I’ve been having a real problem with the hard drive on my notebook. Longtime readers of my newsletters know that my notebook computer is my primary computer. Sure, I’ve got a Windows XP desktop, too, and a Linux box, and a Windows XP-based home theater PC, but my Dell Inspiron 8600 is my main machine.
A couple years ago, I had the original 60 GB hard drive fail almost catastrophically. It began to have read errors when I tried to access the drive for reading or writing. The problem quickly became so bad that the computer became virtually unusable.
Dell replaced that hard drive under warranty. In fact, in place of that 7200 RPM Hitachi 60 GB drive, they sent me a 7200 RPM 80 GB drive. While I waited for the drive to be shipped over the weekend, I spent much of the time deleting the personal data on the bad drive — yes, it took that long!
I had to wipe files directory by directory; any bigger attempt at wipe the files would crash on read errors, plus the utility I was using deleted the files but not the directories, so it was hard to figure out what had been cleared and what hadn’t. Even listing a directory took a long time.
Anyway, while the replacement 60GB drive was being shipped (I didn’t know they were sending an 80GB one), I bought a 100GB 7200 RPM Hitachi drive. Same model, bigger size.
It now appears to be failing.
Early this year, I had my first occurrence — I turned on the notebook, it did it’s BIOS checking, and then gave me a blinking cursor in the top left corner of the screen. It never got far enough to try to start Windows.
The fix was easy enough, but aggravating and could be a problem if I wasn’t at home. I had to get out my Windows XP Operating System CDROM that came with my computer (thank goodness Dell shipped actual OS CD’s at that time and not just "recovery CD’s".
I boot the CD, select R for Repair. Then, I enter my Administrator password and drop to a DOS-type prompt. The commannd FIXMBR completely rewrites the Master Boot Record on the hard drive.
Until this week, it has been a very occasional thing. Still too often, but maybe 6 times all year.
Well, this week, while fighting Hurricane Gustav, I had rewrite the Master Boot Record twice. Enough is enough.
I’m looking for replacement hard drives. They’re a lot bigger now, but the options for this old notebook (which uses the old Parallel ATA interface, not the new Serial ATA interface) are very limited. Price isn’t too bad though. I can get 160GB 5200RPM drives for about $85 or even 250GB drives for $100. I haven’t found any 7200RPM PATA drives at the vendors I usually ship, like NewEgg.