Simultaneous Hard Drive Failure

Wd Western digital wd5000aaks 500gb sata...
September 16, 2009 at 01:31:00
Specs: Windows XP
A few days ago, my computer had trouble identifying storage elements (if I opened My Computer, the flashlight would come on for 30 secs or so). I've had this computer for over 2 years with no problems until recently.

Today, the screen started to flash green dots occasionally and turn off and on. I thought it may be that the system was overheating (it had shut off a few times for no reason the day before). So I let it cool down and everything was fine for 10 minutes, then the problem persisted. I cleaned out my intake fan and gave the system a thorough wipe down.

The next time I booted up, it said a file was missing from windows in order to boot up and I needed a recovery CD. I popped in my XP CD and it registered both of my 500 gig SATA hard drives as being unpartitioned and only having 130 gigs.

I tried reformatting the second hard drive, but no matter how many times I run the Windows installation, it will not pick up the hard drive. I connected both drives to another computer and my C drive showed up as unformatted and the D drive had Windows files in it. Luckily, I recovered the data from the C drive. I tried doing a slow NTFS reformat of the D drive and still no dice.

Before I go out and buy a new HDD, what could have caused this? The power supply? If so, how do I test it if I don't have a multimeter or really many tools at all? Did the overheating corrupt them? My hard drive chassis sits right in front of my intake fan. They both went out at almost the exact same time, which is weird. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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September 16, 2009 at 04:43:32
OK, here is what is going on. First of all WinXP doesn't natively support SATA drives. Therefore you need to supply SATA drivers at startup. Those drivers either need to be supplied on a floppy disk or integrated into your WinXP CD.

Second, if Windows is only seeing 130GB of your large drives your WinXP is either Original WinXP (no service packs), or your computer BIOS is NOT 48 bit LBA compliant. 48 bit compliance is the ability to handle hard drives larger than 127/137GB.

Reboot the computer and watch the POST screens at start up to verify the BIOS is properly identifying the drives by both the model and the FULL capacity. If that is OK then the issue is strictly a WinXP issue.

Post back with results before proceeding further.

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September 16, 2009 at 07:38:25
State the make and model of your brand name system, or if it is a generic system, the make and model of the desktop mboard.
The specific brand name system model is usually on a label on the outside of thecase somewhere, or it can be determined by going to the brand name's web site.
The model of the mboard in a generic system is usually printed in obvious larger characters on the surface of the mboard, often between the card slots.

"OK, here is what is going on. First of all WinXP doesn't natively support SATA drives. Therefore you need to supply SATA drivers at startup."

You only need to supply the SATA controller drivers for the mboard when you are booting from a regular XP CD and the mboard's bios Setup has the SATA controllers set to SATA or AHCI or RAID (SATA or AHCI RAID) mode.
If you go into the bios Setup and set the SATA controllers to IDE compatible mode or similar, save settings, the regular XP CD will then be able to "see" all SATA drives (as IDE compatible drives).

If you then choose to run Setup and load Windows from scratch, .....

(the RAID array, if you're using one - SATA or AHCI RAID - must already be setup BEFORE you install Windows. In that case you MUST supply supply SATA controller drivers at the beginning of Setup by pressing F6, and have the mboard's bios Setup SATA controllers set to RAID (SATA or AHCI RAID) mode.).

Whenever you load Windows from a regular Windows CD (or DVD) from scratch, after Setup is finished you must load the drivers for the mboard, particularly the main chipset drivers, in order for Windows to have the proper drivers for and information about your mboard hardware, including it's AGP or PCI-E, ACPI, USB 2.0 if it has it, and hard drive controller support. If you have a generic system and have the CD that came with the mboard, all the necessary drivers are on it. If you load drivers from the web, brand name system builders and mboard makers often DO NOT have the main chipset drivers listed in the downloads for your model - in that case you must go to the maker of the main chipset's web site, get the drivers, and load them.

After the drivers for the SATA controllers have been installed, If you go into the bios Setup and set the SATA controllers to SATA or AHCI mode or similar, save settings, then the SATA hard drives will then be able to achieve their full rated max data burst speed - 300mb/sec - instead of that being limited to the max IDE speed - 133mb/sec.

(A RAID array must already be setup BEFORE you install Windows).

