Hard Drive Failure - New hard drive or new computer?

So I turned on the family's computer on Monday and go the following error: "A Problem with the hard drive has been detected. Consult the troubleshooting section of your user manual. Press Enter to Continue."

Did some googleing to find out that error means that my hard drive is probably going to fail.  (it takes forever to turn on).  Thankfully, i had critical files already backed up, and i just completed a backup image using DriveImage XML.

My Question is this: Given the specs of the computer (http://support.gateway.com/support/srt/docs.asp?sn=0025775861), should I replace the hard drive, or just buy a new computer?
If you recommend replacing the hard drive, what kind do I need?  I think it is a Ultra ATA Hard drive - but isn't that now called Parallel ATA???  So does any PATA hard drive work or is there a certain kind I need?

Additional Info about the computer's usage:
-It's a family comptuer, 6 people have user accounts on it.
-4 of us use it almost exclusively for basic internet access, email, and homework (papers, powerpoints, etc)
-2 of us have quite a bit of music (around 10gb each)

Would you recommend a new hard drive or a new computer? Thank you!
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Personally, considering the fact that you could get an exact replacement HDD for $39 at this place http://www.deniz.com/cgi-bin/cisco/5501948.html, and because you don't have any heavy-duty needs, I'd get a new drive and go about my business.

On the other hand, if you're really jonesing for a new PC, this would be a good time to tell the spouse or significant other that "the hard drive's dying, and it's the heart of the computer, so we'll need to get a replacement because they just don't make that kind anymore."  :)
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
I would certainly not buy a new 40GB drive ... 80GB drives are only a couple of dollars more, so if you're going to replace the drive at least double your capacity while you're at it.

Other than that, I'd agree with the basic concept already stated:   If you're reasonably satisfied with the current performance, then it's certainly worth $40 or so to replace the hard drive.   For not much more you could get an even larger drive ... but don't buy more than 120GB, as it's unlikely that your system supports 48-bit logical block addressing (needed for drives larger than that).   The 80GB drive I noted is probably fine.

Since you have a current image, it's just a matter of swapping the drives; then restoring your image to the new drive.   Very simple ... and the system will be fully restored :-)

agree, with 6 logins on this system, you really don't want to start all over, do you?  Just get an 80 as suggested above, or a 160GB for $10 more and restore the image to that drive after formatting it.  Yes PATA is the same as regular IDE, which is ATA100 or ATA133 -- make CERTAIN you do not get a SATA serial drive, it wont work on your system.  AS always, I recommend Hitachi as the most reliable drive, you probably have a maxtor or western digital, and they tend to die and take all data with them.  Lucky you backed up.  See this link as an example of a cheap pricce on hitachi, it will give you years of good service


even if you get the 160GB, just format it as if 120GB and you wont have any problems.

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Was the error produced during the POST or from within windows?

If this was an error reported by SMART then you should look at replacing the drive asap.

If the error was prodiced by Windows then you may need to run NTFSCHK - You will find it via google. That may fix the issue if your drive is formatted with the NTFS file system. If your drive is FAT32 then you could try booting from a Windows 98 Boot disk and running SCANDISK. They will both check and repair the filesystem.

You may also consider running the Hard Drive manufacturers diagnostics. Many of these errors reported by SMART can be repaired using the software provided by the manufacturer.

Overall, you need to decide what is YOUR best course of action. In the long run a computer upgrade or replacement would be the best choice. But if cost is an issue then there are some good points raised by comments posted here.

If you can boot into your old PC you can transfer your files and settings to your new PC using the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard. This does exactly what it says on the tin. You choose what data you want to transfer to your new PC. You can do this over a network, or using removable media.
You got reasonable advice from those above, but I'm going to take a different tack to looking at your question.  

You have a six year old computer, complete with many six year old parts.  In addition, like many Gateway computers I've dealt with, your's came with a very minimal power supply, meaning it has almost certainly experienced power starvation many times during it's tenure in your household.  Low power situations are often as damaging to components as over power situations.

While your computer was built with decent quality parts, those parts are still six years old, and have faced six years of the standard abuses of environment, plus the near certainty of power abuses.

From a performance stand-point, based on your description of usage, there's no reason not to just replace the drive and continue life as is.  From the stand-point of potentially throwing good money after bad, there's every reason to skip that step and look at a new system.  When you get your new system, migrate all your documents and music to it, then donate the old system to a local non-profit for the tax write-off, after wiping the drive, of course.

kylen1010Author Commented:
Awesome.  Thank you so much for all the comments!  Each was valuable and not just a repeat of what someone else said. I love it.  I sent my dad a link to this question, as he has the ultimate decision, but I will for sure let you know what we end up doing.  As far as awarding points... what would you all recommend I do?  I don't think I've had a question where I received this many valuable responses.  Let me know what a fair course of action would be. Thanks!
since everyone has contributed a different solution, this is the kind of Q to split points.  As for a new system, yes all of us could have suggested that, it is the easy way out, kind of like suggesting a clean install to solve windows problems.  But the person who suggested it made some good points, as did the people for a simple hard drive replacement.  The issue is, is the time to reinstall all the APPS and profiles not that much hassle for you, in which case go to a new system -- or if it is a big hassle, consider the replacement HDD.  Regardless, contributions suggesting one or the other are of EQUAL merit.  Good luck.
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Agree ... when you've had multiple responses that were helpful, the best way to close the question is to split the points among those responses that were helpful.
kylen1010Author Commented:
sounds good.  I will split points.  of these three hard drives, which one would you all recommend?
(2 on this page) - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Productcompare.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=2000150014+103530091&StoreType=7&CompareItemList=N82E16822136112%2cN82E16822148212&bop=And
(the 160gb hitachi - AA510700) - http://www.mwave.com/mwave/viewproduct.asp?PID=HD-IDE-I&updepts=HD-IDE&DNAME=Hard+Drives+%2D+IDE

the WD is fast, the Seagate has a 5 year warrenty, and the hitachi, according to scratchyboy, is the most reliable. any comments?
yes the WD is fast and tends to die (some last), seagate's warranty depends on who you buy it from, and I've seen problems with the auto-power down of seagate, over years of experience, I now buy nothing but Hitachi.  They can die too, but the are quiet, reliable, and tend not to die quickly, like WD does.  I have not had a recent Hitachi die on me yet.  It is your choice.  Everyone's mileage varies, some people love WDs.
kylen1010Author Commented:
hello again... so i decided to go with the hitachi.  after MANY MANY hours of troubleshooting, and trying everything I have every known or read about to fix it, I could not install SP2 without getting a bluescreen.  the drive fitness test came back ok, but i could not change the capacity of the drive using hitachi's feature tool, so hitachi finally said it was a bad drive.  (see this question... http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Windows/XP/Q_23150975.html) So now i'm returing it and probably just going to get a different one instead of taking my chances and getting another bad one (or if it actually is a driver issue, hopefully i different one will work - but doing some googling showed that other people had the same issue i had).

just wanted to fill you all in. thank you again for your comments!
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