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Rehabilitate drive that SMART says is facing imminent failure

Posted on 2011-10-18
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Is there anything I can do to save my drive? I have already cloned and replaced it in my computer, the prudent thing to do. Now I have an extra, albeit dying, hard drive.

Is there any amount of fancy formatting, fdisking, wiping, chkdsking, or slow cooking I could ever do to salvage this drive and let it live a productive life? Or is it now a paper-weight, door-stop, boat anchor, self-defense weapon, etc.?
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Question by:stevengraff
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by:fleamourian
ID: 36989679
I'd wipe (Acronis Drive Cleanser/KillDisk) or physically render platters unreadable (screwdriver) then chuck.
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by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 36989965
Here's some info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.M.A.R.T.  Includes a link to tools to read the data.
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nobus earned 1200 total points
ID: 36991499
try HDDRegenerator - it is able to repair almost 60% of bad disks  http://www.dposoft.net/hdd.html      
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by:noxcho
noxcho earned 400 total points
ID: 36991604
Or is it now a paper-weight, door-stop, boat anchor, self-defense weapon, etc.? - LOL. Yes. It is. Mechanical devices have a bad tendency to stop working after some time. And there is no such device known that would long till the end of the times.
If you want to use the drive as a test environment (I would not dare to store on it my data) then use the listed above tools and approaches. If not - do not fill your head with bother and just buy new HDD. They are cheap nowadays.
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by:nobus
ID: 36991913
the above has repaired 4 drives for me; none came back with problems yet
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by:stevengraff
ID: 36991970

@nobus, I'll give it a shot and report back
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by:nobus
ID: 36992048
note that it cannot repair PHYSICAL problems, like scratched surface - no software can do that
if you like, download the free trial - it recovera the 1st bad sector
FYI - i even repaired a disk with the trial version - after every bad sector, i had to reboot, enter the scanning start sector etc...hundreds of times - - but it worked; and for free
since i have bought it, and found it worth every cent, $ or penny
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by:stevengraff
ID: 36992747
it worked

@nobus... yes, but aren't you left with an uneasy feeling of these reconditioned drives being a little like a time bomb? Are they really "repaired," or just "not quite dead" yet?
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by:noxcho
ID: 36993017
Normally a repair means redirecting the drive read\write attempts to reserved area on the drive. Every HDD comes from vendor with such area. It can be from 15% till 30% of the HDD usable surface. Thus HDD vendors try to prolong the life of HDD usage through this read/write requests redirection.
In case you see that bad sectors reappear on the drive - get rid of this drive.
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by:nobus
ID: 36993482
>>  Are they really "repaired  <<   apparently you did not read the info on it's site, otherwise you would not ask
here it is :
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How it works

Almost 60% of all hard drives damaged with bad sectors have an incorrectly magnetized disk surface. We have developed an algorithm which is used to repair damaged disk surfaces. This technology is hardware independent, it supports many types of hard drives and repairs damage that even low-level disk formatting cannot repair. As a result, previously unreadable information will be restored. Because of the way the repair is made, the existing information on the disk drive will not be affected!

Can the HDD Regenerator repair your drive?

Almost 60 % of damaged hard disks can be repaired by regeneration. You can always download free demo version and try to regenerate the first found bad sector. The main purpose of the unregistered demo version is to display a report which contains information about the possibility to regenerate the entire disk by means of the registered full version. If the first found bad sector has been successfully regenerated, you can buy the product to regenerate all bad sectors on your hard drive. If the first bad sector has NOT been successfully regenerated, then replace your hard disk drive as soon as possible.
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by:stevengraff
ID: 36994621
OMG, this regenerate process is slow! 6% done after 10 minutes!
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by:noxcho
ID: 36995700
He he, don't forget to make bbq on the surface of HDD while it is working )))
It gets really hot because the commands that use HDD Regenerator makes the HDD heads try to write to bad sector many times. At the end it will either refuse or mark it repaired.
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by:stevengraff
ID: 36995804
The drive is warming up a bit, but, nicely enough, the software shows the temperature. It's about 93 F, not too terribly hot. I have it dangling outside the case. Hard to say how long this thing has to go. When running the trial, the first bad sector seemed to get fixed 'round 40%. Now, after applying the serial number, it says 0%, but it's fixed a dozen bad sectors. HD-20Regen.png

