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FAT32 partition keeps going blank.

Posted on 2006-06-12
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Last Modified: 2010-04-03
One of my clients has a DVR computer that is connected to a few security cameras.  They have not had a problem since the computer was set up by another company (now out of business), a few years ago.  Recently, they contracted us out to install additional cameras, upgrade their hard disk, and add a second video card to put some of the cameras on another screen that was out of customer view.

The installation went well.  Too well.  The cameras work great, the second video out works great.  Unfortunatly, the hard disk doesn't work great.

After the initial installation, the computer worked fine for just under a week, when the system locked up, then failed to boot.  Upon inspection, I found the (only) partition on the disk was completely blank.  Normally, I would assume that sombody had screwed with it or given it a virus, except for the facts that:
A)  This computer does not have any form of connection to any other machine (no internet, not on the network)
B)  There is a security camera pointed straight at it
C)  It is behind a locked gate that only the management has a key to.  The system failed while the manager was away and the gate was locked.

We assumed that the hard disk was bad, and ordered a new one.  In the meantime we put their original drive back in and updated it for the new settings. It did not fail.  When the new drive came, we used Symanted ghost 2003 to clone the original drive to the new one.  It ran fine for a week, then again failed under the same conditions as the previous one.

Upon examination, I determined that the partion table had become corrupted.  I ran partition logic on the drive,and as soon as I ran it it notified me that the end cluster for the partition was set incorrectly, and it very helpfully corrected it for me.  However, the partition is still blank, and the machine still does not boot.

What is going on here and how do I fix it?

The gory details:

The computer runs windows 98 SE.  Not my personal choice, but not something we can't change
The original hard disk was a Seagate 80GB EIDE drive.  The new drives have both been Westen Digital 250 GB EIDE drives.  
The partion is FAT32
Data transfer was done with GHOST 2003
It is an Intel board.  I'm not entirely sure exactly which model, but it's a 478, and by the looks of the machine, it's an early 478.
The DVR software is Geovision GV-800 software with the matching 8 port PCI card.
It has a Jaton nVidia Geforce 5700 VGA+DVI Pci card
I'm not sure about the exact amount of RAM.

Any help on this would be appreciated.  We already have more money in this than we have gotten out of it, and would prefer not to have to eat the cost on another part, and the customer doesn't want to purchase anything that wasn't on the original quote (lots of paperwork and a few weeks back and forth from the corporate office in God-only-knows-where, California)

Thanks,

Adam

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Question by:dapsychous
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garycase earned 325 total points
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From the age of the system I have to question whether the BIOS has 48-bit logical block addressing support (probably not).   Put a 120GB drive in and see if the issues goes away => I think you simply have a drive that's incompatible with the IDE controller, and when it "hits" the 28-bit LBA limit something's getting messed up.    ... just to confirm this:  (a)  What does the BIOS show for the size of the drive?  and (b)  What does Windows show for the "Properties" of the drive in My Computer ?

Another possibility:  Did you set the drive to "Single" mode?   Western Digital drives have different jumper settings for "Single"  (the only drive) and "Master".  Here's the jumper setting guide for WD drives:
http://www.westerndigital.com/en/library/eide/2579-001037.pdf
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by:garycase
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... Note:  I can't follow-up on this as I'll be travelling for a couple of weeks with little (if any) computer access.   If I get a chance I'll check in tomorrow evening and see if you have any further questions ==>  but I'm fairly sure this is either a mis-jumpered drive, or a 48-bit LBA issue.
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by:dbrunton
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Its running for a week both times and then crashes.

Could it be full and overflowing back to beginning of disk?  Or are the data files getting too big to handle.  FAT32 maximum file size is 4 Gb.

You could check the system two or three days into the week and check file sizes and disk space being used.

Just wild musings.
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by:garycase
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dbrunton -- The Geovision software works fine with FAT-32 files ==> wraps around nicely.  I've helped a few folks that use it for their business surveillance systems.
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by:garycase
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dapsychous -- last comment before I'm shutting down (and then traveling tomorrow) ==> if the BIOS shows the full size of the drive (i.e. if it's 48-bit LBA compliant) then you can simply make a 120GB partition (make it the 1st partition on the drive) and put Windows 98SE in that partition.   I should then work fine, since it won't be addressing anything beyond the 28-bit LBA limit.   But the safest thing to do if this is a drive addressing issue (as it sounds like) is to use a 120GB drive.
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by:rindi
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I'd also think this is a drive size problem, but if it isn't, alco check the powersupply. The new disk may be running at a higher wattage than the old ones used to, and that could cause crashes which in turn could cause your problems.
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by:dapsychous
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Well, the bios and windows both report the hard disk as the proper size.  This drive doesn't even come close to full in the week it runs.  

I'll order a 120 from my vendor and try it.  I'll let you guys know how it goes.
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by:dapsychous
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side note-- I looked up the ATA100 28 bit addressing scheme, and the syptoms described for an overflow seem like exactly what's going one here.  The page I looked at gave a solution.  I'm scheduled to go out there for another task tomorrow, I'll try the fix on that site then.  If it works, I'll award the points to garycase.

If not, then I'm still up you-know-which creek without the proverbial paddle.
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by:dapsychous
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Please excuse my typos, appearently I have a proofreading deficiency :)
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by:dapsychous
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Sorry it's taken so long to close the question, I just got the stuff set up yesterday, and it usually takes a week to fail.  I installed Application Accellerator (which has a 48 bit addressing workaround) and changed the chasis on the computer (no longer overheating, but that wasn't part of the question.)  If the computer lives through the weekend, I'll award points to garycase.
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