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Is HD dead or not based on "loading Windows etc"

Posted on 2012-03-24
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This is for a customer; I fix PCs for a living. As I am not on site yet, I have no info other than what is below. I seek an answer BEFORE I go onsite.

Based on what is below is the HD dead or not ?

Laptop Toshiba L775D-S7222. Was probably dropped as Screen has a crack. Happened while customer was away. Damage could affect only screen OR HD too. It depends on what part of laptop was hit. This paragraph is background info ONLY. Do not make any final decision based on this paragraph.

Also on first boot after getting home, something about Recovery or Restore and Hard drive appeared; she can not remember anything else about that message. I asked customer if she entered Yes or Y or CLICKED ANYTHING. She swears she did not. However NOW the symptoms below (two paragraphs down) are DIFFERENT which makes me wonder. As it appears that SOMETHING HAS CHANGED since that first boot into the problem state.

Next paragraph is from customer over phone. I have not actually seen Laptop yet.

Now LT boots, first screen says Toshiba as it should. (Maybe there is another screen of "post" info, maybe not). Then next screen is black with white text and says "Windows is loading" with a moving horizontal WHITE bar at the bottom. This is NOT the screen with black background over most of screen and a moving blue or green bar at the bottom, please NOTE that. Next we see black and no matter how long customer (on phone) waits it goes no further.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: I own a Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OS Desktop Dell XPS 8300 PC. Toshiba laptop is running EXACT same OS. When I boot MY Dell, I do NOT
see the "windows loading screen". Note: I have seen this screen on SOME Win XP PCs in the past.

I view that (above paragraph) as 100% certain proof that the Windows loading screen IS FROM THE BIOS, NOT FROM WINDOWS OS. If it were from the Windows OS it would appear on my Dell too.

QUESTION: Does the above mean the HD is dead ?


Some may say as it did not get out of the BIOS, the HD must be dead. I see other possibilities for a few reasons.

(1) In my 7 years experience fixing 6,000 PCs, when the HD is dead the BIOS puts out a fairly explicit statement to that effect. We are not seeing that.

(2) The fact that the Toshiba (after the BIOS generated "Windows loading" screen finishes) goes nowhere does not 100 % certain mean it never started getting files off the HD. Hypothetical situation. HD is fine as well as EVERY file on HD is fine EXCEPT the first file that is run when Win 7 64 bit OS is run. That file is missing or corrupt. In THAT situation I am not sure you will get an error "like NTLDR (or any file) is missing because we are so early in the Windows startup process that the ability to put out ANY error messages about missing or corrupt files is not there yet. Do you see what I mean?

SUMMARY: Given what is above (which is all I have to get onsite) do you thing
(a) the HD is 100% certain dead
(b) the HD is PROABABLY dead
(c) Could be a corrupt or missing file in the start of the Windows 7 boot process.


NOTE: There is no request here as to what to do TO FIX PC once I arrive onsite. I KNOW many things to try. That is NOT what this Question is about.  Having a PROBABLE idea of the problem BEFORE I arrive onsite can be very useful as I can prepare to solve THAT problem. (example bring a new laptop HD !!) There is one exception to this (see below, (A), (B), or (C)) but these are still related to "Is the HD dead" not how to fix laptop

Note: Once I am onsite I could remove the HD, connect it to a sata to usb converter (turning it into an external USB HD) connect it to a 2nd computer (which will be available to me) and then I could quickly tell the state of the drive (also by listening to it). BUT I can not do that before I arrive and that is why I am posting here.

I ALSO seek a way to know WITHOUT removing the HD. One idea (which I will do) is go into BIOS/Setup and see what it says (ex does it show a HD MODEL NUMBER)). The problem is I do not know if the Toshiba L770 series BIOS is dynamic meaning it checks the HD model at every boot OR the model number was put there at an earlier time when the HD worked. Do you know the "dynamic or not" BIOS answer?

(A) What Function key do I push at boot on the Toshiba to get to a DIAG menu (example on Dell PCs,  F12 goes to the choose boot device menu BUT there is also an option there to run diags (example on the HD). WHAT IS THE ANSWER?
I have done a Google search on this but can not find an answer (which could mean Toshiba does NOT provide this functionality). Also Toshiba provides no online Service/Maintenance manual for this model.

