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  1. #1
    Uranium Lounger
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    HD Failure - Say It Ain't So

    I'm posting to verify the diagnosis of Dell Tech Support that the HD (120GB) in my 3 month old Dell 8250 has expired. There were no symptoms or any indication that there was a problem with the HD at any time prior to it's seeming demise. The unfortunate chain of event is:
    Last night about 7:30 I went online, checked e-mail, visited the lounge, did some minor file management on the drives storage partition, logged off the internet and powered off the monitor (I never turn offthe CPU, other than for maintenance or vacation, or allow the system to hybernate). When I returned at 9:30 and turned on the monitor all seemed normal. The wallpaper was the same all the desktop and taskbar icons were normal and the animated cursor was still animated and moved freely around the screen. I could not however, right or left click on anything or bring up any menus. The keyboard was also nonfunctional. Cntrl-Alt-Delete did nothing. Assuming that the system had frozen, unusual as that is with XP it does happen, I powered off the system, waited 30 seconds and rebooted. The boot sequence seemed different and then a cursor prompt came up in the upper left corner of a black screen flashed for about 15 seconds and the gave this message:

    Load Error
    Press F1 to continue or F2 to enter Setup

    Pressing F1 brought up a repeat of the second line while F2 took me to Setup

    The setup screen indicated the the Primary 0 and Primary 1 drives were "unknown device" . I went through this routine 3 or 4 times with the same result. Gave up for the night and shut off all power to the system.
    Called Dell Tech Support this AM and the first fix attempt was to run diagnostics at startup by pressing Cntrl-Alt-D when the Dell Startup screen came up. This produced a screen saying that diagnostics was starting, however after 5 minutes it was obvious that it was not going to start. A reboot produced a "Load Error" message, but this time when I went into setup the Primary 0 was "Hard Drive" and the Primary 1 was IDE drive (I think). The tech took me to the boot order setting and walked me through changing the order from IDE, CD, HD to CD, HD, IDE. This didn't help, as nothing changed on a reboot. After having me open the case and reseat the ribbon cable in the MoBo and the HD and getting the same "Load Error" on reboot, he diagnosed it as a failed HD and setup a service request for a service tech to call tomorrow and come install a new HD with the OS pre installed. While the service offer is nice...... I think it comes up a little short. I have 3 months of setup and installation, tweaking, stored data (some backed up on removable media & some not) and who knows what else I've done & don't recall, invested in that HD, not to mention all the pre-installed drivers and software that the system came with, they are now telling me I have to reinstall myself. While I understand that there is a certain price I must pay for not backing up my data and/or system completely, the nature of the failure leaves me wondering if this might not be the HD but a MoBo or Bios issue or perhaps even something to do with the XP product activation codes (My understanding of Product Activation is that Dell took care of that when they pre-installed the OS and that it is stored in the Bios) since it has been 92 days since I set up this system. I can, of course, re-configure the system and use the opportunity to correct some thing and make it more of a personal setup and less of an OEM layout. But that is a great deal of time and energy that I would rather avoid if at all possible.

    Any thoughts, information, suggestions on possible causes or solutions to this will be most welcome.
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  2. #2
    3 Star Lounger
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    Re: HD Failure - Say It Ain't So

    Ouch.

    Of course you are allowed to rant, a hard drive failure is never fun. There's an old saying "It's not IF you're hard drive will fail, it's WHEN". I'm sure you understand that you are responsible for backing up your system, and if you don't, well nobody pays but you. Still it's no fun. That's why you see so much attention paid to ghost images of hds, cd backups, etc. It happens, unfortunately.

    It's not Product Activation. It doesn't just shut down, it boots and then tells you that you're not able to use the system until you activate. Really does sound like a hard drive failure. Can you boot from a CD or floppy? In other words, change the boot order to CD first, and stick in your xp cd, or any bootable cd. If you can't boot from the cd then you may very well have a motherboard problem. If you can boot, go into the recovery console and see if you can look around on your drive. It may be that the Operating System got trashed, but the data is still accessable

    Whatever you do, keep the original hard drive. I don't know the particulars, but there is lots that can be done to recover data off of toasted hard drives.

    Sorry and good luck,

    kip

  3. #3
    Uranium Lounger
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    Re: HD Failure - Say It Ain't So

    Kip,
    Thanks for the shoulder. You bring new hope to the picture, as one of the things I left out to keep the story from becoming a novel was that after we changed the boot order to CD, HD, IDE he had me attempt to boot to the CD provided with the system that contains the Diagnostic Utility and it wouldn't boot to the CD either. At that point I suggested that it was beginning to sound more like a MoBo or Bios issue, but he was adamant that it was most likely the HD.