Also, very oddly, the publisher of the program charged me Michigan sales tax!
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by:stevengraff
ID: 36996044
This screen alludes to "3134 sect. reallocated." Is that how many will have to be regenerated? Each "regeneration" seems to take about 2 full minutes. This could be a really long process!



http://content.screencast.com/users/StevenGraff/folders/Jing/media/c0562221-45a5-498a-b71e-ce768393ce17/HD%20Regen%202.png
 HD-20Regen-202.png
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by:ocanada_techguy
ID: 36997661
Yeah it takes awhile, and it is difficult to know how many more remain to be tackled, which kinda keeps the mystery alive doesn't it?  No fun having no idea how much longer it's going to take. Oh and each "restart" you're starting back at 0%.  Nevertheless HDDRegenerator 2011 is a great tool and impresively does what little else offers to do, save perhaps SpinRite.  
SpinRite is no better at estimating the ETA time to completion, it shows an estimate but each error encountered takes a very long time that are only factored into time elapsed not time remaining.  Whilst SpinRite information screens it could be argued are more detailed informative, and the command-line option to adjust the number of retries is rather hidden, a major shortcoming of SpinRite is it is unaware of newer drives 4k blocking, so it would reread blocks unnecessarily far far more, giving HDDRegenerator an edge.
http://www.dposoft.net/hdd.html     http://www.spinrite.com
After you've re-hab'd a drive, I would definitely monitor it going forward, either with a motherboard that has SMBus and software that can monitor s.m.a.r.t frequently and not "just" at power-on self-test, and or something like a s.m.a.r.t reader or HDTune Pro -- which is a terrific little program for checking the health of a drive -- or something like that   http://www.hdtune.com/   http://www.beyondlogic.org/solutions/smart/smart.htm  
http://www.mydigitallife.info/2010/03/22/check-and-monitor-computer-cpu-and-gpu-temperature-voltage-or-fan-speed/ 
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by:nobus
ID: 36998068
>>  OMG, this regenerate process is slow! 6% done after 10 minutes  <<  that is not slow imo; it is probably showing, and recovering bad sectors - and THAT takes time; once the bad ones are passed, it runs much faster

it lists the recovered sectors as 24
the reallocated sectors are probably unrecoverable
each restart you start at 0%  --> not true, you can put in the starting sector if you wish

and the run time is recalculated while running, so while running good sectors, it may say 1Hr left, but when it comes into bad ones, that may go up (and later down) depending on what it encounters
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by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 36998135
I would not have spent this much time on it.  Drives are too cheap.
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by:ocanada_techguy
ID: 37001980
@nobus I didn't mean to mislead, yes you can interrupt and you can choose the starting and ending sector each time, what I meant is that let's say you start at a sector halfway in, if I am remembering correctly it doesn't start at 50% it starts at 0% and measures up for what you're resuming each session, so really on the restart you could already have finished half the drive in a previous session but it would say 0%, 1% etc, which is accurate, just something to remember w.r.t. the overall progress picture.

And that reminds me of another concern, is it okay to leave the process running overnight?  Very tempting since it can be time consuming, and an interesting debate in itself.  There's two situations, if you were able to get all your data off and you're wiping the drive anyway, as in this case, probably ok to risk it.  If you're hoping this can recover and sucessfully remap data off bad sectors so some of your lost/corrupt data/files can be recovered, I would not leave it unattended.  Do it in the background but be "around" to monitor and listen.

Why not leave unattended, what's the risk?  Well if there are potential head collisions due to physical scratches damage and shavings and filings inside.  This would be a concern on "crashed" drives as opposed to one merely old age the spare sectors are almost all used.  For crashes, compared to the microscopic clearances of the heads floating due to Bernoulli effect over the glass smooth surface, tiny shavings and filings would be like the size of boulders and ditches to a Ferrari.  So if you were to hear terrible screetching grinding scrape noises of further physical damage happening during the attempt, you best STOP power right away and if you want any hope or have intention of recovering data a data recovery lab would be in order.  Mind you the click click or cachunk cachunk sound of the heads reparking in an effort to realign to read / re-read questionable sectors is a noise you might expect to hear and not sign of further disaster.

