Is my hard-disk
drive (HDD) brick
Dead or Sick or just slow?
How to erase the
HDD? or simply to test it?
The 1st or 2nd thing to fail on PC's is
the RTC coin cell battery goes dead.
(at 5 to 7 years old both can fail this old !!) If you
allow COIN death to happen the BIOS goes nuts and then seems HDD is dead and IS NOT.
If your PC is LAPTOP the big battery can be bad, even OMG shorted. (oh
my golly) Just remove the huge battery and test the PC on only AC power
pack power. DO THAT now, or go broke buying a new HDD not needed.
If a PC can not boot and boot files are reported missing and the COIN
cell is bad, (below 2.9vdc is BAD)
then do not condemn any HDD ever until you replace the silly $1 battery
first. ( I use a thing called a VOLT METER to test them.)
- NO BOOT has many causes, RTC bad, or HDD bad. (or shorted huge
LAPTOP battery , just remove this battery simple test of all this it
just drops out the bottom of Laptop.)
- OS infections ( killing the OS boot and or OS files)
- Or kids playing in your BIOS pages and deleted the boot drive
from boot order, or even a lightning hit.
- We then test the HDD.
(OS means YOUR Operating SYSTEM of any kind be
that Windows, Linux, Chrome, Citrix, Android, or what ever)
The drive looks like this running.
The head is on the end of the servo moving arm that flies
just above the media. Data is on the platters.
All modern drives be that SATA or SAS all have spare hidden super duper
secret , spare sectors you can not touch or you use directly ever. (the
has white papers to read if you want)
sectors called spares are owned 100% by the hidden internal HDD Turing
(or HDD SMART controller )
This technology began in year
2001. (not new at all, and has predictive failure logic) < and
amazing thing to know early failures so you can backup data now.
This seems like magic, but uses prediction logic to replace bad sectors
as they occur , and the users of the HDD never knows this goes
on, until one day the spares run DRY. "bam
Hard drives can fail in even 5 years time or worse dropped and
for sure to concrete.
Failure mechanisms all: HDD; (in no order but age tops list)
(all fail for either AGE or stress) (entropy) 1 time per day power up cycles is not abuse. 20+ is)
- Dropping any HDD from 6ft with laptop running or drive bay dock
USB external ) will wreck and crash the heads. (crazy G forces that)
- Head crash, this means the flying heads (yes they do fly) kiss
the media and simply wreck the tracks, (nothing is more simple this
mode, phyically damaged tracks inside)
- OLD age (chart below), no drive lasts forever, NOT ONE, and most
last 5 years long, enterprise grade lasts the longest (and costs more!)
and laptop HDD are the worst.
- Lightning hits or ESD events, (power surgers or a
bad PSU causing that)
- Bad luck, learn now that any thing electronic can fail for vast
reasons. (even design flaws, or even defective chips (weak)) thermal
shock, and more.
- Too many power up cycle on any things electronic shortens
its life,1 per day OK. (think how thermal expansion/contraction of devices (IC's and
transistors ,etc) inside cause stress (google that and read all day)
- All SATA drives year 2001 to now all have a BRAIN (Alan
Turing jargon) that self heals itself and tests itself and even
does predictive failure warnings, and is called S.M.A.R.T this
wonderful feature if used right can save data loss.
- When all SATA drives run out of spare
sectors, the the HDD is now END OF life. that is a fact and
will grow more bad sectors every day forward
until you see, data loss or see the OS go corrupted, or both, count on
- PC or the HDD overheats, this is
super serious bad, overheating kills electronics so easy, do not let
that happen, they have many free APPS to measure all temperatures
in a PC.
What is S.M.A.R.T
technology : (I do not cover relic PATA IDE drives)
Life spans normal: See
the BB Study here.(done on cheap consumer drives, well known to be
poor grade) For sure turn off the PC for longer HDD life ! "25,000 hard drives spinning at all
Below is computers run full time (servers) and life spans based on VAST
data. (laptops can be worse for sure bumped !)
you only use the PC 1 hour a day, far
far longer it will last, so turn off the PC not in use.
Photo2 PARK LOCK device, seeing one helps understand it.
(click it to zoom the locking ramp) This ramp used at Power off and
sleep mode ,
extends drive life greatly . Dell SAS 10k
drive. ( this helps drives last longer!)