    I've got my <img src=/S/crossfingers.gif border=0 alt=crossfingers width=17 height=16> that it's the MoBo or Bios, so your input is most welcome (even if it turns out to be false hope on my part). I do know that I'm not willing to part with the original HD without first looking into some form of data recovery or transfer. As you said, It might be that the OS somehow got trashed, but the drive was partitioned so the data may still be there and be recoverable.
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  4. #4
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    Re: HD Failure - Say It Ain't So

    Have you tried booting from a Win 98 Startup floppy?

    Another alternative is to use anothe computer to download hard drive diagnostics from the web site of the hard drive manufacturer. Many/most of those programs create a bootable floppy from which the drive diagnostics are run.

    Useful diagnostics can also be found at http://www.hgst.com/hdd/support/download.htm.

    I forget, but I think the disk diagnostics from Norton Utilities can be run from the Norton Utilities CD-ROM.

    Also, have you tried connecting the HD to a different IDE Connector on the mobo. I would try different connections whilst booting from floppy.

  5. #5
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    Re: HD Failure - Say It Ain't So

    If it is a bad hard drive, I'm fairly certain that Dell would require the return of the drive after they sent a replacement under warranty.

    A service such as http://www/ontrack.com can likely recover the files.

    However, do NOT use such a service until you find out which recovery services are approved by Dell, otherwise you void th ewarrany on the drive.

  6. #6
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    Re: HD Failure - Say It Ain't So

    I would change the boot order to floppy first.
    And disconnect all but the HD from the IDE controllers.

    Sounds like you will have to:

    1. Escalate with in Dell to find out if they will send you a replacement mobo.
    2. If you have another computer, trying using the drive in the other computer.

  7. #7
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    Re: HD Failure - Say It Ain't So

    Howard,
    Thanks for the interest and the input. Will a Win 98 Startup Disk work in an XP Pro system ??? I'm reluctant to fool around too far afield with this issue as Dell is being pretty cooperative so far and is sending an at home service tech on Tuesday to replace the hard drive. If that fails to correct the situation he will then troubleshoot the problem with Dell and come up with a Plan B. I purchased an extended warranty on the system (for no other reason than it was $50 for 3 years after a rebate) and I suppose Dell wants to keep their customer satisfaction rating up.

    As for me keeping the old drive if the replacement solves the problem, I'd wager that a credit card # to secure their interest would satisfy Dell until I can explore my options. Ideally, if the replacement works I can have the tech hookup the old drive as a slave and see if the data is available. If it is then have him just copy it over and after I repartition the new drive I'm almost back to where I was. Hey...... I can dream can't I ?? My gut feeling on this is that it's the motherboard and not the hard drive that's the culprit here. I' likely just sit on my hands until Tuesday. I will post the results.
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  8. #8
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    Re: HD Failure - Say It Ain't So

    > Will a Win 98 Startup Disk work in an XP Pro system ???
    XP Pro software is on your hard disk. When you boot from a floppy it doesn't know anything about the hard disk, it just boots.
    I have a Linux CD that I occassionally boot my Windows 2000 laptop from, when I boot the CD it is a "Linux laptop"

    StuartR

  9. #9
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    Re: HD Failure - Say It Ain't So

    Stuart,
    Thanks for the input on this. I thought about it after I asked and came to the same conclusion. It's the same process that got me in this situation. I thought about backing up my system after the system failed, and realized I should have.

    I may try that trick today, just to see if I can get to a C prompt and do a Dir command to see what's there. I went back last night and retraced the steps the tech walked me through, in an attempt to boot to the diagnostics CD and only succeeded in getting the system not to see the HD again. It's again listed as an unknown device in setup. It doesn't appear that I can do much more harm at this juncture unless I accidentally format the HD. But if it's not there, that will probably be difficult, even for me. <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15>

    My only real hope, I think, is that it's the Bios or motherboard causing this, since I can't boot to CD either. If that's the case then this will all turn out to be a minor bump in the road instead of a major pain in the _ _ _ .
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  10. #10
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    Re: HD Failure - Say It Ain't So

    When you boot from a floppy or a CD-ROM or ..., it does not matter what OS is on the hard drive.
    If you can boot from a floppy, then the hard drive would be visible as the C drive, i.e., if there's not a problem with the hard drive or the mobo.

    Booting from the floppy also would allow you to check th BIOS settings.

    There's no harm in trying to boot fr om a floppy and/or checking (but not changing, unless you find the cause of the problem) the BIOS settings.

    However, if Dell is sending someone to replace the drive, they would also need to install the OS, so it's gonna be time consuming.

    If replacing the hard drive does nor resolve thge problem, yoou might ask the Dell techie to reset the CMOS, i.e., remove and replace the mobo battery.

    The usual process in replacing a disk drive is the following:

    1. Vendor sends you a replacement drive. You supply a credit card number.
    2. For data recovery, most/all vendors REQUIRE that you use particular data recovery services. Dell likely has a list at their web site.
    3. Old drive is supposed to be returned in a specific amount of days. However, you would need to inform Dell that you are sending the drive out for data recovery. The process of sending out drive for dsata recovery and getting the drive back would normally take a few weeks.

