Troubleshooting Hard Drives – CompTIA A+ 220-802: 4.3

Is your hard drive going bad? In this video, you’ll learn some troubleshooting steps that you can use to help diagnose hard drive problems.

<< Previous Video: Hardware Troubleshooting ToolsNext: Hard Drive Troubleshooting Tools >>

The hard drives that we have inside of our computers are spinning mechanical devices. And they are prone to failure. So it’s important to know what we can do when we run into problems with our hard drive components.

If you’re using your computer and you get a message on your screen saying that there’s some type of failure when reading and writing, you might get a message like this one that says, cannot read from the source disk. Well that certainly points to some type of problem with the storage device on that computer.

Sometimes you don’t even get an error message. You’ll just get a blue screen of death and it’s pointing to some type of problem with corrupted files, maybe there are read/write failures. And the whole reason we’re having these issues is because the hardware itself on the storage device is having a problem.

One thing you can do to check the hard drive is to run a Check Disk. And there’s an option inside of Check Disk is to check every single sector on a surface analysis. That way you can be sure that it is reading and writing to every single part of that disk successfully.

If you’re noticing that things are slowing down, especially when you’re trying to read a file or write a file, make sure you check the LED lights the flash whenever there’s disk activity. If you notice they’re flashing over and over and over again as it’s trying to retry that disk, then you might be having a problem with that hardware. It may be a good time to back up.

And, of course, if anything sounds odd, especially as it’s trying to read that disk and you hear the drive resetting itself and making clicking noise, that certainly speaks to a hard drive problem. You should immediately back up your data and you need to look at replacing that drive as soon as possible.

One problem you don’t want to run into, is when you start up your computer and you see a message that says, the drive is not recognized. You need to look very closely at status lights, examine the messages that are on your screen to help determine more about where the problem might be occurring.

Sometimes I will plug-in an external USB drive to my laptop. I’ll forget I have it there. I’ll power down my system and power it back on. And my computer is configured to try to boot from that USB. And I receive a message that says, the system can’t find an operating system. And suddenly I’m very concerned. But then I realize, of course, that I have the USB drive plugged in and I can unplug it and restart my system and it starts normally.

I could get around this problem by changing the boot sequence in my BIOS and tell it not to check for any USB drives to boot from to go automatically to the internal hard drive inside of my laptop and don’t check anything that might be plugged in externally. You can also disable the interface completely if that’s a concern. That way you can be assured that nothing will look at that interface when it goes through the boot up process.

If we haven’t changed anything we haven’t plugged-in any external devices and the problem may just be something physical inside of our computer. So it may be worthwhile opening it up and making sure that all of those connections are tight.

Our systems get hot and they cool down. And occasionally we’ll have a cable problem inside of our computer. So make sure it’s not something simple that you can easily resolve by tightening down all of those connections.

And if this is a new storage device, we want to be sure that our configurations are set exactly the way they should be. So if this is a padded drive, you may want to look at the jumpers on the drive and make sure that we have everything plugged into the right interface. And if it’s SCSI connectors, we want to be sure that all of our SCSI IDs are configured properly. And the terminator is at the end of that SCSI chain.

If we start up our computer, it goes to our storage device to try to boot and we see a message that says the operating system is not found. Well that speaks to more of a file system problem. And a common workaround is to rebuild the Master Boot Record and perhaps also rebuild the boot sector on that drive.

In Windows XP we would do this from the Recovery console. We can use fixmbr to override the Master Boot Record. And do a fixboot c: to update the boot sector that’s on their drive.

If you’re running Windows Vista or Windows 7 we do this from the Command prompt. And we use the bootrec command with a /fixmbr or a /fixboot to fix either the Master Boot Record or the boot sector.

If you’d like to see exactly how this is done, I do an entire hands-on session in my video called using the Windows recovery console and command prompt. It is from my 220-801 videos 1.3.

A lot of our server devices these days are using redundant arrays of independent disks or RAID arrays. And if we have problems with the controller itself, and we start up our computer, we might see problems like the RAID is not found. So you may want to check the RAID configuration on your computer and make sure the controller itself is working properly. If it’s missing or it’s faulty, we may see message inside of our computer during the start up that will give us messages that say this is not configured and not working properly.

If we start up our computer and we get a message that the array itself is having a problem, then we may want to launch the RAID console that’s on your computer to see what the status is for the drives. The different RAID manufacturers have different ways of doing this. So you want to check your documentation to see which one works for you so that you can tell if drives are available in the RAID, if any happen to be missing. And you want to be able to correlate back the numbers of the drives with a physical drive inside of your computer. You don’t want to replace the wrong drive inside of your array. So make sure you double check and that you’re replacing exactly the right drives.