(B) Could anything that happens AFTER I push F8 at boot (example NOTHING HAPPENS) tell me that the HD is dead or not. Or I get the F8 menu (which may be BIOS generated) and I select "Repair your computer" (and nothing happens) ?? Answering this question (B) requires you know, in the sequence described in (B), when does the PC FIRST read a file off the HD OR does the BIOS put up the "Repair your computer" menu and in that case we STILL have not accessed the HD.

(C) I will have a Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OS install DVD with me. I boot from that DVD.  Is there anything I can do in the Various menus (i.e F8 and then Repair your computer) that could be used to find the state of the HD without removing the HD. The situation here is different than (B) because I suspect that that menus come from the Win 7 install DVD (Please correct me if I am wrong) and not the HD so it would be something in the Repair the computer menu that will need to be used, not just whether the menu appeared or not.

Example: System Restore: If the Repair your computer menu is from the DVD (or from the BIOS in case (B) above) and I select System Restore NOTHING will happen OR I will get an error if the HD is dead.

Note: Just to avoid confusion, the Windows 7 Repair your Compter Menu has a "Memory Diagnostic" choice but NOT an overall diag or HD diag choice. (But again on some brands of PCs a certain funtion key at boot takes you to a diag menu. See my important question (A) above about this.

Regards,
  Mike
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Question by:mgross333
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Expert Comment

by:dlethe
ID: 37761151
Well, odds favor the HDD, but even if it is the HDD it could be nothing more then an unreadable block in the middle of a vital DLL required for loading.   Even old consumer laptop drives have tens of thousands of reserved spare blocks, so it isn't as if the HDDs aren't engineered to allow for such things.

I'm spoiled, as I have professional diagnostics (some of which aren't even for resale) that can get to the bottom of things instantly, but in your case, you should take a USB stick loaded with your favorite LINUX distribution and use the freeware diags so you can boot an O/S and run tests on an unmounted drive.
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Assisted Solution

by:dbrunton
dbrunton earned 200 total points
ID: 37761155
Not (a)

You have gone past the BIOS and are into the Windows boot, probably Recovery mode.

You can boot from a CD such as the UBCD http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/download.html (links at top of the page for download) and use that to test memory (that can cause the symptoms) and the hard disk (there are utils on the disk for testing hard disks, they may or may not be able to test this one) or use a live LInux CD such as Ubuntu http://www.ubuntu.com/download/ubuntu/download to access the hard disk.  If Ubuntu can access the hard disk then it is most likely OK.
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Author Comment

by:mgross333
ID: 37761499
dbrunton and dlethe and other EE experts,.

Please no Linux or Ultimate boot or Ubuntu CDs. Please answer the questions EXACTLY the way I stated them and using ONLY the resources listed (and there are a number of them).

dbrunton,

I am quite interested in this part of your post

"You have gone past the BIOS and are into the Windows boot, probably Recovery mode."

Well it matters a lot whether it is Windows boot OR  Recovery mode, right. WHY do you think it is Recovery Mode?

The reason your Recovery mode idea interests me is because of THIS part of my question (near the start)

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Also on first boot after getting home, something about Recovery or Restore and Hard drive appeared; she can not remember anything else about that message. I asked customer if she entered Yes or Y or CLICKED ANYTHING. She swears she did not. However NOW the symptoms below (two paragraphs down) are DIFFERENT which makes me wonder. As it appears that SOMETHING HAS CHANGED since that first boot into the problem state.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

However, Recovery on Toshiba has MANY screens come up before Recovery starts (per the Toshiba User Guide for this model) so that is unlikely BUT WHAT if she started System Restore ? Would that lead to the"Windows is loading" with a moving horizontal WHITE bar at the bottom ???

And then for the $64,000 question: If it is System Restore or Recovery or even booting to Windows 7, why does it go to black screen AND NEVER LEAVE IT ? And do you think THAT implies the HD is dead.

Mike
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by:
dbrunton earned 200 total points
ID: 37761581
>>  And do you think THAT implies the HD is dead.

No, I don't believe the HD is dead.  It has gone past the BIOS and is trying to load Windows.  However it may be damaged.  Note dlethe's comment above about the unreadable block.  That is one possible.