"Second, if Windows is only seeing 130GB of your large drives your WinXP is either Original WinXP (no service packs), or your computer BIOS is NOT 48 bit LBA compliant"

If you could see the hard drives previously as their full 500gb size on the same computer, the mboard's bios is 48 bit complaint - your problem is the XP CD has no SP updates at all.
The original XP CD has SP3 or SP3 printed on it if it includes SP2 or SP3 updates. If it has nothing about SP printed on it is either the original version of XP that has no SP updates, or it has SP1 updates included. If the CD recognizes hard drives larger than 128gb as about 128gb, the CD has no SP1 updates included

It is not recommended you run Setup or do anything to the data on the hard drive in that case. What the CD detects when the drive can't be seen as it's full size is what it sees when Setup can detect the full size.

If you can't borrow an XP CD that has at least SP1 updates included on it, you can make yourself a"slipstreamed" burned disk, preferably a CD-R, that has the data contents of your XP CD with the SP3 updates integrated into it, and, optionally, the SATA controller drivers for your mboard integrated into it, and use that to repair or install Windows. You use the same Product Key with it.

"Today, the screen started to flash green dots occasionally and turn off and on."

"So I let it cool down and everything was fine for 10 minutes,.."

"I cleaned out my intake fan and gave the system a thorough wipe down."

Did you check to see if the cpu fan and heatsink are filthy, inside the case?

Unplug the case/power supply.
Power off your monitor.
Open up the case by removing the left panel as seen when you're looking at the front of the case.
Check all the connections of the wiring to make sure they are all the way onto their pins and into their sockets, especially the main connector from the power supply. The wires close to the mboard going into the main power connector/socket should be more or less perpendicular to the mboard surface rather than at an angle. Most mboards require an additional connector from the PS be connected to a socket for power on the mboard, other than the main socket. Make sure all cards in slots are all the way down in their slots.

Check your SATA data cables. The connector on each end should "latch" into the socket on the drive and on the mboard, or on the drive controller card - it should not move when you merely brush your hand against it near the socket - if it does, mere vibration can cause a poor connection of it - use another SATA data cable that does "latch", or tape the connector in place.
(There is a slight projection or bump on one side of the outside of the connector that "latches" it into the socket - it's easily broken off or damaged)

The same thing applies for the SATA power connection.

While you're in there, if the cpu fan/heatsink has mung (dust, lint, etc.) on it, clean it off, but DO NOT use a vaccuum cleaner to do that (they produce a tremendous amount of static electricity when running, and anything connected to them can discharge that to your components) - use canned air, or an air nozzle if you have access to an air compressor, or an artist's brush that can be used in small spaces, etc. It may be difficult to clean the top of the heatsink under the cpu fan - the most likely place to have mung on it - and the bottom side of the cpu fan blades unless you remove the fan. If you have a case fan, clean that too if it needs it.

With the cover still off, restore the AC power, start the computer and make sure the cpu fan spins
- if it doesn't spin, if you're sure the power supply is working okay, don't use the computer until you have found out why it doesn't spin (see next below).
- if it doesn't spin, if you're sure the power supply is working okay, don't use the computer until you have replaced it.
If it spins too slowly, and/or if it makes rattling or screeching noises, most likely to be noticed when the computer has cooled to room temp, has not been used for a while, and then is started up, the cpu fan's bearings are failing - replace it as soon as you can.

There's usually nothing wrong with the processor - cpu - unless the cpu fan failed.

If the cpu fan does not spin,
- if it's blade moves easily when you try to spin it with your finger, there may be nothing wrong with it. Try removing it and connecting it to another desktop mboard's 3 pin header for a case or power supply fan - if it spins, your processor is probably okay - if it doesn't spin your processor MAY be damaged.
- if the cpu fan is difficult or impossible to spin when you try to spin it with your finger, your processor is probably burnt out.

Your symptoms can also be caused by a failing power supply.

Failing power supplies are common and can cause your symptoms.
Check your PS.
They often partially work, fans and hard drives may spin, leds may come on, yet you may get no video and the mboard will not boot all the way.
See response 4 in this:

If it is failing, you can usually replace it with any decent standard sized standard ATX PS with the same capacity or greater.

Standard (PS/2) power supply size - 86mm high, 150mm wide, 140mm deep, or 3 3/8" h x 5 7/8" w x 5 1/2" d , or very close to that, though the depth can be more or less for some PSs.

