Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hard drive failing

Two months ago I got a new Dell Inspiron laptop to use for my work. I have been very pleased with the computer which is quite fast and has a good keyboard and a very nice screen. However this afternoon I switched it on to do a bit of work and was typing away when the hard drive started making a noise like a cat with indigestion - which anyone who has ever done tech support will recognize as the sound of a hard drive attempting to read a bad sector.

Windows froze, there was no way out but to long-press the power switch, losing the work I had been doing. On start-up, Windows insisted on doing a disk check and printed up a lot of messages that appeared to be to do with errors on the hard drive. Eventually I was able to restart, Windows booted up and it seems to be working normally again. But my confidence in the system's reliability has taken a blow. In my experience hard drives don't malfunction once and then run perfectly for ever after. But there's no sign of any fault now, so I have little option but to wait until the next time it starts making funny noises. :(


ConnerVT said...

"so I have little option but to wait until the next time it starts making funny noises."

Or I would back up (image) everything now, then order a replacement drive.

If you are fortunate, the current drive will run until the replacement arrives, so you can make an even more recent backup. Then get rid of the questionable drive.

Unknown said...

This is a 2 month old computer, under warranty. I doubt that Dell is going to send me a new hard drive just on my say-so that it had a recoverable failure. You are right that I should get round to installing that copy of Acronis on it, though.

Larry W2LJ said...


The netbook I bought (used) went belly up yesterday. Someone in the household (and all I'm getting is denials) cracked the LCD screen. I've got a fancy electronic paperweight here!

73 de Larry W2LJ

VE9KK said...

I have had Dell desktops and laptops in the past all with no troubles. The Toshiba laptop I have now was just under a year when the HD started to hiccup like yours. It was about 3 months until it just failed. The laptop still had to be sent in for service to verify the problem. The new drive is in and all is well. It was good I had the extended warranty or I would had been just out of luck. I have an external HD (2TB) I use for back up I do have a copy of Acronis and it is a very good program.Julian Dell I found was excellent with customer service did you call them and go over the problem? The computer is almost brand new, I wonder if they would replace the drive before it fails again.

Unknown said...

I certainly would like it to be replaced because this kind of thing isn't usually a one-off occurrence. It's the weekend so I won't be able to try speaking to anyone at Dell until Monday.

VE9KK said...

Julian since it is only a few months old I feel a replacement machine is in order. In North America the help desk was 24/7 as for customer service not sure. As for me I would raise cain and have them replace the machine. But then my wife says I like to dream a lot. Squeaky wheel gets the oil I always say.
Good luck and let us know how you fair?

Steve GW7AAV said...

A good sized laptop hard drive is cheap as chips these days. Personally I would buy a portable drive and back everything up. I have had bad sectors on HDDs in the past and only ever hard two or three that actually failed and those were not the ones with the bad sectors. The operating system should be able to write around those once they are marked as bad.

In reply to Larry W2LJ...Get on eBay and buy a replacement screen it is usually a dead easy fix for anyone with an amateur radio licence.

Jay Dighsx said...

I had a drive start heading south on a Dell (this was about 7 years ago). Called Dell up they had me download some Western Digital program that looked at the drive and then gave some hex code. I read them the hex code and they mailed me a new drive. Might be worth a shot, what do you have to lose?

And Larry (W2LJ) Steve (GW7AAV) is right it's not too bad a job replacing those screens. I've done a few for friends and one of my own. Last one I did was on an Acer sub-notebook and it cost around $60 to get the screen.

Good luck to all.

Jay aka KD8EUR

Theodore said...

Hi Julian,

I worked for a Dell service provider for a while a few years ago and found them very reasonable once you get past the language barrier (may have changed by now - not sure).
I would definitely get Acronis loaded and drop a a backup image of your system on an external drive or something.
In my experience, hard disk errors are like cockroaches, there is never only one.
Its an almost new computer, costs almost nothing to Dell, so go and put in the service call.
At least if it fails and trashes your data you will have a trail for them to see, and will smooth your path to a new drive if necessary.
From personal experience with Dell on the call desk, the squeaky wheel definitely gets the oil.
Just keep hassling them, they will take the path of least resistance for sure.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the suggestions, guys. The hard drive's model number in device manager starts with ST9250 so I think it must be a Seagate drive. I've just downloaded their SeaTools diagnostic utility to see what it says.

Unknown said...

Hah, that didn't get far. Guess it doesn't like Win 7 64-bit.

G4NKX said...

Oh Dear - not good, before xp went west here it was reporting bad sectors on my laptop, but since installing xubuntu it has been fine - not a good weekend, the memory stick containing my entire log popped, I had a log ADIF file dated to march this year, and got most of my qso's off eqsl which I copied in this morning - I have missed a few, but it's as up-to-date as I will get.
Computers - trouble is we need them !!

Theodore said...

If Dell give you a hard time (very unlikely) point out nicely that you have been blogging about this fault, and would be delighted to make it a happy ending.
Not threatening of course, just a desire to see both you and Dell get good outcomes.


Unknown said...

Looks like you're experience a bad hard drive. Hope you've already backed up data online. That's the only thing to worry about. Free advice please; learn to backup your data. I use Am happy with it and they also have 3GB free trial.