The Suffering

Well, not my suffering, Evan’s. Evan’s Thinkpad has gone through a lot, he’s dropped it once, he never cleaned the screen for over a year, and its innards are no doubt dusty (hence his over heating problem), and I’m sure he hasn’t necessarily been jostle-free with it. He also uses that Avast free crap, I don’t use any AV/AS because I’m in Windows only 10% of the time and I’m not dumb enough to get viruses anyway. Historically he isn’t anyway, but his choice.

So what kind of situation is he in now? As I talk to him on instant messenger, I write this post. Enjoy.

WARNING: Technical junk ahead.

I treat my Thinkpad like it’s a small child. Flat-surfaces only, no vibrations, well-ventilated, regular screen cleaning, proper storage… Though only a few of those things apply to small children, I love my IBM-labeled product (because they are hard to get your hands on now-a-days)! I’m just as big a fanatic about my IBM stuff as I am my car. I treat them both with such great care and they treat me with the same love. Granted I’m a computer repair technician and I know what goes into super-ultimate proper laptop maintence.

So what causes hard drive failure?

You can deduce common problems by knowing how hard drives work. It’s a big ass magnet with a needle and some platters that work like record players. The needles seek (and in newer hard drives are touchless) for data on the platters by moving an arm back and forth.

So what kinds of failures do hard drives experience?


A hard drive experiences electrical failure when the SATA controller (or IDE controller) shorts out or fails in other ways. Your hard drive is connected to your motherboard through an integrated SATA/IDE bus. If the controller on the hard drive fails electronically, it will no longer send data or be detected by the motherboard. 

I’ve seen it on Toshibas, but it can happen to any computer with a hard drive. Now we’ll get on to what Evan’s experincing.


There are a couple different kinds of mechanical failure, it can be with the platters physically, the motor that spins the platters, or the needle’s ability to read the drive. If the platter is physically damaged, random files will “not be found”. This and bad boot sectors are the common cause of messages like “ntldr not found” and it’s friends.

Motor failure results in huge performance loss or no performance at all. the computer will be ultra-slow and occasionally fail to read files. I’m sure that one involves the computer not even starting however.

Now it’s time for what Evan undoubtly has, read failure. Read failure involves the needle’s ability to read information to become handicapped or unstable. This causes occasional lock-ups (due to inability to find critical files or failure to create cache), missing files, and unbearable slowness.

Another needle involved failure is commonly known as “knocking”. This is the audible failure of a hard drive, where the needle is loose on the inside, so when the needle is attempting to read (by the arm moving about), it’s actually hitting the sides of the device, causing a loud knocking or clicking noise. This indicates a failure in the bearings internally. 

So why? What causes hard drive failures? 

It seems that quality and care are the two main determing factors. I’ve seen computers have failing hard drives in periods from months, to years. Hard drives have a certain shelf-life and will all eventually die. The best made ones will keep-on trucking for many years, while one’s that are typically found in HP’s seem to last only a year. 

I say that not all hard drives are made the same, it’s why five year old, dusty ass Dell’s can still be running strong while well-maintained one year old computers’ hard drives can just keel over.

So what are Evan’s options?

Well, he’s going to have to replace it. Hard drives come blank unless marked othewise by manufacturer (for example, warrantied customers who own Dells are sent pre-imaged drives when applicable). So he’ll also have to put an operating system on it too. Now just like every other irresponsible consumer, Evan didn’t make his recovery discs and now will have extreme difficulty doing so from his dying drive. He’ll either end up buying a new computer (because he wants one) or he just orders his recovery discs and uses those to recover his computer.

Even though he sort of seems to value my advice, I’m sure he’ll take his brother’s, because here’s a direct quote from him.

 “Best Buy hires idiots.”

So, according to his brother, I’m technically an idiot. 

In fairness, we do hire a LOT of morons, however, there are some genuinely competent people, but you have to know who they are. I would be glad to take care of the work for my friend, but gas isn’t THAT cheap.


4 Responses to The Suffering

  1. Jesse says:

    That quote was taken out of context. You’d see further down that I advised him to ask you for advice.

    With that said, I wouldn’t trust a BB technician unless it was someone I knew. My interactions with them have lead to my belief that I know more than them.

    But anyway… How would your advice have differed from mine?

  2. rbelmont000 says:

    Man, I told you he didn’t mean you.

    And Best Buy DOES hire idiots, they just might not hire ALL idiots.

    Anyway, both of you gave me pretty much the same prognosis: failed hard drive. Jesse gave me a few good things to try, just to make sure, but after I ran a dianostic check on my hard drive (really, I don’t know what it was, and I accidentally found it, but it was basically that), it said “ERROR 0000: Read Verification Failed”.

    And I assume that that can’t be good.

  3. itslupintic says:

    Evan likes to leave out details to complicate things. It probably wouldn’t differ at all considering that the nature of the problem requires a certain course of action.

    I’ve actually read on a Best Buy hate site that said, “What’s the difference between an Agent and a hobo with a flash drive?

    The hobo would be able to fix your computer because he can use whatever tools he wants.”

    From what Evan tells me you’ve got a lot of knowledge about this stuff too.

  4. Jesse says:

    I’ve broken my share of computers. However, a Thinkpad is something to cherish. Anyone who drops a Thinkpad is an idiot. No reservations there.

    And I have a set of recovery disks. I don’t know how much changes between model numbers. You might want to call IBM and tell them you have an old set and see if they will work. I’d imagine they will.

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