NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, June 2009
“Disk Failure” Scare
By Phil Sorrentino, President,
Sarasota PCUG, Florida

president (at) spcug.org (click to email author)

This article has been obtained from APCUG with the author’s permission for publication by APCUG member groups; all other uses require the permission of the author (see e-mail address above).

This morning, it happened again. I started the computer in the morning, as I do every morning, and staring me in the face was the dreaded "system disk failure" message. A chill went down my spine. It seemed like this happened only about a year or two years ago. When I thought further, it was 2005 when it happened, almost 5 years ago, so maybe that's not too bad. As I ate breakfast, I rapidly thought about the hardware in that computer. (I currently have 3 desktops that I am using for various activities in the home, but this was my main computer, the one other family members use.) Panic started to set-in. Were the disk drives 160GB, or 250GB? When were they installed? Were they Seagate or Western Digital? What interface is used in that computer? Are they formatted in NTFS or FAT32? Well, if it was the C: drive then it must be NTFS. I'll have to open the chassis and look at the drives. Fortunately, this story has a very happy ending. After breakfast, as I knelt down to look at the desktop chassis, to see what was the best approach to removing the cables and other things around the chassis, I spied a floppy disk in the floppy disk drive. Eureka! XP was trying to boot from the floppy: an impossible task, so it reported a disk failure, obviously.

Most desktop computers today don't have a floppy disk drive, so this will probably not happen to most people. However, it got me thinking that the answers to all of the questions I had during breakfast, should be in one place, probably along with a lot of other information that defines the current computer hardware setup. So it's probably not a bad idea to gather all of this information, while the computer is operating, and put a hard copy printout in a safe place. The disk drive information is probably the most important for this kind of failure, but it is a good idea to have all the basic hardware information in one easily accessed place. Here is a list of the things that you might want to have. You may not need all of these so use only those that are pertinent to your hardware setup. (If there’s anything that I’ve forgotten, just add it to the list, and let me know by e-mail.) I'll start with the disk drive information because that is what you'll need if the drive goes down, or you may need if you have to re-install the entire system. (By the way, you can accomplish all of this by using the free program, Belarc Advisor (http://www.belarc.com/free_download.html). Belarc produces a listing of almost all of the following pieces of information and additional information in the computer security area.)

Disk Drive 1 -- Manufacturer Typically Seagate, Western Digital,
-- Part Number e.g. ST3160023A (Seagate part no.)
-- Date Installed May be the date of computer purchase
-- Size (GB) e.g 330GB
-- Rotating Speed e.g. 7200 RPM (or possibly 5400 RPM)
-- Interface Type IDE (Parallel ATA) or SATA
-- Formatted NTFS or FAT32
-- C: drive size Typically 25GB (for XP) or 50GB (Vista)
-- D: drive size (if used) Various

Disk Drive 2 Same as Drive 1

CPU -- Type e.g Intel Pentium 4, or AMD Athelon
-- Speed e.g. 3.2 GHz
--Processors e.g. 2 Only used for multi-core processors (e.g. Intel Core Duo)

Memory -- Amount e.g. 1GB
-- Type/Speed e.g. PC133 or DDR2, etc.

Display Adapter (If not on Motherboard) -- Manufacturer e.g. nVidia
-- Part Number e.g. GeForce GTX295
-- Other Information if needed.

Networking -- Computer Name e.g. "Mary's Computer"
-- Wired MAC address (if connected to wired Ethernet port) e.g. 00-34-5A-BC-DF-3F
-- Wireless MAC address (if used on wireless network) e.g. 00-34-5A-BC-DF-3F
-- Router IP address e.g.

USB Devices -- External Drive (for Backup)
--Manufacturer e.g. Seagate, Western Digital, LaCie
--Part Number Free Agent (Seagate part no.)
--Date Installed May be the date of computer purchase
--Size (GB) e.g. 1 TB (1,000 GB)
--Rotating Speed Typically 7200 RPM
--Formatted NTFS or FAT32

MP3Player e.g. Apple iPod
--Part Number e.g.
--Size e.g. 4GB
--Other Pertinent Information

Mouse and/or Keyboard (if connected to USB)

Digital Camera --Manufacturer e.g. Cannon
--Part Number e.g. Powershot SX110IS
--MegaPixel size e.g. 10MPixels
--Other Pertinent Information

Other USB Devices

Partial Belarc Advisor Printout

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