The best policy (IMO) is first do not allow the drive to sleep 100s of
times a day, that is excessive. (
Do Not turn the PC on and off 20 times a day. So leave it on all
and turn off 1 time at night,( be kind to it and it lasts) (LEARN THAT HEAT + TIME = SHORT LIFE SPANS)
Turn off sleep MODE (CP+POWER SETTINGS) on the HDD for sure. Let it spin,
the energy you do save here (sleep hdd) will not pay for the next new HDD.
This ends my why the HDD fails section.
Do not buy any HDD that has built into the drive forced sleep, that can
not be turned off, they love to fail these so called GREEN
The simple testing 123 (
super easy and only takes a few seconds) Covering Windows 10 testing or booted to Linux Demo media (ODD/usb drive)
How you do that test depends on if the HDD is the boot drive, or if PC
is dead. (bad HDD causes the OS to corrupt for sure), or the HDD is
2nd, 3rd extra drive.
If the PC boots ok, Run Crystaldiskinfo?
free or bettter DISKCHECKUP on all HDD present. See my list of SMART tests APPS below. (Applications)
If the PC is dead, this is harder, (no?) so we then move the HDD to
a good PC or run on bad PC linux demo disk seen below Unbuntu.
If said PC is Dell or HP, see line 6 below for there way to test their HDD.
If PC is dead , use (buy) a HDD dock and test (DISKCHECKUP) on the suspected HDD on any other PC using the . HDD DOCKING BAY (usb ) ,, see photo at end.(here)
Try Demo mode with Linux, then run Disktest.
All OEM PCs have a manual called , User or Service. The manuals have chapter called RECOVERY, (or just shown and What do I do if my OS is dead) Read it. (Case in point Dell 16 product lines here, for support, HP has the same thing )
Various related APPLICATION PROGRAM's that do SMART
tests, disk tests , benchmarks and even offer erase disk apps. (for
windows or from Linux)
Choices many: (these examples all assume the drive booted to
NOW is not to be erased, Like deleting a cars tires, while driving,
this is impossible) The erase examples here are on the non-
boot drive, like E:,F:,G: etc, not C:
Most are free and safe.
If the PC is unstable, sure you worry the HDD in the first
place, your best bet is to run test at line 4 above.
LINUX DEMO media. (in the Linux search box type "disk" or type
"disktest" (bingo !) in seconds our answer. C6=0 a must.
- Free CrystalDiskinfo
v8.3+ free (to see if smart tests fail)
- PASSMARK disk checkup if FREE , I also have
a license for
their main benchmark app, the same company here makes the fabulous DISKCHECKUP FREE. ( this is one of the best off all , look at parameter C6 !)
- " HDsentinel "
is the best
for doing a full SMART test status, and more , lots more. (I have
license for this) It tests the drives and reports the SMART status. Paid is best.
- Free Linux demo mode ,Disktest.
- OEM Drive maker app.'s, from WD or SEAGATE .
Seatools etc. (Google that for sure) I have no need for this as I have far better tools seen here.
Diagnostics are here. (no boot PC use the F2 testing) ON a Dell PC power it on and hammer F12 (BIOS key) and run ePSA diagnostics. if the HDD test fails believe it.
- HWinfo32.exe free. Click your drive first left side then ( see Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T.) and here you must be Number of Reported Uncorrectable Errors: = 0
- W10 checkdisk (chkdsk or CHECK) is mostly useless if
PC has only one HDD and is sick, the OS then crashes
etc. (any only 1 HDD PC with 1 failing HDD will not be stable at all with corrupted OS files and growing fast) I avoid windows tests.
Boot media Linux runs right and are not corrupted as your HDD is now)
lets see what a bad disk looks like with Crystaldiskinfo.exe.
Examples are GREAT no?
See that YELLOW Caution? this
means this disk ran out of spare sectors. (this one
example) Yellow error status, is like water bucket full of
hole in the
bottom, you are doomed ! (the OS and all data are doomed)
In fact it is 118 spares short, making the HDD useless to anyone.
In fact I run this program app. on all HDD seen for sure loading any OS
or any OS that acts odd.
These are just S.M.A.R.T PARAMETERS (pure status) C6 is very very
to look at, (C6hex is 198. decimal as seen on other apps to test hdd) NO
UNCORRECTABLES ALLOWED PERIOD. (C6h/198d.)
