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Context:

We have a midsize business with a few dozen laptops. Whenever we get one in because someone leaves or gets an upgrade, standard procedure is to zero and then run SpinRite (level 4) on the hard drive to make sure it's in good shape before sending the laptop back out with a fresh OS. If the drive passes SpinRite (no bad sectors, minimal or no seek errors, no other kinds of errors)

Problem:

Recently, a bunch (six or seven) of these SpinRite-ed drives I've put in laptops have started making weird noises and going bad. They aren't headcrashing, but several have developed a persistent "tick", and then lots of read failures, and three others have developed high-pitched whining noises. None of the drives were exhibiting these issues before the SpinRite/zeroing process, and none of the laptops they were from were reported defective. These are different-sized drives, from differently-specced laptops that were purchased at very different times. The oldest drive is about 2.5yrs old, the youngest is just four months old. These laptops weren't used for anything beyond your average business user's tasks.

Question:

Is SpinRite somehow breaking my hard drives? If it were just one or two with this problem, I'd assume that they were just near the end of their lives already, and the intensive operations of SpinRite just pushed them over the edge. However, 7 hard drives is pushing the boundaries of coincidence. Is there any way that SpinRite could be causing this?

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What does SpinRite say? –  uSlackr May 29 '12 at 14:25
    
During the initial check (lv. 4), it passes the drives; I wouldn't use them again if they had any bad sectors or errors. If I run spinrite again after the strange noises and behavior, it finds a very high seek error rate, and often read errors as well. –  Zac B May 29 '12 at 14:27
    
Are they all the same manufacturer/brand? That would be the first place I'd look at, not the software that was run on them. –  BlueRaja May 29 '12 at 18:08
    
No, they're pretty heterogenous. Mostly Seagate, with 2 WD (though maybe they're the same manufacturer now). Different sizes, model years, etc. –  Zac B May 29 '12 at 19:30
    
I was suggesting you talk to SpinRite support –  uSlackr May 29 '12 at 20:04
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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

It's possible that you've pushed some marginal hard drives over the edge, yes.

The best place to look for an answer to your question would likely be the SMART data of the drives. Check the metrics and see if any drives reported failures before the SpinRite run.

Next time you get a drive in, capture the SMART data before running SpinRite and see if there's any failures.

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If SpinRite pushed them over the edge, they were on the verge of failure anyway, in my book. You should have similar failures if you ran burn-in tests on the systems. Software shouldn't be able to physically destroy the drives. –  Bart Silverstrim May 29 '12 at 14:39
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Also you mentioned it being too high on the coincidence scale to not notice...but are these similar manufacturers, or similar batch runs of hardware? If they're similar ages, manufacturers, batches, tech...it's not necessarily a coincidence when they fail in a pattern. –  Bart Silverstrim May 29 '12 at 14:41
    
SMART data is notoriously useless at predicting or reporting failures arstechnica.com/uncategorized/2007/02/8917 , which is why spinrite is a fantastic way to help prevent unpredictable data loss. –  Jim B May 29 '12 at 17:17
    
It was useless at predicting failures in consumer-grade hardware 5 years ago, I'll give you that. It may be good to know if, for instance, that drive was having tons of corrected ECC read failures before it fails? He may find a particular metric that gives more information. –  MikeyB May 29 '12 at 19:31
    
SpinRite displays the SMART data and warns you if there's anything abnormal, so I don't see how this answer is helpful. –  BlueRaja May 29 '12 at 21:21
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Normally drives that "tick" are faulty and need to be replaced. The ticking sound is the head mechanism attempting an self alignment procedure. SpinRite is not the cause of those problems, although it can cause a drive to reveal weaknesses, much like the old burn-in tests we used to perform on new computers.

Laptops of that age have often had a hard life, especially when they're owned by someone else, and the hard drives are by far the most sensitive to mechanical abuse. I'd recommend you abandon your current system and just replace the drives on laptops that are going to be re-used if they're more than a couple of years old. Failure to do so often results in far higher costs in the long term.

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