Saturday, November 29, 2008

Another DEAD Hitachi Drive

I used to be fond of Hitachi drives. I have an ancient 4G SCSI Hitachi that never gave me any problems (in fact, come to think of it, I've never had a problem with a SCSI drive). Their IDE line of hard drives ("Deskstar") are a different story completely.

As it turns out, I was the out of the loop on this one. I didn't get the memo.

These suckers are notorious. Who knew? There was, in fact, a class action suit filed against IBM because of them and techies have been calling them "Deathstar" drives for years (and I thought I had just now cleverly made that up).

NOW they tell me.

It was about a year ago that one of these suckers brought down BOT House. It was months before I could recover the data. And that was a fluke.

I had, unwisely, bought two of these damned things. The other I installed in a Windows XP system for my kid, Rinky Dink. That particular drive died last week. This turned out to be good timing since he was coming home for Thanksgiving. He dragged his whole system home for Dad to fix. (He also brought his bride-to-be, the future Twinky Dink, home with him. Nice girl. She knows the wireless password now, so she's part of the family whether she likes it or not. Unfortunately, she's a Mac user.)

When I popped it out and looked at it, I noticed his drive and the BOT House drive were manufactured almost exactly a year apart. And they died almost exactly a year apart. We both got about three years out of them. Very suspicious, since they had a 3 year warranty (coincidence? I don't think so!).

Lucky for him, Dad doesn't do Thanksgiving (being an atheist as well as a vegetarian), so I took another Busman's Holiday to fix his system. Since it died the week before I had time to pre-order a Western Digital 160G replacement drive.

I would've gotten a larger drive but all they (TigerDirect) had were... that's right... Hitachi drives! In fact it seems IDE drives are going the way of CRT monitors. They were outnumbered 4:1 by SATA drives. You probably won't be able to buy IDE drives this time next year. Stock up now because the price of Old Tech always goes up (with the exception of those CRT monitors).

Plan A was to GHOST the drive and fix the OS after getting a clean copy.

There was no Plan B.

I know there are some excellent Open Source alternatives, but I'm an old hand at GHOST'ing, although I haven't used it on a daily basis since the late 90s. I first encountered it in 1996 when it was called "General Hardware Orientated System Transfer".

"Orientated". That always irritated me, from the moment I saw the version 1.0 startup screen. The correct term is "Oriented", dickwad. English, motherfucker, do you speak it? Stupid shit. What a joke.

And that joker laughed all the way to the bank after he sold GHOST to Symantec.

I have version 8.3 (c. 2005) and 7.5 (c. 2000). I started with 8.3 since it was written after Windows XP and it didn't seem wise to use a version that pre-dated XP by a couple of years.

That was my first mistake. 8.3 simply hung trying to read the drive ("hung" is not the right word, it infinitely reset the drive and showed no sign of ever stopping). I dropped back to 7.5 and the same thing happened. I started playing with command-line switches and had better luck, but it would copy about 13% of the drive and die. I did this until about 4AM Thanksgiving morning, when I finally hit on the right combination:

I finally got past 13% so I let it run and hit the sack. When I woke up it had an hour to go. I spent the time playing UT (and getting slaughtered). When it was finished it had found a total of 64 bad blocks.

I booted it up, Windows ran CHKDSK, rebooted, and... everything was fine!

Except I had an 80G drive image on a 160G disk. The command line options I used precluded resizing. I used gparted to do the resizing, which got slightly complicated because the data drive was on an extended partition. Extended partitions can't be moved and I needed to do that because some idiot (me) only allocated 20G for the C: drive and Rinky was constatntly running out of space on it. That required backing it up, resizing the system partition to a comfortable 60G, creating a 100G data partition, and restoring the data.

I was done by about noon Thanksgiving morning.

Still, those 64 bad blocks are a concern. Who knows what was on them? Apparently not the OS or it would never have booted. So far everything seems OK, and the application that was nearest and dearest to Rinky's heart (World of Warcraft) was on the data partition, which survived intact.

So we have a Happy Ending for all concerned and I have learned a Valuable Lesson (Google before you buy anything). If you have a Deathstar, back it up now.

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