Dealing with Hard Drive Problems
Yes, it happens. Hard disks endure a great deal of hard use and can—and do—go bad over time. This is
so if your computer is in a space subjected to dirt and dust and cigarette smoke. The cleaner the room and the less abuse subjected, the longer your disks last.
But how do you know that your hard disk has died?
The first symptom is that when you try to
on your computer, your hard disk
and whirs and makes a lot of noise, but then nothing happens—your system appears to be stuck in the startup process.
The second symptom is that your system
to start but then displays one of the following error messages (before launching Windows):
Bad or Missing Command Interpreter
Cannot load COMMAND, system halted
Cannot read file allocation table
Disk boot failure
Error loading operating system
File allocation table bad, drive C: Abort, Retry, Fail?
Invalid COMMAND.COM, system halted
Missing operating system
No system on default drive
Non-System disk or disk error: Replace and strike any key when ready
Whether your system won't start
or you receive one of these error messages, there are a handful of steps you can take to try to get your PC up and running again, which we'll discuss
Problem: You Can't Access Your Hard Drive
Any number of problems can cause your hard drive to disappear. The key to diagnosing your specific problem is to follow a detailed troubleshooting procedure, outlined in the following steps.
In order, then, try the following:
Reboot your system. That's right. Turn your system off, wait about 30 seconds, and then turn it back on again. Don't ask why, but sometimes this fixes things.
If your hard disk still isn't accessible, try booting from the Windows installation CD or your Windows Emergency Startup Disk, as explained in Chapter 21, "How to Deal with a Finicky PC." If your system boots from this disk, enter MS-DOS mode and type the following command to copy a fresh version of the command interpreter to your hard disk:
COPY A:\COMMAND.COM C:\COMMAND.COM
Now remove the startup CD or disk and reboot your system by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del.
If an error message
you that you can't copy COMMAND.COM to your hard disk, or if step 2 doesn't get you up and running, you might have a completely trashed hard disk. Try booting from CD or disk again and using the DIR command to see what, if anything, is left on drive C. From MS-DOS mode, type the following command:
If you get an error message, you probably have a damaged or
reformatted or repartitioned hard disk. If you don't get an error message, but no files are listed, something has erased the files from your hard disk; proceed to step 4 for more instructions.
If there are no files on your hard disk, something has wiped the disk clean. (This something could be a computer virus, a vengeful ex-employee, or some other fiend out to destroy your data.) You'll need to use your Windows installation CD to reinstall your operating system, and then proceed to reinstall all your software programs.
If your hard disk is totally inaccessible, you need to determine if the disk is salvageable or if it has some
of irreparable physical damage. Get a copy of Norton Utilities or some other high-level disk-repair utility and examine your disk for physical errors. If possible, fix the errors and then proceed to step 6.
Assuming that your hard disk is in good physical condition, you'll need to
it, and then reinstall Windows. This procedure is described in Chapter 4, "Bigger Is Better: Upgrading System Storage."
You can also perform the
and reformatting as part of a clean Windows install, as described in Chapter 17, "Opening New Windows: Upgrading to Windows XP."
If you can't reformat your disk, or if you continue to encounter problems after reformatting, you probably have more serious hard disk problems. You might need to
a computer repair technician, or replace the hard disk.
If all else fails, don't be embarrassed about turning to a pro for help. A qualified computer technician often stands a better chance of fixing your system and restoring your data after a major disk disaster than you do. If you try and try and try again and still can't bring your hard disk back from the dead, then by all means call someone who gets paid to do the dirty work.
Note, however, that repairing a hard drive will probably cost more than just buying a new one—so the best course of action here is likely to be throwing the old one away and getting a new one.
Problem: You Just Installed a New Hard Disk and It Doesn't Work
Naturally, you might have just bought a lemon, but it's more likely that you did something wrong during the installation process. The two most likely culprits are (1) misconfigured
and (2) incorrect connections. Let's tackle each one separately.
As you remember from Chapter 4, when you install a hard disk you have to configure its jumpers according to how the disk will be used. You typically have three choices: master, slave, and cable select. Chances are, you got the jumpers wrong. If the new drive is to be your main (C:) drive, you should choose the master position—
your system is configured for cable select usage. If you had the jumpers one way, try them the other. And if this is to be a secondary (D: or later) drive, set the jumpers for the slave position or the cable select position, depending. Again, try it both ways.
While you're fiddling with the jumpers, check the installation manual and make sure you've properly configured the drive as either IDE 1 or IDE 2. You'll use the IDE 1 position if this drive is
to be your main (C:) drive.
The second likely cause of your problem comes from incorrectly connecting the internal data cable. It's
easy (too easy) to connect the cable upside down. Try reversing the cable, taking care to line up the colored
on the side of the cable itself.
It's also possible that you can't run two
off the same data cable. Although this configuration
work, sometimes it doesn't. That's why there are two IDE data cables inside your PC. (The second might be connected to your CD/DVD drive.) Both cables have two connectors, so you can try a variety of different connections to find one that works.
If the problem continues, you might need to update your PC's CMOS BIOS. (This likely involves downloading a BIOS patch from the manufacturer's Web site, or calling their tech support to obtain the update on disk.) When you update the BIOS, make any recommended changes to jumpers on your PC's motherboard; the updated BIOS should then recognize your new hard drive.
Problem: You Lost
Data on a Bad Hard Disk
If you have irreplaceable data on a bad hard disk, all is not
lost. There are companies that specialize in saving "lost" data from
inaccessible disks. These data recovery services charge an arm an a leg—
from $200 to $2,000—so you won't want to use them just to recover MP3 files and holiday recipes. But if you have truly valuable data on a disk that has gone bad, you should consider this option.
Some of the larger data recovery firms include the following:
ActionFront Data Recovery Labs (www.datarec.com)
Drive Service Company (www.driveservice.com)
Ontrack Data Recovery Solutions (www.ontrack.com)
Problem: Windows Doesn't Recognize Your Hard Disk's Full Size
In spite of what you might think, this isn't a Windows problem; it's a system setup problem. For some reason, when you installed the hard disk, your system BIOS didn't recognize the correct settings. You'll need to enter your CMOS BIOS setup utility and reconfigure the hard drive setting to "auto." When you reboot your system, your BIOS should recognize the hard drive during the startup process and register the proper size.
It's also possible that you're installing a really big hard disk on a much older PC. The BIOS on some older computers simply won't recognize hard disks over a certain size nor will some older versions of Windows. (For example, Windows 95 only recognizes hard disks up to 2GB.) If you're using an older BIOS, you can try updating the BIOS (check with your PC's manufacturer), but you're probably stuck using smaller-
hard disks or using a utility like PowerQuest's Partition Magic (www.powerquest.com) to partition a single large drive into multiple smaller partitions.
Problem: Your Hard Disk Is Running Slower Than Normal
This problem is most often caused by a
disk. You need to run the Windows Disk Defragmenter utility to clean up your disk and get it back up to speed. See Chapter 19, "Simple Steps to Keep Your System in Tip-Top Shape," for more details.