>>  why does it go to black screen AND NEVER LEAVE IT ?

Because the symptom is stuck trying to do something.  Recover from damage, load missing file, any number of possibles.

If you Google

Windows is loading  Windows 7

you are going to get lots of hits.  No common solution.  Hard disk problems are one cause but not total answer.  Memory is another.  Faulty file system is another.

As for the utils on the machine the answer seems to be that they are part of the installation or may have a separate CD.  See http://aps2.toshiba-tro.de/kb0/HTD9402KN0000R01.htm

Try http://support1.toshiba-tro.de/tedd-files2/0/userman-en-20110622110614.zip for a manual.
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by:dlethe
dlethe earned 250 total points
ID: 37761786
Well, logically, no way for anybody to possibly say that A is true without full onsite diags.
As for choice C, this option must always be true, because you are assuming B and C are mutually exclusive.

Now we get down to your definition of "Dead" as the only constraint to answer "B".  Do you consider dead a totally non responsive disk, or a disk with >= 1 unreadable block; or a disk that is in a degrading state?   What if there are merely file system errors or a missing file?

I assure you, the BIOS has no obligation to report any specific message for any of these situations.

So IMO (20+ years of writing HDD firmware, diagnostics, rAID firmware, ....) then really you can't take anything for granted.  Laptop HDDs are designed to tolerate a lot of Gs from drop tests, but you can look at specs yourself to see what that particular drive can tolerate.

My experience, if you just want to play the odds, is IF the laptop was turned on and being used at the time, the HDD needs to be replaced.  (Don't power it up, take it to a lab if they want any data, you don't want to apply power unless it is done by somebody in a bunny suit).

If laptop was off when it was dropped, then personally, I would replace the drive anyway, but if the data wasn't vital, I'd take my chances and fire it  up to see if I can take any data off.

So bottom line the disk NEEDS to be replaced no matter what.  That many G's in anything but a ruggedized laptop will stress a consumer class HDD to the point where you can't trust it.
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by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
David Johnson, CD, MVP earned 50 total points
ID: 37761827
This is for a customer; I fix PCs for a living. As I am not on site yet, I have no info other than what is below. I seek an answer BEFORE I go onsite.


The tools that you were asked to bring i.e. a live Linux cd with tools on it, are good ideas, I regularly travel with a small cd case full of disk and operating system recovery tools.

Since I have hard drives in stock I would bring one with me, if I don't need it then it just goes back into inventory. I've been at this for over 40 years (yes even prior to the PC and the floppy drive much less the hard drive).

The hard drive might not be dead but has a damaged area that only a  tool like spinrite might recover that data, you may need a full format and reinstall of the operating system.

From my experience as an antenna rigger I also believe in bringing in more tools than necessary as nothing is worse than not bringing in the tool that you need.
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Expert Comment

by:dlethe
ID: 37762176
Why don't you travel with a portable HDD tester that can diagnose, image, repair, and recover data from disks?  For another $500 you can get a decent motherboard and PSU tester, so then you can pretty much identify any failed component  in a few minutes.  

It probably isn't what you want to hear, and I don't get on soapboxes that often, but you can make a heck of a lot more money if you have the proper tools to diagnose and fix instead of resorting to "plenty of things to try" and worrying about whether or not you need to bring a replacement drive.  

Bringing a windows 64 CD is certainly not a way to test hardware.  Windows won't run without writable media, so you can't possibly discern between a bad disk controller, bad HDD, or bad motherboard or component unless you can even boot that motherboard to a RAM-based image (or bring a motherboard tester with you).

Bottom line, it is impossible to provide a diagnostic analysis of the problem with 2nd-hand end-user information based on symptoms.   You get the answer by utilizing test equipment that operates independently of the questionable components.
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Author Comment

by:mgross333
ID: 37762635
THANKS to all for your posts,

dlethe, Regarding "Do you consider dead a totally non responsive disk, or a disk with >= 1 unreadable block; or a disk that is in a degrading state?"

