Unmountable Boot Volume on WD HDD? OS or Drive Problem?

About 6 weeks ago, I received a laptop that was "Blue Screening" with an Unmountable_Boot_Volume error message.  According to my research this could be a physical drive issue or a corrupt OS issue.  I ran the WD Diagnostic utility on UBCD.  It found and repaired errors.  I restarted the laptop, XP found and repaired errors and the laptop seemed to work fine for about 6 weeks.  

I received it again today with the same error.  The built-in Dell diagnostics produced an error when executing the DST (Drive Self Test).  I booted with the WD Data Lifeguard Diag CD and it was unable to see the drive and produced error code 0120.  I looked this error up and it is listed as "unknown error."  I'm told to repeat the test and replace the drive if it continues.  The error continues and I am having the drive replaced under warranty.

Just for the heck of it, I ran through the same steps as before (in first paragraph).  Once again the WD Utility on UBCD found and repaired errors and after rebooting, XP did the same and now the laptop works fine.  However, when I rerun the WD Diags (Data Lifeguard) it still doesnt see the drive and produces the 0120 error.

Here is what the WD site says in regards to the Unmountable Boot Volume:
http://wdc.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/wdc.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=335&p_created=1025194727&p_sid=So5tXNyj&p_accessibility=0&p_redirect=&p_lva=&p_sp=cF9zcmNoPTEmcF9zb3J0X2J5PSZwX2dyaWRzb3J0PSZwX3Jvd19jbnQ9MjQsMjQmcF9wcm9kcz0yMjcsMTk0JnBfY2F0cz0mcF9wdj0yLjE5NCZwX2N2PSZwX3BhZ2U9MSZwX3NlYXJjaF90ZXh0PXVubW91bnRhYmxlIGJvb3Qgdm9sdW1l&p_li=&p_topview=1

I guess I'm just trying to determine what was the real cause.  Since the OS repair fixed the drive(twice) and everything worked fine, that seems to say it was an OS issue.  But the exact same issue twice in 6 weeks?  On the other hand, the diagnostics still point to the drive.  Could a physical drive problem cause this OS issue?

Here is what MS says regarding the error....and according to the stop code I received, they point the finger at the drive: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/297185

Just trying to find the real trouble maker here.  Any input would really be appreciated!

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cwilliambrownAsked:
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sime1981Commented:
I had the exact same problem, albet with a desktop, and it ended up being that the hard drive controler was dying, i would reimage my pc and it would work for a few days and then stop working again, much to my frustration.  So after the long winded answer, yes if the drive or controller, is failing, repairing it could temporarly resolve the problem.  But since it is under warranty i would run the tools with the new drive to make sure that it is not the controller that is failing.
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cwilliambrownAuthor Commented:
Sime1981..thanks, that helps a lot!  Great advice on running the diags with the new drive to test the controller.  
Considering this is on a laptop (Dell Inspiron 1501), if it is the controller, does anyone know if this can be replaced or is it built into the motherboard?
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jamietonerCommented:
If the replacement hard drive starts to do the same thing have the motherboard replaced as the sata controller is built into the motherboard.
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cwilliambrownAuthor Commented:
Thanks, Jamie, that answers my question about being built-in......but considering the the age of the laptop, price of a new motherboard, and my fee to install it, I'm thinking it might be time to advise the owner that the money would be better invested in a new laptop.  What do you think??
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jamietonerCommented:
Sorry, I was thinking the laptop was still under warranty. Since it's not then yes, a new laptop would be the best investment.
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nobusCommented:
i would test both drives; use  http://support.wdc.com/download/#diagutils      
or  the DFT
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cwilliambrownAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all of the input....Hey Nobus...the WD Lifeguard diags produced an unknown error repeatedly.  I'll test it with Hitachi's DFT before returning it.
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nobusCommented:
if the drive spins up - and is seen in the bios, you can try this too hdd regenerator :
http://www.dposoft.net/

it won't repair any hard failures (but the diags don't repair either), but it can fix the sectors
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cwilliambrownAuthor Commented:
The diagnostics produced the same error on the new drive.  It's unlikely the new drive has the same problem, so it is almost certainly a failing controller.  Thanks for all of the input!
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cwilliambrownAuthor Commented:
Thanks, you nailed it!
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