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Disk Failure Myths and Factoids


lordfoul
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During my last WHS build I entered into some interesting territory researching disk failure issues in the optical and primarily in the solid state areas. One study I did come across was a PDF of Googles research into 100,000 HD's which they had owned and some facts they were able to extrapolate from this which I waded through. I later found a pretty good analysis of this study if not a little short on a fascinating blog called StorageMojo. Thought some here would be interested in it, though it doesn't address solid state drives nor a couple of issues I take into consideration like areal density it does make some challenges to conventional wisdom.

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That is interesting. And speaking of S.M.A.R.T. --- In the case of Seagate, they apparently do their own thing regarding drive diagnostics. You need to use Seagate's utility, Seatools, in order to do a proper check of their drives. 3rd party diagnostic utilities such as HD Tune, which I and many others have used for years, do not give reliable reports on Seagate drives, and new Seagate drives will appear to have problems if you go by the results of these other utilities.

I learned all this the hard/fun way when I RMA'd a new Seagate drive only to receive a seemingly 'bad' replacement. Turns out, it wasn't. This, after years of WD drive only, was my introduction to Seagate.

Anyways, while listening to Steve Cherubino's podcast - My Hard Drive Died w/Scott Moulton - I learned about a neat hdd tool call Victoria which I believe they said is the Windows-based version of MHDD, or similar to it. Among a number of other functions, Victoria can show you the read access time for each sector. You may be surprised to see what passes for a 'good' drive. If you decide to check out this tool, just be aware that you can do some damage to your drive with it.

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*I should have added that Victoria supports Win XP/2K/2003. With Windows 7/Vista, there are some error messages upon startup, but it seems to run the read access time test ok.

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I liked the podcast and subscribed to Podnutz feed to see what else they have on there. Interesting discussion of the various HD recovery software and how they are working their magic.

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I liked the podcast where Scott Moulton recounts how he once drilled a small hole through a HDD case so he could get a drop of oil onto the drive motor bearings. And of course it worked and he was able to recover the data.

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Victoria ran fine for me in Windows 7. I just ran it as administrator. Give that a shot. I've played with MHDD and while it's interface archaic, once you get the hang of it it's a powerful tool.

Thanks for the tip on Victoria though. I somehow missed that on the podcast.

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I also ran it as admin, but it still generated 3 error dialog boxes at startup. Looking more closely at this, I believe those errors indicated that PIO access will not be available. I think that's all there is to it.

Speaking of MHDD, how does Victoria stack up against it?

I ran Victoria on the Seagate 1.5 TB drive that came with my EX495. The results were a little unsettling. There were a number of reads over a second long, some coming in just under 2 seconds. The drive was running in my EX495 during the test, so that may have adversely affected the results. To double check, I'm going to attach it to my PC and re-run the test. Then compare results.

Regarding how Victoria works: I wonder if Victoria tests sectors that the manufacturer records in the bad block table at the factory. I would guess not, right? But I do wonder because some of those sector reads were frankly terrible, considering it's a brand new drive.

Also while I'm at it, I wonder if anyone here has ever remapped sectors and what your cutoff point was. Also whether this is actually worthwhile, because from what I gathered from the Moulton podcasts, remapping too many sectors actually slows down the drive because remapped sectors aren't handled in the same way as bad sectors which are entered into the bad block list by the manufacturer.

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Ok, quick update. I did attach the Seagate 1.5 TB to my PC and re-ran the scan. The result were much more acceptable. No extremely long read access times. Very good. However, while I was at it, I checked the S.M.A.R.T. data, and there's already 1 reallocated sector. Yikes! I don't recall ever having a new drive with a reallocated sector. I'll keep an eye on this.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just received a refurb HDD from HP. I'll be testing it against the original Seagate 1.5 TB. I'll let you know it turns out. I have to get one or the other back to them within 10 day so I have a little time.

You'll get a kick to know that someone labeled the refurb drive 'Bad!' using a Sharpie. Also, the firmware is a previous version - HP 22 vs HP23. And, the 'Power On Hours' on the refurb = 1739 vs 849 on mine.

Regarding Victoria, I found that the read access times could be thrown off by system activity which had nothing to do with the drive being tested, but seem to be related to something demanding intense momentary attention from the CPU.

So I've gone to using MHDD, a DOS program, so there's no chance of 'coloring' the results.

*A tip: If you want to save an access time scan log, you'll need to use the 'Makelog' command. But there's an additional trick to this because the log file is too big to be written a floppy. To set this up, do the following:

-attach a FAT-formatted USB stick to your system and create a folder called MHDD

-reboot into MHDD (floppy or CD), then exit to DOS

-copy the files of the current directory to the MHDD folder on the USB stick -> copy *.* c:\MHDD (assuming c: is your USB stick)

-cd to c:\MHDD

-run MHDD.exe

-once you've selected your drive, run the 'Makelog' command

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