General discussion

Error: Return code 7 hard drive failure

Feb 19, 2007 3:46AM PST

A friend asked me to help him fix his computer, and I have never encountered this problem before. He has a Dell desktop, and was performing a regular Windows update when his computer froze in the middle of the update. When he rebooted, it said that the computer was unable to boot from the drive. The computer would not boot up in safe mode either. I asked him to run a Hard drive diagnostic test, which returned that the hard drive failed the test, return code 7. After some research, it seems to me that this error is not fixable, and he must buy a new hard drive. Is this true? I have read a few forums that mentioned "chkdsk /r" could solve the problem, but only temporarily to recover data. If chkdsk works, how is it done when the computer will not boot? Any help would be appreciated, thanks!

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Reply to: Error: Return code 7 hard drive failure
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I did a quick search and found that code from Dell's
Feb 19, 2007 3:52AM PST

I did a quick search and found that code from Dell's diagnostics indicates drive failure.

Try a new drive.


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Return code 7
Mar 12, 2007 2:02PM PDT

When using the 90/90 diags.Its only good on drive 80G or less. Anything larger you will always (90%)of the time get the message. When in fact in may not always be the case. Try updating your BIOS first (I think that was already suggested, but it does work in some cases.) Better yet, run a diagnostics that can handle large drives.CHKDSK can help also. Backup your data anyway. This should be a common practice. However, most of us (including myself ) don't. I work on these things all day. I don't want to play with mine.Dell has a 32 bit diagnostics,that you should be able to run from your resource cd or download from the site. Hope this helps any future users who don't necessarily have to get a new drive.

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Return Code 7
Mar 20, 2007 3:02AM PDT

Just finished a call with Dell, they assure me that the drive is not bad. To them a Return code 7 indicates failure to read the drive. Their suggestion is to format the drive and then run diags again, if the code is still there then it might be a bad drive unfortunately you have to loose your data to test this theory unless you slave drive and pull data

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same problem here
Mar 26, 2007 7:44PM PDT

Sometimes it will go ahead and boot and sometimes not. They had me run another series of tests that included memory, mother board, etc. but the HD failed that one also. After pulling a few teeth, they are coming out this morning to replace the HD. My machine is still under warranty, so wouldn't settle for anything less. I'm expecting them, though, to replace it with a refurbished one. Anywhere I can run a number check on the new one to see what its history is?

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return code 7
Dec 3, 2009 11:22PM PST

I have a dell 2400 desk top with 80 GB hard drive
this computer does freeze ups and very slow. I tried to clean the drive and do a reformat, but it will not boot from the disc. I ran a disc check and got a return code 7. How can I correct this problem?

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Try the Dell answer.
Dec 4, 2009 12:56AM PST

I see Dell and others call this a failed drive. Try a new drive.

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rebuild array
Jan 8, 2011 8:08PM PST

hi. i had this same problem, and all i did was rebuild the one with the problem, and my computer booted up again.

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Rebuild array?
Jan 29, 2011 11:14AM PST


Can you supply more detail on how you "rebuilt" the disk? A friend is now having this problem.


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At bios/startup
Jan 31, 2011 2:19PM PST

Hi. It was an option when entering boot menu right at startup.

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Rebuilding or Making HDD useable again...
Jul 3, 2011 1:08AM PDT

*** DISCLAIMER *** The following information you must use at your own risk.. I take no responsibility for screwing up your stuff even more than what it is already.. don't come crying to me..

Fellow computer users..

I have been working on PCs since the days of 286 processors, 10MB hard drives, and CYRIX still produced math-coprocessors.. YES!! I'm old. But, I have also been CompTIA A+ certified for almost just as long and therefore, I proclaim for this issue, I know the answer -- besides the fact I'm also a Dell DCSE.. So, now that I have setup my dominance amongst you; I'll give you want you want...

This is what I do to diagnose a hard drive. You need to keep a few things in mind. The more you work the drive, the more and more of a risk you will have to lose data without professional help in the thousands of dollars.

Keep in mind the parts which make up the drive. An interface board which translates the physical space to logical information the hard drive controller in the computer can understand, the spinning disks, and the read heads. Listen to the noises of the drive.
-- Loud "clunk" noise generally means "drive head crash -- unrecoverable"
-- You supply power to the unit, but it doesn't spin up. Sometimes the servo for the platter just gets old or it over heats and it needs a little love and care to get it motivated.. so, tap it on the side gently (or hard) with the butt end of a screwdriver; only do this if you're completely desparate or you simply just don't care.
-- As you're doing thorough diagnostics or surface scan, and it makes a noise that is normal, then all of a sudden, it's like the read heads go into a error routine trying over and over to read the same spot on the drive.. Either the surface of the disk is damaged, or you have one or more heads that are dead.

First off, I do not use Dell Diagnostics for a hard drive for definitive and final decision making; I only use it to steer me in the right direction. While a DELL machine is going through POST, press CTRL-D or F12, and choose Hard Drive diagnostics. The resulting error code will give you a suspect issue to research and confirm.

1. If the computer does not recognize the drive, go to step 4.
2. If the drive interface allows the computer to recognize the drive and partitions,
-- remove the drive from the computer
-- using an interface adapter to USB or drive dock, connect to another computer used.
3. Backup as much as you can without making any changes and denying any chkdsk, etc prompts from the operating system you're using.
4. Determine the make and model number of the drive.
5. Download the diagnostics software for that brand.
6. Perform a quick, non-destructive test. Most often, you can stop here and after having a error code. If you have an unrecoverable problem, determine if it is under warranty.
-- If under warranty, start the RMA process
-- If not under warranty, proceed to step 7
7. Research and now exactly what a low-level format is. Basically, it returns the drive to its raw state in manufacturing before any type of formatting is placed on the drive. In old drives, like 15 years ago, manufacturers had seperate utilities for low-level formatting, but 99% of the time in modern times, it's built into the manufacturer's diagnostics utility and never called "low-level". Since, you've done a quick diagnostic, go ahead and perform the long one.. usually, the surface scan.. this is the one what is similar to chkdsk in Windows and will drive to mark bad parts of the disk as "bad" within the drive interface so the drive never tries to use them again. This only works if the interface and the read/write heads have no problems and the surface of the disk has somehow become unable to store magnetic zeros or ones.
8. If step 7 fails, cut your loses.
-- Restore from backup if you have one and lose all changes since the date/time of your last backup, or
-- Determine if the data is business critical and you have the monetary resources to send the drive to a professional data retrieval service. At one point, I remember the average cost was around $3000; but I have never once used this type of service.
-- Else, replace the drive, and discard it only after drilling a hole through it or taking a hammer to it. OBLITERATE IT!! You don't want the FCC, FBI, or CIA finding the crap you've been downloading onto your drive do you? Hmm.. What about your next door neighbor who's that secret spy (if only spying on you)?

You're so lucky you don't have to deal with MFM or RLL hard drives... I actually had a file to manually park the heads.. nowadays they automatically do that on power-off. You guys are spoiled!

That's all I gots.. now I have to go take the dash out of my Dodge RAM to replace my electronic ventilation.

Signed, "a proud infidel"

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