Bad hard drive temporary fix!

I was given a laptop to repair as it was running slowly and the sound had stopped working. They were not joking about the slow part, it took over 10 minutes to boot Windows 7 onto the Desktop, then another 10 minutes to launch AVG 2015. There was not a lot on the laptop, just Chrome and Office 2010 being mostly used.

The sound was indeed not functional, and the sound icon in the system tray had a red cross, not the crossed circle when muted. Hovering over displayed a box that said that there was no sound hardware installed. Clicking the icon ran a troubleshooter which did not solve the problem.

I fired up device manager (which took forever) and saw that the sound card was present with a warning. Opening the information page about the sound card, it turned out that the driver for the sound card was corrupted. Reinstalling the driver with the one from the manufacturers website did not rectify the problem, it was also corrupted. This could mean other Windows-specific files could have also been corrupted.

I booted into recovery mode and ran chkdsk /r, which recovered a load of data (after taking 6 hours). The problems in Windows were not fixed, however, but the machine booted noticeably faster.

I booted the laptop into Xubuntu off a USB stick and ran Gnome Disk Utility. The hard drive was definitely bad as it had about 150 bad sectors and failed it’s SMART self-test shortly after starting the test. Running a benchmark failed at about 16GB into the drive. Nonetheless, I was able to transfer all the files off the drive onto my RAID-5 array. I decided to try reinstalling Windows 7 off a bootable USB I created using the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. This was unsuccessful as the install kept hanging at the end of the setup process, or the laptop would restart and a message about corrupted vital files would appear.

Knowing that the hard drive was definitely the problem, I was considering finding a replacement drive. However, I had an idea to create a smaller NTFS partition in the middle of the drive using GParted, away from what I suspected was the “bad” area of the hard drive:


I then re-ran the Windows installer off the USB drive and selected the partition and then “Next”. It didn’t create the smaller partition right at the start of the drive like it normally does but installation completed quickly and successfully, and now the machine boots up under a minute. The sound works and I was able to install Office and transfer back Documents etc from the backup.

This is only a temporary measure to get the laptop going again, and more errors might appear in the future, or the drive might die entirely in the next ten minutes. And the capacity has been heavily decreased, but there wasn’t much on it in the first place. I hope it hangs on for as long as possible!

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