I received a very interesting email from Howard Willman, after I sent a slightly different version of the 5th article in my Special Edition newsletter on Friday. Howard wrote:
Hi Terry. I enjoy your newsletter immensely and always learn something from your work. Thanks for the great stuff.
I’m also in Baton Rouge, and I’ve recently had 4 hard drives go bad (1 home, 3 work) – 3 of them in the last 2 weeks. However, I don’t believe there’s any connection with Windows XP, even though all 4 were on that OS (3 Pro, 1 Home, all with SP2). I mention that I’m in Baton Rouge because I’m sure you remember the bad lightning storms we had for about a 10-day stretch in August. Neither the office or home experienced a direct hit, but my experience with lightning damage suggests that sometimes it just “weakens” things to the point that sometime later said electronic piece is bad. It also may be from the power repeatedly going off only to come back on a few seconds later, or even just power surges. A friend of mine in the area reported he had to replace a “rash” of network adapters after the storms, but thankfully we haven’t lost any.
Whatever the reason, it is quite the coincidence. And, as you know, it’s a nuisance to replace the drive and reinstall all the software, even if your data is backed up. On the plus side, the system usually gets a bigger and faster hard drive and the system seems to run faster.
– Howard Willman
Thanks for the email, Howard. I hadn’t though of that as a possible issue.
My desktops run though UPS systems and my notebook runs through its battery and is plugged into a surge suppressor.
Most notebooks’ power adapter runs to the battery and, through the battery, to the rest of the computer. That enables them to take a power blip without a spontaneous reboot. I had an IBM notebook at the office at one time that did _NOT_ route power this way — and any power blip brought it down, too. Very disgusting!
Since the notebook drive is failing, rather than completely failed, I’ve been able to erase all my personal files from it. I used “Incinerator” (part of the System Mechanic package) by habit. I’ve got XP Privacy Pro which offers me the options to wipe files, folders and blank space.
Anyway, the point of the last paragraph was that I decided the problem was occurring in the portion of the hard drive that contained the hard drive’s (or partition’s) VTOC data (volume table of contents). Almost any click on a directory took a long time to get control returned to me. It could still be related to the lightning in some way.
Thanks for the info. I hate to hear that you’ve been through hard drive problems like that — especially since it may mean that I’ve got more coming!
Howard wrote again to say:
Thanks for the reply.
One of the systems that had a hard drive fail was also on a UPS (desktop).
The others were 2 desktops and 1 notebook, all with “only” surge protection
(the notebook is just over 3 years old).
Now that I think of it, there was another issue on yet another system
(desktop on UPS) that occurred puzzling. It was during that rough 10-day
period, but it was solely a software issue – the application, which needs to
run continuously, just wouldn’t work anymore. We had to reinstall several
times before it finally did.
As for the hard drives, the symptoms you’re describing (most notably that it
was extremely slow, as well as bunches of errors on checkdisk; 2 also made
noises) are very similar to the ones I was getting on the subject systems.
On one, I had to repair the master boot record (a first for me); after that,
it ran fine (I think) – but I replaced it anyway.
All of the drives I’m referring to had just one partition, were from 1.5-3
years old, were from different manufacturers (though I’ve been a Seagate
honk for over a year now only replace with them) and were generally small
(30-40GB, but one was 80GB, which I guess is also small these days).
Forgive my ignorance, but I’m unfamiliar with your reference to VTOC data –
is this the same as the MBR?
On a related note, I am never surprised by the magnitude and strength of
lightning, even non-direct hits. Its power is mind-boggling. I wouldn’t
rule it out as the source of the problem. I remember one day the local news
reporting that one storm produced over 1,000 lightning strikes in one
afternoon! However many it was, I’m sure you’ll agree it was way above
normal for Baton Rouge.