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Windows 7: Hard drive disappears randomly

22 May 2010   #1
lovingdvd

Vista 7 Home Premium x64
 
 
Hard drive disappears randomly

I have a 2nd hard drive and somewhat frequently it disappears from Windows explorer like it doesn't even exist. Then once I reboot the disk is back and perfectly fine and intact.

I ran the Seagate tools against it and both the short test and long test passed just fine and it says that SMART has NOT been tripped.

I did a lot of googling and found similar reports from others. But the things they suggest do not apply. For instance some reports are related to the driver disappearing after waking from sleep. In my case I can be actively using the drive and then it disappears. Also someone suggested disabling power management on the drive, but when I checked the drive is already set to Never power down.

I am thinking that perhaps the SATA cable is buggy or not connected solidly. I'm going to open it up and try changing the cable. I really do think the drive is perfectly fine.

Any suggestions other than trying to change out the cable?

Thank you!


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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22 May 2010   #2
mpcrsc562

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 

I'm all for trying to find the simplest and obvious answers first.

The loose SATA cable happened to me. It was just loose enough that whenever my girls came in jumping and prancing around me and the PC, my computer would crash (the loose SATA was for the RAID array the operating system was installed on). After one-too-many times of the crashing, I opened up the case, removed all of the SATA cables and reinserted them making sure they were snug. Haven't had a problem since--and for safety measures, I recheck them every so often.

I'd try that first before trying to update BIOSes and drivers and such.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 May 2010   #3
IggyAZ

Windows 7 Ultimate (64 bit)
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by mpcrsc562 View Post
I'm all for trying to find the simplest and obvious answers first.

The loose SATA cable happened to me. It was just loose enough that whenever my girls came in jumping and prancing around me and the PC, my computer would crash (the loose SATA was for the RAID array the operating system was installed on). After one-too-many times of the crashing, I opened up the case, removed all of the SATA cables and reinserted them making sure they were snug. Haven't had a problem since--and for safety measures, I recheck them every so often.

I'd try that first before trying to update BIOSes and drivers and such.

Ditto on the loose cable. Remove and reseat as well as try another SATA port.
Good luck
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

22 May 2010   #4
Everlong

 

Like what's been said, just check the cable first.

Same thing kind of happened to me, but it was the actual SATA port. They were right angled SATA ports on the motherboard, and I must have pushed too hard when connection the HDD and loosened a connection. If a HDD was plugged in to it, the computer would crash randomly whenever the connection was loose.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 May 2010   #5
HMonk

Dual boot XP Pro SP3x86 and Win7 Pro x64
 
 

Is your HDD, in fact, a Seagate? What version?

I ask because you may have heard that back in early 2009, Seagate released a firmware update to address the Barracuda 7200.11 HDDs which were shipped with defective firmware. Seagate has a support page that discusses firmware updates. I would add that the issue generally caused the BIOS to be unable to ID the drive but who knows.

Also when the HDD is missing, what does Disk Management report? (issues can cause a drive to be not reported in Explorer/My Computer but it will show up in Disk Management - usually reported as being "unhealthy")

I would also add that if a HDD connection is faulty (cables, port, etc.) it will not show up in the BIOS.

So, the TS priority is this: boot - is the HDD reported by the BIOS POST; after you boot, is the HDD reported in Disk Management; finally, is the HDD reported in Explorer. If the HDD is ALWAYS present after you boot, then I think it reasonable to stop questioning the physical connections (the connection is not going to reconnect when you boot).

Monk
My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 May 2010   #6
Everlong

 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by HMonk View Post

So, the TS priority is this: boot - is the HDD reported by the BIOS POST; after you boot, is the HDD reported in Disk Management; finally, is the HDD reported in Explorer. If the HDD is ALWAYS present after you boot, then I think it reasonable to stop questioning the physical connections (the connection is not going to reconnect when you boot).

Monk
Well on my old motherboard with the faulty SATA port, the HDD would disappear out of explorer and would need a reboot to get it back, sometimes BIOS wouldn't pick it up, sometimes it would. Other times the whole system would lock up. I bought a PCI SATA card to plug the HDD in too, it was only a storage drive, so the PCI card would suffice and that fixed the problem.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
23 May 2010   #7
lovingdvd

Vista 7 Home Premium x64
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by HMonk View Post
Is your HDD, in fact, a Seagate? What version?