Don't buy an el-cheapo PS.
See response 3 in this:

We are seeing this problem often lately - someone has built a new system or has upgraded their video card, and the power supply may not be able to handle the load or the additional load.

Your power supply must have at least the minimum capacity required to support a system with the graphics card you are using installed, or the max graphics card you might install in the future.
(Onboard video - video built into the mboard - IS NOT A CARD!)
You can go to the video card maker's web site and look up the specs for the model - often under system requirements - the minimum PS wattage, and, more important, the minimum amperage the PS must supply at 12v is stated. If you don't find that, any card with the same video chipset including any letters after the model number has very similar minimum PS requirements.
Some power supplies have more than one +12v amperage rating - in that case you add the rated max amperages to determine the total +12v amperage rating.

A video card that requires more PS capacity than you system has often works for a while anyway, but the PS is overloaded 100% of the time and is eventually damaged and fails.

"They both went out at almost the exact same time, which is weird. "

It is extremely unlikely two hard drives would fail at the same time.
Sometimes if one drive is failing, another one connected to the same drive controller won't work properly either.
In that case, try disconnect the data cata cable to the drive that seems to be malfunctioning.

Check your hard drive with the manufacturer's diagnostics.
See the latter part of response 1 in this:

(thanks to Dan Penny for this link:)
Hard Drive Diagnostics Tools and Utilities

If you don't have a floppy drive, you can get a CD image diagnostic utility from most hard drive manufacturer's web sites, but obviously you would need to make a burned CD, preferably a CD-R for best compatibilty, on another computer if you need to.

If the hard drive itself tests okay, any data problems found can be fixed, one way or another.

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September 16, 2009 at 09:23:35
I have an EVGA nForce 680i mobo connected up with a 600W power supply and am powering two nvidia 8800 GTS's. I have run the system for over 2 years with no problems until recently, so I'm skeptical about the power supply not supplying enough power. My system has also always recognized the 2 hard drives as having 500 gigs before with no drivers needed.

I'm testing the system later on today and will post the results when I am done. I'll try a different XP cd, but the one I was using listed that it had SP2 on it.

Thanks for your help guys, I'll try out everything later on today and post results.

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September 16, 2009 at 11:44:35
"I have an EVGA nForce 680i mobo connected up with a 600W power supply and am powering two nvidia 8800 GTS's."

For one 8800GTS:

A 400W PCI Express-compliant system power supply with a combined 12V current rating of 26A or more *Minimum system power requirement based on a typical PC configured with an Intel® Core™2 Extreme X6800 processor

One 6-pin PCI Express supplementary power connector -or- Two 4-pin Molex power connectors

For two, minimum 450 watts, a bit more amps, two or four of the specified power connections.

So, you DO have more than enough PS capacity.

However, what's the make and model of the PS?

There are lots of el-cheapo PSs out there that are likely to not last as long.

Check the fans on the 8800GTS cards - make sure they're spinning properly and there isn't excessive "mung" - lint, dust, etc. - on the fans or on their heatsink or in the cooling passage openings on the cards.

"My system has also always recognized the 2 hard drives as having 500 gigs before with no drivers needed."

The size Windows detects is not a matter regarding drivers.
If the Windows CD you boot the computer from has no SP updates, it can't recognize any hard drive's full size if it's larger than 128gb in Windows / 137gb manufacturer's size, if the mboard's bios can recognize drives larger than 128gb in Windows and the mboard's bios / 137gb manufacturer's size.

If your system is a brand name system and still has it's original software installtion, all the drivers for the hardware on the system have already been installed, and Windows probably had at least SP2 updates already installed on it when you first got the computer.
If you bought a custom made generic system that already had software installed on it, the same applies, except SP3 updates may have already been installed.

If you install Windows from a CD that has no SP included and none of your hard drives at the time is larger than 128gb in Windows / 137gb manufacturer's size, Windows will detect the hard drive sizes fine.
If you update Windows with at least SP1 updates after that, the Windows installtion will then have the ability to recognize drives larger than 128gb in Windows / 137gb manufacturer's size as their true size.

When you installed the 500gb drives on the other computer, Windows recognized them as their true size because that Windows installation had at least SP1 updates installed - it probably had SP3 updates installed on it these days.

If the other computer had it's bios Setup set so the SATA controllers are set to SATA or AHCI mode, that indicates the SATA controller drivers were installed for that mboard, and in that case, the operating system recognizes SATA drives running in SATA or AHCI mode fine.