C6 is NO GOOD ! Uncorrectable ! Note this
drive had 154 spares new, & 140 used is the limit, for replacing the drive.
As you can see the smart auto repair is seen in parameter
05, this must not run dry.(above is dry, and
end of life HDD)
Reallocated sectors are the SPARE sectors in all HDD, that you have no
direct access to) these are spares used by the S.M.A.R.T auto self repair engine
inside the HDD. (this drive ran OUT OF SPARE SECTORS at 140 count)
On real server (Dell R710) my server sends me email of 05(hex) goes
over 140 , and is called PREDICTIVE failures. ( my server nevers goes
down ever, I just hot swap in new HDD and it keeps on chugging, yes
SMART is that good)
disk like this running say Windows, the OS will go
corrupted fast. (or is
already) NO OS can run on this bad drive, and not crash. (vast random
ways).... Rest in peace. one HDD.
Most used HDD will have many spared out bad
sectors that can not be
erased at all by you, that is why CIA shreds drives, the top reason.
(spared out means logically remapped, and with lots of these?,
drive runs slower; as does bad sectors, not autorepaired by
HDD can hide data, in delete space, slack space, and old weak spared
out sectors (SMART space ) and HPA/DCO areas hide data too. (killdisk
is the cure on all , but smart space) Smart space means sectors now
gone, and spared out, and can not be erased by me.
One more APP, PASSMARK DISKCHECKUP. see ID 5= parameter 5(hex) is zero
means new drive, no errors, yet, and C6=0, means driver has not
used any spare sectors.
ALL Symptoms of a bad HDD :
Lots there are: (no order just reasons ) Drives can fail for bad
electronics or motors and for pure mechanical reasons inside, NOT
SSD like at all.
When I say bad HDD I mean SMART told you it bad and in fact is bad.
- Drives is dead silent, mean motor is dead, (mp3 sounds at startup) if silent all the time
the DRIVE IS PURE DEAD.
- Drives held to your ear to HDD casing) clicking like mad , is a
- BIOS page called
boot order shows the drive missing. (RTC
coin cell NOT DEAD they can fail this tiny battery in only 5 years old
and now boot order is a wreck, the BATTERIES in PC are First, not HDD
- OEM BIOS diagnosics like Dells great F12, ePSA, tells you the
drive is bad, you can take that to the bank.
- Windows 10 told you this HDD is bad, and it sure is, and means SMART
Tests failing, back up data now. (some may be lost)
- Many PCs have boot POST errors that tell you in text or coded,
Bad HDD, and is, RTM read the manual first all PCs have error codes
covered in the manual . (RTM)
- My DELL PC in the BIOS pages I click BIOS logs and read, and it
shows errors from the HDD, believe it. , or even more simple some PCs
during POST or Windows load up tells you HDD SMART fails. (text errors
to the screen)
- Some PCs have 4 LED on the front of PC (Dell does) that tells a code,
1234 and the code is shown clearly in the manual as bad HDD, (Dells do
that too the LED 4 bit Diagnostic code)
- OLD PCs have beep errors (nasty that, imagine 100's of PCs beeping
in a huge offiice setting, nasty) but the codes in the "Read the manual" <RTM ! Some have beep code that means bad HDD.
- Crystaldiskinfo.exe told you it
is bad, it IS. (a free app and 100% safe) may take running that APP,
using a 2nd PC using the DOCK below.
- As a second drive , fails to show up in DISK MANAGER IS a DEAD,
it must show up if not that means the DRIVE CAN NOT EVEN
TELL you it's Identification page, dead that is. (1 exception
using any alien HDD from say apple or linux PC , wrong format) Killdisk
- As you have learned dead comes is 2 favors, totally
dead, and weak, the weak drives may have most or some data still there, we look
first. Using the below device. (using 2nd good PCs is best)
- HDD can fail easy in say power surge, (or worse lightning hits)
and now make a huge very loud racket, sounding like , a kid hitting a
tin can with small toy hammer CLANK CLANK of DEATH.
- Any HDD the heads can crash, and now even make this
horrible screeching sound the sounds of heads cutting deep groves in
the disk platters, a doomed thing.