I ask because you may have heard that back in early 2009, Seagate released a firmware update to address the Barracuda 7200.11 HDDs which were shipped with defective firmware. Seagate has a support page that discusses firmware updates. I would add that the issue generally caused the BIOS to be unable to ID the drive but who knows.

Also when the HDD is missing, what does Disk Management report? (issues can cause a drive to be not reported in Explorer/My Computer but it will show up in Disk Management - usually reported as being "unhealthy")

I would also add that if a HDD connection is faulty (cables, port, etc.) it will not show up in the BIOS.

So, the TS priority is this: boot - is the HDD reported by the BIOS POST; after you boot, is the HDD reported in Disk Management; finally, is the HDD reported in Explorer. If the HDD is ALWAYS present after you boot, then I think it reasonable to stop questioning the physical connections (the connection is not going to reconnect when you boot).

Monk
Thanks to all for all the great ideas and comments. Monk you raise some good questions that I meant to expand on originally so I am glad you asked...

The drive is a Seagate. During preboot (bios message) it always shows all drives including this one, even after a reboot when the issue had just occurred.

A few nights ago I flashed the drive firmware to the very latest (it was a few revs out of date) and verified the new firmware install was successful. However the issue has occurred since then so that did not resolve it.

When the HDD disappears from Windows Explorer from what I remember it still does show up in Disk Manager. However it is marked differently - can't recall if it says unhealthy or unformatted / raw etc but definitely is not in the normal status.

Every time after I reboot it is fine and comes back and Windows Explorer shows it and all files are intact. I can then use the drive just fine. Then suddenly at some point it just disappears.

I have seen it disappear when in the middle of using it. For instance yesterday I was doing a lot of file access of the drive and then eventually it just disappeared and the program using the drive reported an error as a result.

The time before that I was copying a large file over my network to the drive - it would make it just a portion of the way through, then the file copy operation would get stuck at x% and not move. Then I would try looking at the drive properties in Windows Explorer but it would be real slow to response. Then shortly thereafter the drive would disappear. Sometimes the drive just disappears on its own without me doing anything in Windows Explorer or file copy operations etc.

Regarding this:
Quote:
If the HDD is ALWAYS present after you boot, then I think it reasonable to stop questioning the physical connections (the connection is not going to reconnect when you boot).
I sort of agree. What if it is a split second disconnect due to a faulty cable or connection? Just enough to disconnect and cause Windows to lose track of it, but then its fine and after a reboot therefore the BIOS sees it. I suppose this is possible?

Could it be an issue with an inadequate power supply?

It just dawned on me that perhaps the power supply is somehow related. Now that I think about it, it seems this issue started shortly after I added a 3rd drive to the system.

I have a 550W power supply. My understanding from the PC manufacturer is that the computer is built with this power to support all the components it shipped with plus one future drive (for a total of 2). Now that I have 3 drives I wonder if this could be causing it?

I thought about this at the time I added the 3rd drive - as to whether the existing power supply would be enough. I figured I would just try it and see how it went. And seemed to be fine originally as things seemed to work. But reflecting back perhaps this is the root cause. I should add that the 3rd drive is mostly dormant.

Also I didn't think adding the 3rd drive would really use enough power to put my system over the limits. I say this because the 3rd drive by my rough calculations only uses maybe 10-15 watts. So I figure with 550w available how likely is another 10-15 watts going to be to push me over. But with hindsight maybe it is.

Do you think this could be the cause? Is there anyway to gauge how close I am to overrunning the power supply, short of just upgrading it to see if the issue goes away? I don't mind spending the extra $ to pick up a better power supply, but at the same time I'd rather not bother if the existing one is adequate, and right now its just a theory?