Windows XP will auto supply IDE drivers for the drive controllers and will therefore have no problem detecting IDE drives,
and/or, if the mboard's bios Setup is set so the SATA controllers are in IDE compatible mode or similar, IDE drivers will be used for the SATA drives, and SATA drives (running in IDE compatible mode) will be seen fine.

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September 16, 2009 at 14:52:34
My power supply is an Ultra X-finity.

Alright, onto good news.

I successfully installed Windows on one of my hard drives. Once I get all of my data and files transferred over, everything will be peachy keen. I'm also going to reformat the old C drive and see if I can't get it working to.

What could have went wrong to make all of this happen? I don't want to go to the trouble of reinstalling everything just to find out my power supply kills everything.

On the overheating issue, as I stated earlier, my intake fan was completely blocked, so almost no airflow there. my tower is sitting on flat carpet floor (now I have it sitting higher up to increase airflow). The video card fans were really gunked up with dust and so was the CPU fan. Additionally, my video cards take up two slots, one for the ports and the other for fan output. This was the first computer I built, so I didn't know to clear way for the video card fans. That's taken care of now. I've taken compressed air to every inch of it and everything seems to be clean. Could this really have all been done because of overheating?

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September 16, 2009 at 15:51:52
"my tower is sitting on flat carpet floor ..."

That's probably the worst possible location regarding it sucking in dust and lint.

The room I have most of my computers in has tile covering the floors, mostly, and two meduim sized removable rugs that aren't likely to generate anywhere near as much lint as wall to wall carpet tends to do.
I never have them located at or close to the floor.
I only have to clean inside the cases of the two computers I use the most maybe once a year, despite the fact I smoke in the room - I tend to smoke too much when I'm using the computer (as many as 20 per day) .

If nothing else, don't locate your computer close to the floor.

Also - don't install any more fans then you need to cool the computer sufficiently. The more fans you have, the more lint and dust gets sucked it.

E.g. the AMD boxed sets of cpu, fan, heatsink for the higher 64 x 2 cpus and the Phenoms have a very good heatsink with heat pipes and a good cpu fan - the result is the cpu runs cooler than average with those under all conditions - you don't need a case fan unless you have more than two higher end video cards installed.

My nephew has his computer in a room with wall to wall carpet and had it located close to the floor. His case was donated to him and has four case fans he has hooked up, as well as his cpu fan and two 80mm fans in the PS - it also cloggs up the inside of the case relatively quickly. I convinced him to place it on the end of the desk and it takes much longer to clog up now.
Family of 3, no one smokes in the house, the room is a long way from the kitchen.

I have a friend I built a system for - it has a 6400+ cpu, AMD supplied cpu fan and heatsink, a case fan, a Coolermaster? 600watt PS with one 120mm fan, and a Sapphire 4850 video card which has an efficient fan - he had it located near the floor in his bedroom which has wall to wall carpet - no one in the house ever smokes, the bedroom is a long way from the kitchen - we discovered the cpu heatsink gets clogged in only a couple of months - family of four - three of them use the computers (they have another one downstairs) for many hours every day.

In both cases the humidifier on the house furnace isn't working properly. This results in the humidtry in the house tending to being too low in the heating season, which makes it more likely static electricity will build up in the carpet (if it has no cotton on it) , making it more likely the lint will stick to things.

"Could this really have all been done because of overheating?"

Yes, depending on circumstances. E.g., if your intial problems occurred when the cpu and/or the video cards were getting too hot.

You can often set the max temp for the cpu in the bios Setup - the mboard will make a warning noise or pop up a warning message or shut down the mboard when the cpu reaches that temp.
Sometimes you can do that in the configuration of the video card's settings too, if the card has temp sensors.

Or in any case you can install a hardware monitoring program in Windows that can be set the same way - many mboard CDs have that on them as an optional component, or that can often be downloaded from the mboard maker's web site, or you could download Speedfan or a similar freeware program and install it.

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September 16, 2009 at 16:41:31
I instructed you to watch the POST screens at start up to verify the drives are properly configured. Did you do that?

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September 16, 2009 at 17:24:49
Yes. Everything POSTed fine. I only have in my secondary hard drive right now, but it's registering as it should be. I have yet to test the over drive, but I think the last time I tried powering it on, the serial number was all 0's. I'll post more information when I have it later on tonight. Thanks for all the help guys!