By dead I mean the totally non-responsive case. Regarding "degrading" that should result in a S.M.A.R.T. error in a less than 1 year old laptop and customer does not report that (although I will check on site). Degrading means I replace HD after trying to get data off. Regarding bad spot, that may NOT mean I replace HD. See my question on this below.

dbrunton,

Regarding "No, I don't believe the HD is dead.  It has gone past the BIOS and is trying to load Windows. "

I question your reasoning here. As stated in my original question I am 100% certain that
the "windows is loading" with moving white bar at bottom comes from the BIOS (as my Dell running same OS does NOT display that). Is your conclusion based on the fact that the laptop does NOT hang in ""windows is loading" and then goes to black screen. ie is that the final state is black screen and not "windows is loading" the REASON for your conclusion? Please reply. If you think "windows is loading" mean it has ALREADY left the BIOS, I do not agree with that reasoning.

Regarding the Toshiba CD (which I assume you mention in response to my question (A) how to run diags on the laptop), I will call the customer and ask if she still has it. And if she does, I will boot from it and run diags (especially HD diags).

BUT the first thing I will do before anything is to remove the HD and try to get data off (see below) as any use of the HD could reduce my chances of doing that.

However, many manufacturers provide diags from pressing a function key at boot and I still seek an answer about that.

Regarding your next link, I already have the online user guide for this EXACT model . A service/maintenance guide would be appreciated.

Regarding "Memory is another. " PLUS ve3ofa "Since I have hard drives in stock I would bring one with me, I **ALREADY**, before seeing these posts, went to Microcenter and bought both compatible 4 GB memory and HD (returnable for full refund even if packaging is open). And replacing the memory will be one of the  FIRST things I try (after trying to get data off).

IMPORTANT QUESTION: If the HD has a "bad spot/block" (and is otherwise OK) and I use the 5 Recovery CDs that Staples created and gave the customer to run recovery from ( OR just use my Win 7 DVD to do a scratch reinstall from and get the drivers from the Toshiba web site) will EITHER of these choices NOT WRITE TO THE BAD SPOT (even though the bad spot is causing the current problem) and the end result will be a working laptop ? . Please reply on this.

And YES in either of those cases, I will FIRST remove the HD from the laptop and get the user data (if accessible) off of it by connecting it to a working laptop as an external usb HD. And Yes if the bad spot is in the user data, then that will be hard/impossible to do BUT if it is in the OS files (Windows folder etc) then that may succeed).

 **IF** I can NOT get the user data off the HD that way, I will offer the customer the VERY EXPENSIVE option of sending it to a disk recovery company (ie. dlethe's "somebody in a bunny suit" ) and putting the new HD that I brought in. And THEN we will find out JUST how valuable her data is? My experience is if it is business data, they will pay for a Disk Recovery company. And if it is family photos and iTunes music, they will NOT pay. But I will offer the option.

Regarding dlethe's advice to replace the HD in any case I ABSOLUTELY do not plan on doing that. I will use the answers here plus stuff I already know how to do to make a decision on that. Remember the screen being cracked could mean the laptop with the screen open was carried and the top part (screen) hit something and the overall laptop was not DROPPED. Or some hard object accidentally hit the screen and not the rest of the laptop. I do not want to jump to conclusions here but will AGAIN use various resources (including answers here other than Linux, etc CDs) to find the state of the HD when onsite

BTW I am 99% sure the BIOS display IS dynamic and whether it lists a HD model number (which it can only get by accessing the HD, right ?) will BY ITSELF tell me something.

Regards,
  Mike
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Author Comment

by:mgross333
ID: 37762679
dbrunton,

You did not answer what I consider to be a KEY question. You stated "..are into the Windows boot, probably Recovery mode."" AND I asked Why do you think it is PROBABLY in Recovery mode AND I did not get an answer on that.

Could you please reply on that question. because knowing whether the PC is booting into Windows 7 or Recovery or System Restore is obviously important here even if it is a "probable" type answer.

Mike
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Assisted Solution

by:dlethe
dlethe earned 250 total points
ID: 37762702
You can not do proper diagnostics of a HDD when it is attached to a USB port. The reason is that this necessitates an electrical AND protocol conversion from ATA to SCSI command set.  Timing, and most importantly, error information simply are lost in the translation.  

The HDD was dropped.  You are screwed.  Unless this is a ruggedized laptop, then the odds are statistically ZERO that the HDD is going to be suitable for recovery outside of a lab unless you have a very soft floor.