Also consider how many hours this drive has been used and it's MTBF (mean time between failure) expected life-span.  Good comments above from all experts, including value of your time versus cost of a new drive.
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by:stevengraff
ID: 37002215
Progress report... finally, it finished, after 20 hours.

Oh, no, actually, I mean it sort of finished. It finished without any message on the screen describing the result of the process, only an advisory that it's not possible to repair all sectors when performed through a Windows interface.

So, now I'm "scanning" for bad sectors using the DOS flash boot it let me create. This process is expected to take another 2 hours.

Good news, though... hdTune reports a clean bill of health. Before, there were two lines in yellow, and two lines in red; now they're all white.
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by:nobus
ID: 37004874
>>  it's not possible to repair all sectors when performed through a Windows interface.   <<   i did not even know that was possible -  i ALWAYS do it from a bootable cd (this can also be partly the cause of the slowness also)

since it is a seagate, i would run the diag on it -  best download ubcd and run the diag from that : http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/      

 
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by:stevengraff
ID: 37009134
I booted from the thumb drive and ran the 2-hr. scan, which revealed more bad sectors to fix.

I started the repair, and let it go overnight. In the morning, the screen showed a bunch of fixes and a handful of still-bad sectors. No matter. Upon booting the computer, the drive was not recognized by the bios, and so it is now in the garbage can.
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by:noxcho
ID: 37009441
So you got back to the point: Or is it now a paper-weight, door-stop, boat anchor, self-defense weapon, etc.? - LOL. Yes. It is.
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by:stevengraff
ID: 37009499
Somewhat disappointing... I was counting on HDRegen to make it stronger, not kill it.
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by:ocanada_techguy
ocanada_techguy earned 400 total points
ID: 37009648
they do two things, find "iffy" sectors/blocks and remap and mark as bad BEFORE you lose the data, and can also find sectors that were previously considered bad but by re-recording multiple times finds that the magnetic signal is strengthened and in fact reliable within tolerance no longer iffy.  Yours just found more of the former than the latter.  So it's proof positive for you now that the drive is now desk-art and not reliably (re)useable.
So don't forget the former (first) function, which is check any/all of your drives once a year with it (except RAID, bad sectors are handled completely different in RAIDs) so it can prevent you losing data in the first place having corruption due to bad sectors, because believe it that when you chkdsk /r, almost always files/folders found to have bad tracks with chkdsk (scandisk is gui equivalent) are going to get corrupted by it, essentially you're expected to note all files found bad failed to remap in the chkdsk process and recover them from last known good backup.  HDDRegen and SpinRite rety hundreds of times whereas chkdsk gives up after maybe 6 tries to read data for remapping
It is after all the brown ferro-magnetic stuff on the platters just like audio and video casette ribbon tape of old, and, it is not perfect and won't retain a strong signal for years much less a lifetime and in professional A/V/TV industry one would re-record "black" on tapes to prevent "ghosting" of previously recorded images underneath a recording, but disks re-record constantly.  Of course digital is not analog so there's a i/o 1/0 bit-on/bit-off black/white no shades-of-grey threshold, but some of the same concepts and principles apply.  Imagine a magnetic signal being stronger more reliable if you could re-record the exact same signal exactly overtop several times, perfectly aligned no ghosting, that's one of the things the flip-bit excercise drive function can do.
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by:nobus
nobus earned 1200 total points
ID: 37010408
>>  I was counting on HDRegen to make it stronger, not kill it.   <<  that is what it does, however, as said, if there are physical defects, no  software helps

and i found this : when there are MANY bad sectors -  it cannot repair the disk completely in most cases (but it may help to recover the data)

sorry if it did not help in this case
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by:stevengraff
ID: 37011029
Thank you all for validating my current thoughts on the subject and, more to the good, expanding my knowledge and tool set.
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by:nobus
ID: 37011228
tx for feedback
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