Hixie's Natural Log

2002-09-17 12:07 UTC A happy episode of the Hard Disk Saga (for once)

Earlier I was on the phone with Dell technical support.

I last called two weeks ago, when I explained that I had called four weeks ago, during which time, with their help, I cleared the partition table, reformatted the hard disk, and installed Windows 2000. (Twice, since the first time it crashed at 77%.) I explained (this is back two weeks ago again) that that worked for a few days, then the disk went "dink dink dink", gave me I/O errors for everything, and intermittently claimed to be "not found" during boot. The guy asked to be stay on hold while he checked my case details, and then asked me what O/S I was using.

This is where I made my first mistake.

Mandrake 8.2 I'm sorry? Mandrake Linux 8.2 I'm sorry, was that "Windows XP"? No, Linux. Oh. Please hold. ... Where did you purchase your Linux? I used the Mandrake CD images from the web. Please hold. ... Thank you for holding Mr Hickson. With all due respect, we can't support you if you don't use a Dell-supplied operating system. But your website says I'm sorry. But over the last two weeks I've had at least three operating systems on there, all with the same problem! I can't help you while you have Linux installed. Can I call back in 10 minutes when I have Windows 2000 installed? That would be great. Ok.

(In retrospect it's a good thing I didn't mention my attempts to install most of my OS from CVS.)

An hour and two reboots later, after re-explaining the problem (to the same guy):

Please call us back when you have a precise error message. Even with the disk making sounds, we can't jump to conclusions that it is a hard disk error. I need an error message from Windows.

Fair enough. I guess.

I reinstall Windows. I hate Windows so much. Oddly enough probably my biggest gripe is the lack of a built in focus-follows-mouse mode... the feature I found most irritating when I first used X. Ahem.

After dealing with two weeks of Windows and coping with scary thunking and scraping sounds from my hard drive, Windows finally collapses, locking up while doing hard disk access. Horrah. Note: Linux dealt with I/O errors with significantly more honour and grace than Windows 2000. I mean come on, "srvhost.exe has generated errors and will be closed by Windows. You will need to restart the program." has got to be the stupidest way of handling an I/O error triggered by a remote access ever.

I (painfully, since the machine is timing out for half the disk accesses it attempts) run chkdsk to find that yes, there are most definitely errors. Ok then.

I shut down the machine forcibly (I wasn't going to sit through Windows timing out for every disk access required to shut the machine down, no sirree) and run the Dell Disk Diagnostics Program (hit ctrl+alt+d while booting). In the past, this had either said PASS or "hard disk not found". But now, with much glee, I saw a new message:

IDE Drive Diagnostics running; please wait...

Primary IDE
Drive 0: IC25T04aTDA05-0 FAIL 67

Secondary IDE

Test Complete

Press <Enter> to reboot._

Oh boy oh boy! An error message! I ran the program again to see if I could reproduce it. Joy of joy!


Another error message! "W00t", as they say! (Well they do.)


Another 47. Hmm. I try one more time, but this time the diagnostics program hangs for about two hours before suddenly saying:


A new message! Well well. This was at around 3am, so I decided to go to sleep and call Dell in the morning.

Next morning. I ran the diagnostics again, and was happy to see if say FAIL 67 again. I call Dell, and tell them my plight. For the first time, the person on the other end is actually interested in the horrible sounds! With their help I try reseating the disk, and run the diagnostics again...


Well. So far the count is two 67s, two 47s and two 17s. The kind person at Dell Technical Support asked me to run the diagnostics again and I was surprised to find myself actually excited to see a new error message...


27! That's a whole new code! Woohoo! I wondered what other codes I could get out of this program, and whether I could sell them on e-bay, but was quickly brought back to Earth by the person on the phone. She asked me to give her the disk's serial number (TH-05D569-12567-17J-0F75) and part number (07N7437. What? That can't be because the serial number should only be five digits long? Well it's one, two digits, one letter, and one, two, three digits long, that's 6 digits total. Well I can't help that. Hmm. Oh, well there's this DP/N, I presume that's the Dell part number, is that what you want? It's 05D569. If you ignore the zero that's five digits I guess. Okie dokie.) and the size of the disk.

And this is a 20GB disk? 40GB. No, 48GB. 20GB? No, 48GB. Are you sure? It says 20GB here. My media bay hard disk is 20GB. This hard disk is 48GB. I'm not talking about your media bay. You bought a new disk? No, this is the disk that came with the machine. We seem to have a data mismatch. It says 48GB right here... Please hold. ...

Amusingly, the hold music sounded like it was being played from a machine with a high load, as it kept stopping as if the decoder couldn't keep up.

We seem to have a data mismatch. Are you sure the disk is 48GB? Yes. 48.00GB 5400RPM ATA/IDE Made by IBM. Hrm.

After a few minutes of thought she seemed to accept this and, after comfirming my contact details (No, I have only one phone number, I'm at home all the time at the moment. Yes, just one number. That's right, I have no life.) put in the replacement order. Horrah!

Now I have the interesting task of figuring out what Free OS to use. I'm probably going to use Mandrake 8.2 again, since that's what I have CDs for. But what I really want is a Gentoo-like distribution with the source pulled straight from the appropriate CVS trees so that I can run cvs up -APd to update to the latest KDE, Gnome, GCC, or whatever. Any ideas?

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