IF YOU POWER UP THE DRIVE, YOU HAVE EXTREME RISK OF  PERMANENTLY DESTROYING DATA.

IT IS IRRESPONSIBLE, UNPROFESSIONAL, AND GROUNDS FOR A CIVIL LAWSUIT IF YOU TURN ON A HDD THAT HAS EXPERIENCED A DROP.

IF YOU DROP A 3.5" HDD FROM JUST A HEIGHT OF JUST 3" TO A HARD SURFACE, THEN IT EXPERIENCES 300 Gs.  

WHILE LAPTOP DRIVES CAN HANDLE 500+Gs, THEY ARE MOUNTED WITH RUBBER GROMMETS AND OTHER SHOCK-ABSORBING MATERIALS WHICH TRANSFER THE SHOCK AND VIBRATION TO THE FRAME IN EVENT OF A DROP. I CAN NOT TELL YOU HOW MANY GS A DISK WILL EXPERIENCE IN YOUR LAPTOP, BUT THAT INFORMATION SHOULD BE AVAILABLE SOMEWHERE.  YOU NEED TO FIND OUT HOW WELL THEY

IN ANY EVENT, YOU NEED THE PROPER HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE TO READ THE S.M.A.R.T. COUNTER THAT QUERIES THE ACCELEROMETER WITHIN THE DISK (ASSUMING THAT PARTICULAR MODEL HAS THIS CAPABILITY, IT WAS RECORDED, AND YOU DO SO W/O FIRST ISSUING A COMMAND THAT MOVES THE ACTUATOR ARM .. NO WAY CAN YOU DO THIS WITH A DISK BEHIND A USB BRIDGE CHIP)

There you go. I am being blunt, and politically incorrect, as I am looking out for the end-user's best interest.  As a professional storage architect for 20+ years and one who is privy to design specs, firmware, hardware, and so on, I know what I am talking about.   Certainly there is a possibility that if they have a soft cushy rug that the heads might just be out of alignment, but it is just too much of a risk.

(Besides, common sense and the symptoms alone indicates the HDD needs to be replaced ... the disk needs to be taken to a recovery lab if the data is valuable to warrant it. The last thing you need to be doing is firing it up and risking further damage)
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Author Comment

by:mgross333
ID: 37762716
TO ALL,

Customer just called me to say her brother got the data off and is trying to fix it. If he can not fix it, then she will call me SO I STILL seek answers to my latest round of questions. BUT that her brother got the data off tells us the HD is not completely non-responsive and also has no bad spot in the user data folder SO please factor that into your answers.

Frankly given that she has the Staples created Recovery DVD set AND he got the data off, the chance that her brother will get the laptop working again is at least 90%. I mean even if the HD is not good enough to use long term, him getting the data off means he knows how to remove HDs from this model, meaning he knows how to put  a new one in so either way I will get paid nothing most likely BUT there is a tiny chance that I will still get the job so I request answers. If I do NOT get the job (very likely now)  I will STILL assign points (after waiting a couple of days to see if I get called back). Points will be assigned as some of the stuff here may come in handy in the future.

The rest here is off-purpose BUT I am EXTREMELY UPSET with this woman !!! Noting she put the appointment off by 2 1/2 days (after calling her brother about something) I VERY BLUNTLY asked her whether there was ANY POSSIBILITY she would cancel on me  for Monday. She said NO. Now it becomes obvious she LIED to me. And I have wasted about 2 hours of my time going to Microcenter to buy the HD and memory (see above) and now must return to get a refund. She wanted to "pin me down" while pursuing other options and showing no respect for my time.

FLAME OFF
 
 Mike
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Expert Comment

by:dlethe
ID: 37762765
Personally, I wouldn't even make the effort to do the research.  When/if she calls, tell her she is on her own.  OK by me to refund the points if you withdraw the question.  If you go out there and the HDD dies then she'll probably make it your fault.
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Author Closing Comment

by:mgross333
ID: 37762924
I agree with Dlethe, NO MORE NEED FOR MORE POSTS.

Points awarded for future use.

Grade B as I did not have a chance to go onsite and try any of the answers here so I can not be 100% sure of the answers here.

Mike
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