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Why does this hard drive keep spinning up?

Posted on 2007-10-19
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I have two 320GB Seagate drives in a PC running Vista.  They are each about 9 months old.  The model for each drive is Barracuda 7200.10 (ST3320620AS).  These are SATA drives.  I had a power out and since, once of the drives spins up about every couple of minutes.  I opened the case to make sure it was the drive...by holding both in hands.  One drive is constantly (quietly) humming along and warm.  The other is dead still and cooled a little.  Then it will wake up and go right back to be still.  It's a loud noise when it wakes (or what ever it is doing) and annoying.

I called Seagate and the guy there said the drives are constantly spinning.  Ok, this one makes a loud noise every few minutes while spinning.  Then he tells me there is no way to set a sleep state on the drive.  Basically, I don't have any control over what it's doing.  I don't know if this is the primary HD or slave.  Something the Seagate guy was interested in.  They are piggy backing on a SATA cable.  I did run the short test on both and they passed.  I haven't experienced any problems at all with them.  While I'm using the computer, I don't he the noise.  While the computer is on the BIOS screen, no noise there either.

Any ideas on why this drive keeps making the noise approximately every couple of minutes?
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Question by:brettr
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by:garycase
ID: 20113848
First a bit of advice:  a PC should NEVER have a power outage.   Unplanned power outages are probably the #1 cause of hardware failures.    Buy yourself a nice UPS --> get one with AVR (automatic voltage regulation).   I like Belkin and APC ... Belkin makes several very nice models < $100 with AVR;  APC's low-cost units do not have AVR ... but their higher-end models are excellent.

As for your issue ... what do you mean "piggy backing on a SATA cable" ??   SATA drives are one-drive, one-port, with a single cable for each drive.

It's interesting that they both passed your "short test" --> what test was that?   (the Seagate diagnostics??)

As for whether it's the primary or secondary drive ... with power OFF simply unplug the SATA cable from the troublesome drive.   Then turn the system on and see if it boots ==> you'll now know if it's the primary drive or not :-)   Now turn the system OFF and reconnect the drive.

The fact there's no noise from the drive at the BIOS screen ... or while you're actively using the computer ... indicates the drive may be cycling frequently when the system is idle.   What is the setting in your Power Options for "Turn off hard disks" ??
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by:brettr
ID: 20113940
I have an APC BE350R with Output Voltage Regulation.  I think OVR is different from what you are talking about.  I'm going to put the computer in question on the APC.  I'm using it for another device now.  I'll probably get a better APC unit.  I didn't want to order it.   Units available locally are very limited.

You are right about the SATA cables.  I was looking at the power cables.  "Turn off hard disks" is not enabled.  I also hear this noise when the computer first turns on.  The test is the SeaTools for Windows.
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by:garycase
ID: 20114093
The BE350R does not have any form of AVR ... it's one of the low-cost APC models I referred to.    But it's still better than nothing :-)

... this is about the lowest cost unit I'm aware of that has AVR:  http://www.buy.com/prod/belkin-ups-battery-backup-with-surge-protection-550va/q/loc/101/10372172.html

... Belkin makes several other units with higher output capacities that are still under $100.

Have you tried using the drive on a different SATA port?   The problem may be an issue with the SATA controller and not the drive.   It may be causing the drive to cycle on/off ... and the noise you hear may be the spindle motor ramping up (does it only last a few seconds?).


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by:nobus
nobus earned 300 total points
ID: 20114154
i suggest hooking the drive to another power cable, it may have bad contacts, causing the spinup/down
ot do you mean the noise when Vista is indexing? that is quite easy to be heard, and takes some minutes.
But you can turn off indexing  to test
add/remove programs>windows components>enable/disable Windows components
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by:brettr
ID: 20115173
"the spindle motor ramping up (does it only last a few seconds?)."

Yes - that describes well.  

"do you mean the noise when Vista is indexing?"

No - that's a crunching type noise, which is normal.  It doesn't make this ramping up noise when the machine is in use.  Or at least when I'm using it.

I'm going to try both your suggestion one at a time and post the results.
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by:brettr
ID: 20115201
I only have two power outputs for the SATA drives.  I did switch the ports for one of the drives though.