- OS of any kind keeps complaining about CRC or ECC errors, that
means the Hard drive is now bad, using Windows now to fix that
only hides the errors for only minutes/ or some short days.
(Windows it self, can not cure a bad HDD, ever, only for short
time ) C6 not zero is doomed.
- This what you see?
Hickory Dickory DOCK : "DOCKING BAYs
or HDD Enclosures" USB connected and best with exernal power packs of
some kind 2+amps re better .
You can buy a cheap HDD docking bay,
enclosure or even a simple crude USB SATA adaptor cable (no case), best is to have this
$15 tool below (or the like kind) so you can test any HDD on any PC.
Nothing works better testing any HDD suspected, as bad ,weak or you
trying hard to find lost data. (use this great device to recover data)
I can plug this in to any PC I have that is not dead to test a
suspected bad drive.
HDD DOCK (usb ) see more here... a long story on external drives.
The best way to test any HDD or SSD is using this. (Plug in drive
to test, and then plug below into 2nd PC USB port and find the drive in
DISK MANAGER YOU MUST !) I use only DOCK that have 2amp power
The docking bay HDD USB , does them all HDD and SSD all sizes.
First off a new HDD is not formatted at all, if you see it is, that means it is not new, it is in fact used or what they call open box specials. (we erase those first) or sold as REFURB and was not erased.
- There are 100s of formats (means drives formatted as) that do not
work in windows of any kind. (this topic is for you trying use a
Foreign/alien, drive. USED off some other PC or THING)
- Only a few formats are good, FAT6,FAT32,NTFS. (EXFAT will
not boot w10 and is only Fat32 upgrade) most Linux formats are no
good for Windows. (for sure the C: boot drive)
- Any alien dirve needs to be erased first. Now it can function onced formatted correctly.
- HDD that are used status from these NON PC type systems will fail (can) NVR, DVR, CCTV and pro
camera's ,systems, even high-end huge printers or Servers. (erase them)
- Yes there are drivers that let windows read (but not boot) linux Ext2Fsd.
- What matters to most folks is a dead C: drive, the boot drive,
and it its format must be compatible with booting and for sure
worse, UEFI Secure boot as seen on all new PC's. (FAT 32 or
NTFS is the answer , MBR or GPT structures) MBR is legacy boot.
- Windows installer is tricky beast and in most cases if it sees
some odd format structure there the install BOX shows the DRIVE
Missing, or if alien format or even thinks you have data on that disk
and windows now goes to protect data mode, disk shown missing. (MS
- Vast new HDD are returned to say Amazon or Newegg.com and are
100% good, due to users that do not know how to test a PC nor the Drive
or have dead RTC coin cell battery making the PC dead for only
- If the PCs BIOS is dead, or just the screen dead, tell me how 10 new HDD can fix that?, answer it can not.
- Any PC that has only 1 HDD, the cure is simple move the drive to
the DOCK ABOVE AND TEST it on a PC that runs the same OS as the dead
PC. (most cases are windows 10 for 10) and run smart tests, now.(diskheckup)
- Linux demo media booted in "Try me" demo mode can in fact test
the Docked PC. Using "DISKTEST" or type "DISK" in the Linux
search box, and bingo. (smart passed or failed)
- The best way to clean install w10 is to start with a new or fully
erased HDD, let the OS lay down the format and partitions as it wants
to and will automatically. Let it do its job and it will.
- Last and best, remove old HDD , put in a new SSD and reload W10 then use the old drive as a docked drive to get some data off it , if lucky. luck happens.
Warning #1 do not ever use some now relic and
old application (APP) from pre-2001 era for any PATA HDD, called
LOW Level Format. (LLFMT) or it may wreck the drive .! In fact delete
this app forever, make it GONE FOREVER.
HDD SOUNDS, your ear to casing or with a
cheap $5 stethoscope (ask any automotive guys know how to hear
sounds !) Play with any MP3 player on earth.
Click/Clank of death (not to be
confused with normal head servo tracking) this is loud. (normal
is very tiny clicks or non)
Normal startup sounds( no not this loud but
the sound is right for spin up, ear to casing)
Run Disktest. In fred Linux in DEMO mode even if PC OS is dead or just won't boot Windows.
#13 (super shortened) 7-17-2020 This page focus hard
on why HDD fail and the cures, and all tests. (