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September 16, 2009 at 18:12:08
The model number and the full capacity is what I was looking for.

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September 16, 2009 at 18:22:29
Both are listed at the top of this thread and were reflected in the POST

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September 16, 2009 at 20:55:24
Okay, the drive that is now my primary drive is working fine. I plugged in the secondary HDD (used to be the primary where windows was installed and it was fine. I then tried to run some scans on it and the green pixels came back. Presently, I'm reformatting the hard drive, clean long install of NTFS and have deleted all the partitions on the disk so it can be one continuous drive.

I don't know what happened. Just yesterday, I couldn't get either of the drives to work properly and now here they are, working like a charm. Were they just too hot? I don't know what to think. I changed the SATA port the bad one was in and it's fine. I'm still really confused as to what could have happened here.

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September 17, 2009 at 07:32:12
The green pixels probably have nothing to do with the data on your hard drives. You could try another monitor but that usually has absolutely nothing to do with the problem. Symptoms like that are almost always caused by a hardware problem, in this case, probably due to a poor connection to one or both video cards, or one or both video card chipsets have been damaged from them having overheated.
You could try unplugging or switching off the AC power to the computer, removing the video cards, wiping their contacts with at least a tissue or soft cloth, or better, wipe them off with methyl or isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol or a drop of dish washing detergent in water, wiping them dry, don't touch the contacts with your fingers after having cleaned them, install the cards, fasten them down, restore AC power.
If that doesn't help, if it only happensafter the computer has warmed up, you could try replacing the fans on them, but chances are one or both chipsets in the video cards have already been damaged. Often when the video chipset is damaged, you see more symptoms when more of the advanced features of the card's chipset are being used, or when the chipset is being more heavily used, such as when you're playing a recent game.

"....have deleted all the partitions on the disk so it can be one continuous drive."

It's not a good idea to "put all your eggs in one basket" especially for the drive that has Windows installed on it, especially for large capacity drives.

"I'm still really confused as to what could have happened here."

Odd things can happen when you have one or more thing(s) that is overheating, and that don't necessarily make any sense.

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September 17, 2009 at 12:07:16
The fact that you had multiple problems would tend to indicate overheating. Download and run a motherboard monitoring program like SpeedFan.

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September 17, 2009 at 18:28:00

It's back. Here's a better description of what's happening.

The monitor started having green pixels in sort of a V formation all over the screen. Then everything went black on screen and two icons showed up and my mouse, but I couldn't move it. I was installing a program when this happened.

The last temperature my video cards registered was 61 C. My CPU was at 52 C.

Now, even when I start up and the bios is loading, the monitor still has the funky color problem. Green vertical lines all over the place. Any ideas as to what could be wrong?

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September 17, 2009 at 18:49:43
Oh oh - sounds like damage has already been done
More likely one or both video cards.

Try the monitor with another computer.
But - here's probably nothing wrong with it.

Did you try cleaning the contacts on the video cards as in response 12?

You could try one at a time.

"The last temperature my video cards registered was 61 C. My CPU was at 52 C."

61 sounds high for the cards, at least for an 8800. 61 on both?
52 is a bit high but not out of range.

Did you check ALL the stuff I mentioned in response 3?

You could try this - a problem with the connection of the ram could cause a freeze - but it's not likely to cause a video problem like you're having:

See response 2 in this - try cleaning the contacts on the ram modules, and making sure the modules are properly seated:


This could cause all sorts of random problems:

Open up your case and examine the mboard to see if you have bad capacitors, and/or other findable signs of mboard damage .

This was the original bad capacitor problem - has some example pictures.
History of why the exploding capacitors and which mboard makers were affected:

What to look for, mboard symptoms, example pictures:
Home page that site
- what the problem is caused by
- he says there are STILL bad capacitors on more recent mboards.

Pictures of blown capacitors, other components - power supplies, Athlon cpu's, etc.:

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September 18, 2009 at 00:28:07
I finally diagnosed the problem. One of the two video cards I had running SLI was dying. once i had in just one card, everything started working beautifully.

I suppose the hard drive problem was because I shut it down during boot up so many times, I screwed it up myself, not my computer. Operator error really is the biggest cause of system failure.

Thanks for all the help!

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September 18, 2009 at 07:35:46
We're glad to hear it appears you found the cause of the video problem. When a card's chipset is damaged that can cause other problems as well.

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