@graycase
What do you think of this APC model (BX1500LCD) http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?skuId=8022935&productCategoryId=abcat0515043&type=product&tab=7&id=1157067061643#productdetail .  I plan to have two 22" monitors, one computer with two HDs, DSL modem and as as needed a laser printer.  I'd like the LCD read.
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by:nobus
ID: 20115315
oke- watching the outcome
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by:brettr
ID: 20115670
So far so good using the other SATA port.
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by:garycase
ID: 20115671
The BX1500LCD is a very nice UPS unit and does include AVR.
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by:brettr
ID: 20115759
I'm thinking to keep the current APC model I have for the DSL modem.  It is across the room from the PC so needs it's own unit.  I don't like the constant beeping that unit gives off on battery power however.  I'm not sure if APC offers any units that you can turn off the beeping.
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by:garycase
ID: 20115797
This is also an excellent model ... I've got two of them:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16842101225
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by:garycase
ID: 20115805
... actually, I'll have 3 next week !!   I just found this (and ordered one):  http://www.buy.com/prod/Belkin_1500_VA_Dual_Form_Factor_Small_Enterprise_UPS_F6C1500_TW_RK/q/loc/101/10391960.html

... so you can get that model for $115 !!   [Note if you haven't used buy.com before:  they're a good source; but when they advertise "free shipping" you have to be careful ... on the checkout page it defaults to "standard" shipping, which is not free;  you just have to check the "economy shipping" box and the shipping charge goes away :-) ]
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by:garycase
ID: 20115808
Still working okay with the other SATA port??
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by:brettr
ID: 20115843
I think I'll stay with the LCD model since it seems to be very similar to the one you mentioned.  Also, Fry's has them for $119 after rebate.  I like buying local when I can because shipping can become a hassle on bigger items.

Yes - SATA port is still working fine.  I'm going to let it go until tomorrow and close out this question.  Could the power out have damaged the other SATA port?  
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by:garycase
ID: 20115872
The APC LCD model is very nice --> and $119 is a GREAT price :-)

I think it's very likely the power outage caused one of your SATA ports to fail.   Just be glad it didn't take out the whole controller --> that would mean a new motherboard !!

As I noted in my first post, power outages are a major cause of hardware issues;  and are SO easy to prevent by just using a UPS with automatic shutdown software.
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by:brettr
ID: 20116815
Bad news.  The hard drive is still making that noise.   I added a new video card but I don't think that makes any difference.
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by:garycase
ID: 20116985
Well ... that's actually good news :-)   It means your SATA controller did not, in fact, get damaged.

What make/model of video card?   ... and what size is the PC's power supply?
It IS possible if you added a high-end video card and don't have enough power that this issue is power-related.   The best way to isolate this would be to try both a different drive and a different power supply (preferably one with a higher wattage rating then you have now).
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by:brettr
ID: 20117025
Looking at it that way, you're right about it being good news.

It's a 450w PS.  Only two HDs and CD player in it.  I have a meter that reads wattage in real time.  It's only at 80 watts, with the video card.  The card is a EVGA e-GeForce 8600 GT (nvidia chipset).  I don't have another drive or power supply to try.
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by:garycase
ID: 20117069
The GeForce 8600 does use additional power, but not enough that it should be causing a power issue with a 450w supply => UNLESS you're overloading a 12v power bus.   Be sure the additional power connection to the video card is not on the same power bus as the power for the drives.   I would assume a power supply of that rating has 2 12v buses (look on the sticker on the PSU to confirm this).

Another test that may help at least confirm whether or not this is an issue with the drive's PCB or something in Windows that's causing the excessive spinup/down cycles:   Boot to another OS ==> perhaps a CD-based Linux like Knoppix, or a Bart's PE version of Windows.   Let the system sit idle for awhile (the longer the better) and see if you still have the issue.

... the Knoppix download is here:  http://www.knoppix.org/
... or you can create a Bart's PE by following the instructions here:  http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/


By the way, did you ever determine if the drive in question here is the primary or secondary drive?
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by:brettr
ID: 20117175
I wish I could try all of the test you mentioned but it more of a time restriction factor.  I mostly need this machine up and running.

I haven't determined which drive it is.  Is there a way to do that without shutting down the machine?

The spin up sound hasn't played for a while now.  I hear the machine crunching away though.  Must be indexing.
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by:garycase
ID: 20117247
The simplest way to confirm whether or not it's the primary or the secondary drive is to power down; disconnect the "offending" drive (the one that's acting up); and then (with it disconnected) power up the machine.   If it boots; then it's clearly the secondary drive;  if it doesn't boot, then it's the master drive.   In either case, power back down; reconnect the drive; and then turn on the system.   When you powered down to try a different SATA connection would have been a good time to try that ... but since you didn't, the only way to confirm it is to do that now (when you get a chance).

Independent of that, I'd suggest you install HDTune and run it against both drives.   See if you get essentially the same results for both drives ... and also pay attention to the S.M.A.R.T. data from both drives to see if they are reporting any out-of-spec parameters.   This will let you confirm that both drives are functioning okay (other than the unusual spinup/down cycles).
http://www.hdtune.com/
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by:garycase
ID: 20117248
... note that you don't have to shut anything down to install & run HDTune :-)
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by:brettr
ID: 20118309
Ok, it is the slave drive.  I'm going to leave that drive powered off until this evening to be sure.  What does that tell you?

