm trying to consider if we are doing anything on our part which is contributing to the harddrive failure rate. One of the things I'm wondering about is the software installation method we use.

We use a custom restore CD which does a bit by bit write to the hard drives. I'm unsure of the specifics as it was done by a third party we contracted. Is it possible for a software program to increase the chance of hard drive failing by doing something "unsafe" in the program?
Question by:patKC
LVL 15

Expert Comment

by:Juan Ocasio
ID: 13741742
When you say drive failure what do you mean?  Are you getting a blue screen?  Is your drive not responding?  Dependinfg on what's happening, it may not be the HD.


Expert Comment

ID: 13741946
Do you know for a fact its a hardware failure? It may be that the custom software is causing some corruption, but I seriously doubt it causing hardware level damage. Have you tried booting with one of the suspect disks as a secondary drive in another machine and inspecting the partitions?

Author Comment

ID: 13741985
Yes I've confirmed the hard drive failures by running Maxtor diagnostics (Powermax utility) on the disks. I received error codes and RMA'ed the drives to Maxtor.
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Expert Comment

ID: 13742012
I'd be a lot more inclined to be worried  about heat-related  problems as a cause of failure. .   ..and I imagine you've done research to check if the particular models of hard drives you purchased  had abnormally high  failure rates?

Expert Comment

ID: 13742047
I would look more to the controller, (ondrive or SCSI/Raid, w/e.) than the software. Sure software can cause excessive writes, but in Windows, most those calls are passed to the HAL.

Nail down heat concerns. I'd also upgrade the firmware on the SATA controller (motherboard if on there). I bet money that's where the problem lies. Especially if it's an HP. =)
LVL 14

Accepted Solution

mysticaldan earned 200 total points
ID: 13743082
Check that the cables are fine. If those are original cables with the systems there is a chance the lot had problesm. Ditto for the motherboards that those systems have. There has to be something common with the 30% systems ur referring too. Check what is common.

Also once u get the hard disk the restore CD you mention shud not have a problem as the MTBF [M<ean Time Between Failure] for hard disks is quite a bit and into many thousands of hours so it shud not be a problem.

My suggestion wud be to either try and change hard disk manufacturer and then see. Chances that the onboard Primary IDE channel is bad wud be low if the 2nd hard disk is set as a Primary slave. Also i see no reason u can expend ur MTBF hours by copying data. It wud be something similar to the fact that u have been using the hard disk non stop for 6 months and even then it wud be a little less than the failure times.

Howevere chances are that in case of a hardware RAID there can be a manufacturer/RAID controller mismatch leading to this situation. Make sure that the BIOS'es of ur systems are updated and try to change the hard disk manufacturer. Try Western Digital or Seagate.

LVL 30

Expert Comment

ID: 13744043
Sounds like you got a bad run of drives .
Nothing unusual for the disk drive industry.
Won't be the first time,won't be the last.

Expert Comment

ID: 13745263
I know of several viruses (current mind you) that will exploit design flaws in maxtor hard drives and cause them to fail. basically anything over 100gb is suciptial. as i understand it, when accessing the hard drive with the CHS type of deal and with a specific sequence  of read and rights based on the CHS this can cause an overflow into other memory bits maxtor uses.

also the viruses i mentioned were lab viruses so you should not worry about catching them.

this is second hand knowlage: Maxtor hard drives are typically have a higher failure rate than other brands of hard drives. Western Digital has the lowest failure rate.


Author Comment

ID: 13758327
Thanks for all the responses. From my informal finger temperature tests, the Maxtor drives do feel hot to the touch so I'd wager that is the culprit here. The design of the case does not afford for direct air flow from any case fans eithers. We are currently looking into switching to Western Digital or Seagate drives.

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