What do you guys think? Thanks!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
23 May 2010   #8
HMonk

Dual boot XP Pro SP3x86 and Win7 Pro x64
 
 

@Lovingdvd

First off, my thoughts/experiences with the PSU. Consider this analogy: you have a 200A service panel but if you add up all of the breaker ratings you might have 300A. Underpowered? No, because the electric company/builders know that you are not going to be using every light/receptacle simultaneously. So too with the PSU. You can go to any number of sites where you can list your components and they will calculate how many watts you "should" be using. Do they assume you are running at full-bore at all times; are the calculations for average use? Depending on who you consult, many agree that most people tend to use a PSU with more power than is necessary.

You do not list your specs so I am going to have to guess a bit. First: logical conclusions. If you had a faulty PSU, one might ask, why does it only affect one HDD and not the other or cause random shutdowns. The only answer I can think of is that the connector from the PSU to that drive could be funky. Easy enough to check: swap cables with another component or use an unused cable. Do this with SATA cable but independently of the PSU (if you change both simultaneously and the issue is corrected, you don't know which connection was at fault). Regardless, if the BIOS POST always reports the HDD, I think it is reasonable to conclude that the physical connections, in this case, are OK.

Secondly, if the HDD is not reported in Explorer but is in DM, DM will likely report the drive as unhealthy, unformatted, raw - something like that. In my experience, SMART technology is fairly reliable and, if SMART reports a healthy drive, I think it reasonable to conclude the HDD is, mechanically OK. Maybe it's not but following logical and probability lines I think it we can move on (we can always come back to the mechanical).

So what's left: file system/structure. You did not mention if you ran chkdsk to check for file disk errors. You need to run chkdsk with admin rights ("elevated" command prompt).

Go to <START>, <ALL PROGRAMS>, <ACCESSORIES>, and right-click on <COMMAND PROMPT> then click on <Run as adminstrator>. At the command prompt type (without the brackets) <chkdsk D: /f /r>, where D: is the drive you are checking, /f the "fix errors" switch, and /r the "recover bad sectors" switch. Mind the spacing: chkdsk (space) D: (space) /f (space) /r

I would include the /r switch in the event the disappearing drive might be due to bad sectors).

Forgot to mention, above, in my experience, if your system is underpowered/overheated it will simply shut down - not reboot. Whatever the case, I think it unlikely such a state would effect only one PNP device.

Results?

Monk
My System SpecsSystem Spec
24 May 2010   #9
lovingdvd

Vista 7 Home Premium x64
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by HMonk View Post
...So what's left: file system/structure. You did not mention if you ran chkdsk to check for file disk errors. You need to run chkdsk with admin rights ("elevated" command prompt)...
Thank you for the great information Monk! I had not run chkdsk so I followed your instructions, being sure to run cmd with elevated privileges. The results were very interesting and perhaps telling...

Chkdsk ran through the first 3 steps out of 5 just fine. Then on step 4 it started complaints like this:

The disk does not have enough space to replace bad clusters
detected in file 1298 of name \myfiles

It did this a few times then quit out with message saying: "An unspecified error occurred" with some long error code.

I have about 15% of free space remaining on the drive and no file is anywhere near that large.

Some questions if you would be so kind:

1) SMART was not tripped on the drive. I know some bad clusters are normal. Is there something going bad with the drive that makes it worth replacing?

2) Seagate said they would exchange it under warranty for free. However if this is a software / file corruption matter and nothing is physically wrong with the drive I don't want to go through the exchange for nothing. Then again if a possible hardware failure somehow caused this corruption then I do want to exchange it.

3) Is there any way to get it past this chkdsk matter so it can repair it?

4) Regarding the files that it identifies as being involved in the bad clusters - are those files corrupt, or mapped around the bad clusters some how?

What do you recommend I do at this point? Just replace the drive? Or try and resolve it (and if so how)? Thanks!!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
24 May 2010   #10
lovingdvd

Vista 7 Home Premium x64
 
 

Also I meant to add - I have a full backup of the drive so I can easily format it and try whatever steps to repair it if that would make it easier. I don't mind taking whatever steps I need to fix it. What worries me is that whatever caused it (failing drive?) may make the issues reappear at some point. That is why I am trying to decide if its worth the trouble to exchange it for a new one. Thanks.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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