I'll also run HDTune.  Thanks.
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by:garycase
ID: 20118343
It means there are several things you can try to confirm what the issue might be.   For example, you're already doing one of them ... leaving it off for a few hours to see if you hear the other drive.   If the problem is related to Vista's indexing (I don't think it is) you'll hear it on the primary drive as well.  Clearly you couldn't have left the primary drive off :-)

The next interesting piece of information will be the results from HDTune => especially the S.M.A.R.T. data (be sure and keep track of this from BOTH drives).   Since both drives are identical, you should see very similar performance curves; and the S.M.A.R.T. parameters should also be similar.


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by:brettr
ID: 20118398
Ok.  I'll plug it back in and run HDTune in the next few hours.  About how long will HDTune take to run against both drives?
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by:brettr
ID: 20118460
When you say S.M.A.R.T., are you referring to checking that option and running the Error Scan?  I did run the benchmark but it doesn't seem to have anything to do with S.M.A.R.T.
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by:garycase
ID: 20118931
The drive has built-in monitoring (called S.M.A.R.T.) ... HDTune will display the current parameters the drive is reporting.   If the drive is reporting problems, it can be very useful to know what they are.
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by:brettr
ID: 20119057
Both drives passed the error scan test and everything on the Health tab says "Ok".  Didn't hear the sound during the test.
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by:brettr
ID: 20121108
So far, no sound.  Hopefully, I didn't just jinx it.
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by:nobus
ID: 20121350
>>    Didn't hear the sound during the test.      then, unlikely as it seems, a software is causing it (Sherlock Holmes)
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by:garycase
ID: 20121365
Install HDD Thermometer (http://www.rsdsoft.com/hdd-thermometer/index.php ) and see if the temperatures of your two drives are reasonably close ... and if there's any major variation during use [it's normal to rise a few degrees when you're actively using the drive].
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by:brettr
ID: 20122732
HDTune shows the temp as well.  Master is 44C and Slave is 43C.
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by:brettr
ID: 20122893
It spinning up again constantly.  Drat!
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by:garycase
ID: 20127580
Okay ... SOMETHING is clearly causing it to do this.   I'd still install HDD Thermometer ... it will put the temps in the taskbar (by the clock) so it's easy to watch them over time.   If they stay around the same, then both drives are probably working okay.

It COULD be that one drive is constantly re-calibrating (drives do that if they encounter issues) ... but I don't think that's what's happening, since you should see some errors reported in the S.M.A.R.T. data if that was the case.

So ... to try and isolate what's causing this ==>  Run MSCONFIG [in Vista you just type MSCONFIG in the search bar on the Start menu, then press return.    Then disable all of the items on the Startup tab; Apply the changes; and reboot the system.   See if you still get this behavior.    If so, repeat the process; but this time disable all of the Services as well (you may want to do this less aggressively ... in which case you can "Hide all Microsoft services" and just disable everything else => at least until you determine if that gets rid of the problem).

This could still be a hardware issue with the drive (ideally the best test at this point would be to use a different hard drive ... but since you don't have one, we'll assume the drive's good and see if any of these steps resolve it).
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by:brettr
ID: 20127902
I just checked temps again with HD Tune.  The master was at 45C.  When I switched over to the slave, I heard it spin up and it registered 40C.

I haven't tried switching power cables on the two drives.  I'll try that along with the msconfig mod.  I've closed some new program I had been running.

Finally got a hold of someone at Seagate that said it wouldn't be a problem to replace the drive.  I'll do that after the power cable and msconfig attemps.
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by:garycase
ID: 20127915
Replacing the drive is a good idea --> unless MSCONFIG lets you identify some process that is causing this.   As I noted much earlier, trying another drive is the first thing I'd have done for this [but I always have a few spare drives laying around :-) ]
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by:brettr
ID: 20127928
Why do you think it is software related, i.e. msconfig?  No software program can put the drive to sleep except Vista.
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garycase earned 1700 total points
ID: 20128166
It's not clear whether the drive is entering a sleep state or entering a period of intense activity => the noise you've described sounds like a noisy spinning up cycle ... but not having actually heard it, it may be some activity that's causing an intense amount of drive thrashing.

... that's why I asked you some time ago to boot with Knoppix or Bart's PE => but you weren't able to do that; so we don't really know whether or not this is simply a defective drive or some strange software anomaly.   My best guess was initially a defective drive;  and I still think that's likely;  but the lack of symptoms during certain activities does lend some doubt to that.   Like I've also said, the best (& quickest) test would have been to simply try a different drive.
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by:brettr
ID: 20128267
I'm going to order the replacement drive through Seagate.

The sound isn't thrashing.  It's just like a sound you hear when a drive wakes.  In Windows Explorer, if you click on a sleeping drive, Explorer freezes up for a few seconds while the drive spins up.  You can hear this happening.  No thrashing.

Thanks for all of the help.  I'm going to finally put this poor horse to sleep.
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