*** 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 park.com 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"