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Trouble with a Dell Optiplex GX280 - Hardware Diagnostics "Return Code: 4"

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Last Modified: 2013-12-01
I have a problem with a workstation i my office.  It is a Dell Optiplex GX280.  It will not boot up because it cannot find a file.  I ran chkdsk c:/r a couple of weeks ago.  It ran for hours, found and repaired multiple errors, and the workstation ran fine.  Now it is acting up again.  I am thinking about reinstalling XP on it, but that is a pain.  I ran a hardware diagnostic, it came back "Drive 0: ST3200827AS - Fail. Return Code: 4"
What is this error code, and what should I do from here?
Watch Question

If it is still under warranty, call dell and give them an error code.  Let them know you have already run the diagnostics and you are getting a failed drive.  They should send you out another.  If it is not under warranty, then please replace the hard drive before loading windows XP.  It will save you a lot of trouble.
Return Code 4 means that either the hard drive or its controller are dead if you are running the dell onboard diagnostics.

First off, try swapping the hard drive with that of another machine of the same specification.  If windows boots you know its the hard drive, if it doesn't you know its the controller.

After this, you will need to buy in / replace under warranty the controller or hard drive - unfortunately - a format won't fix failed hardware and if it does, its only a temporary fix at best and you can expect another failure within days.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.


Any fail codes from diagnostic mean that drive is failing. You should replace that drive as soon as possible.


Thank you for your help.  Fortunately, this is a workstation and the drive has no data on it, only program files, and I have all the disks.
Having never replaced a hard drive, but having some computer skills, some more help would be appreciated:
What drive should I use for this computer?
When I put in a new drive, how does the computer know how to start up so I can load an OS?
Anything to watch out for?
when you have inserted the neqw drive, turn the pc on and stick in the cd.  start tapping F12 and F10 repeatedly  this will bring up a boot menu.  choose to boot from cd/dvd and a prompt will come up saying "press any key to boot from cd..."  start tapping any key and the cd will launch the windows install wizard.

Follow the on screen insstructions and windows will be setup in about half an hour
The only thing to watch out for is that you format the correct hard drive - but if you only have one this won't be an issue.  Remember to select NTFS hard drive formatting and since this is a GX270/280 you will have a SATA drive so you dont need to worry about additional drivers :)



Thank you so much for your help.  Any advice on which brand of drive to get?  I have heard Seagate is a good way to go.  What about hard drive speed?  As this is a workstation and data resides on a data server elsewhere, is a faster drive any benefit?  How about the size?
for a gx270, i would recommend something which spins at 7,200 rpm.  if all your data is server-side - 80gb is more than enough!

I ALWAYS use dabs for replacement drives.

These links are all to drives on dabs which will work for you and are pretty cheap:

Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 80GB S300 8MB
£27.99  inc vat  

Western Digital Caviar SE 80GB S150 8MB
£30.79  inc vat  

Maxtor DiamondMax 21 80GB 7200RPM S300 8MB
£25.90  inc vat  

Maxtor DiamondMax 21 80GB S300 2MB
£27.65  inc vat