    Make sure the Dell techie doesn't take the old drive.

    Of course, if the problem is actually the mobo, I doubt that the Dell techie carries a spare that the techie can give you.

  11. #11
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    Re: HD Failure - Say It Ain't So

    Not being able to boot to the CD could be caused by improper BIOS settings or bad IDE connector.

    I'd try booting from the floppy.
    Of course, if the floppy connector is bad or the mobo is really bad, that won't work, but it's easy to try.
    And it would be useful to inform Dell that you can(not) boot from a floppy and, if you can, whether you can get to the C drive.

  12. #12
    Uranium Lounger
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    Re: HD Failure - Say It Ain't So

    Howard,
    I tried booting to a floppy this AM and it booted to an A prompt but didn't find the C drive (bad news). When it does try to boot to the HD it makes a soft Ka-chung sound in the area of the case where the HD is located about 6 times and then goes to the "Load Error" message. The noise is nothing alarming, just as if the drive is trying to start up and isn't catching.

    Dell is sending out a tech to install what they say is going to be a new HD with just the OS installed. As that is not the way the drive originally came (lots of preinstalled programs and Dell drivers and features) I'm not sure it should be my responsibility to do all the work of reinstalling those things, even if I have (they say) all the CDs to do the job. I've read on a few bulliten boards that Dell Techs are only equipped with and authorized to replace or install the part that is on the service order. And that, of late, many are just barely mentally equipped to do that. As for him leaving with the old drive......... he would have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers until I had assured myself that my data was irretrievably lost or it would simply be too costly to recover. I won't part with 3 months of installing, tweaking and configuring so easily !!

    If it is the HD controller (I'm assuming that is a mechanism of the HD itself), can the drive still be accessed as a slave to a primary drive and the data extracted ?? Or is the HD controller a function of the motherboard or Bios ?? As one of my friends in the "tech sector" tells me all the time, I'm "just a user". I "don't really understand how it works.".
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  13. #13
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    Re: HD Failure - Say It Ain't So

    Doc - the hard drive controller is on the mainboard. What you're describing sounds like mechanical failure, but you can always find out when the new drive is installed - if it works, the old drive is shot. If not, it's a new mobo in order. The BIOS is simply bare-bones code to instruct the motherboard's chipsets and controllers on how to behave, not unlike Windows itself except that it's really tiny and (typically) doesn't contain any bloat.

    If the drive itself is toast, I'm afraid you're stuck with tweaking again. You DID have a backup didn't you? <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15>
    -Mark

  14. #14
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    Re: HD Failure - Say It Ain't So

    After booting with the floppy, did you check the BIOS?

    If there are incorrect settings in the BIOS, you might not be able to access the hard drive.
    I use SCSI hard drives, but as I understand it, the disk geometry has to be correctly set in the BIOS to use an IDE drive.
    I have an IDE drive on a 10+ year old 486, as I didn't install the drive, I'm not aware of what needed to be done.

    It would seem that either the drive is bad, or the IDE connectors on the mobo are bad, or the IDE ribbon could be bad.
    Have you tried moving the drive to the other IDE ribbon and/or connectors?

    I would suggest booting to the floppy, but changing the connector to which the hard drive is connected, just to see (no pun intended) whether you can get to the C drive.

    I really do recommend running the drive diagnostics from the drive manufacturer and those from Hitachi.


    If it turns out that the replacement hard drive works, then you have two choices:

    1. Call Dell, in advance of the service call, to let them know that you would want to send the drive to a dara recovery service AND.most importantly, find out which such services are authorized. I'd recommend http://www.ontrack.com if Dell OKs them.

    In any case, contact Ontrack now to get an estimate of the cost. Heck, they might even be familiar with the symptoms of your problem and offer a solution.

    2. Byte the bullit and re-install the software.

    If the replacement drive doesn;t work, then I guess the Dell techie should reset the BIOS.

    If that doesn't work, the techie could try another IDE ribbon.

    Last resort, I guess is a mobo replacement.

  15. #15
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    Re: HD Failure - Say It Ain't So

    Mark,
    Thanks for the "technical education" and the good natured poke about backup. As a matter of fact, I was being pretty good about backing up this time around. To a "backup" PARTITION on the HD !!! <img src=/S/drop.gif border=0 alt=drop width=23 height=23> I intended to move it to removeable media, but of course, as is always the case with doing backups correctly, I never got around to it. Someone sent me a "Round Tuit" via e-mail a few years back......but I can't find it now. Heck, I even intended to use Drive Image and create an image of the entire HD on CDs when I had tweaked the system "just right" and I was only about a day or two from getting it right.

    The short answer is....... nope, don't have a good current backup of everything. I can recreate most of what I had from different sources, but of coure, I'll lose some of my data on this one. This is my second HD failure and each time I SWEAR it won't catch me with my backups down again. But human nature being what it is..... sigh.
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