Hard disk reporting issues. What's the best way to recover?

My partitioned C: / D: Seagate hard drive has apparently been reporting that it is failing. I have gotten the warning both in Windows 7 and once when booting in Linux, so I assume it’s sending a recognised signal for impending failure.

I’ve run a Win7 back up of the user directories and it also created a system image of the C: drive (or so the Windows back up says). And I’ve been busy manually copying the files from the D: partition onto my Drobo. So I should have the user stuff covered by Windows back up and the rest as straight copies.

The question is then, how do I recover from this?

I’ll order a replacement disk which should arrive Tuesday. Do I then simply take out the C drive, reinstall Win 7 and… what? Run Windows back up and run a restore? Will it somehow restore all the user directories? Will the disk image bring the PC back to the state I was in tonight with all my C drive software reinstalled? Or is that not part of the system image?

Obviously, the D drive being only data files is not a concern at this stage.

I don’t think I’ve had a boot drive fail before. So the best path to recover is a bit of a mystery to me. Anything else I should do before switching drives?

Any suggestions much appreciated.


I have never used Win 7 backup, I use Shadow Protect Desktop which keeps my backup current hourly in the background. But my understanding is yes, the image of C should be everything on the drive, including registry entries, so software should appear installed after you restore the image.

I’ve used Win 7 back up and I don’t trust it. Or course my first suggestion would to be not to put your second drive on the same hard drive as your boot drive. That means when your single drive dies all of the info dies with it.

At this point I’d need more info. Can you boot from a Linux disk? Can you boot from an external drive and transfer important info that way?

I had this happen recently and this is what I did (quick version, I used an OEM version of Acronis provided by Seagate – DiscWizard – to make/restore the images):

Make full image back-up of C: and then D: to another drive (two images), noting how much drive space is used on each partition so you know how big to make the partitions on the new drive
Remove dying drive, install new drive
Make C: and D: partitions on new drive, making sure the sizes are large enough for restoring the back-up images
Restore C: image, then restore D: image

Yes, if your disk is still working, clone it with acronis then expand to use up the larger space.

Agreed. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that, the smartest thing is to have both drives in the system at once and clone it directly. I’ve seen a lot of recommendations for Macrium Reflect recently as a free alternative to Acronis.

Thanks for the answers, everyone.

I generally agree. This is a relatively small 400GB HD installed years ago where I kept about 200GB for the OS and used the second partition as a tidy place to keep non essential files. I have 2 other hard disks for my photos, music, games … So the logical D drive is really a minor concern in this situation. But it had to be the OS holding drive which had to decide to die of course, otherwise, where is the excitement? :)

And, like you, I’m not sure how far to trust the Win 7 backup.

At this point I’d need more info. Can you boot from a Linux disk? Can you boot from an external drive and transfer important info that way?

It still boots up fine. It just reports it’s dying (it’s on of those movie like hero’s dying breaths that feel like they take days :) ) both in Windows 7 and Linux. I don’t care about saving the Linux partition which was just a toy with nothing essential. So I’ll focus on the Windows 7 one.

That at least is good news. If I have to fall back on the back up, I would not be in too bad a situation to start from.

Good point. Either free software or a small investment in software allowing me to do a live transfer of the images would be ideal (and if I get the images done, I’m safe either way if the new drive dies before the new one is delivered). A friend also mentioned Paragon Migrate OS as a possibility ( http://www.paragon-software.com/technologies/components/migrate-OS-to-SSD/ ). I’ve heard of Acronis before, but not Paragon. Anyone else used it?

Those image transfer suggestions bring up an interesting possibility. Now that my D: files are safe, I could look at a 128GB or 256GB SSD to replace my C drive and use software to move to that instead. Justified upgrade and more speed for me. :)

But I seem to remember that there are pitfalls when moving from HD to SSD (something about sector alignment? I am quite clueless about SSDs). Would Acronis or Paragon help with that? Would you recommend going that route?


I used Paragon Migrate OS to SSD just last week on my new laptop. It works, and it handles issues like sector alignment, but I suspect most disk cloning software is aware of SSDs at this point.

Paragon will fit the OS partition to your SSD, even if your current partition is larger than the SSD, provided it’s not full. It can’t decided what you do or do not want if it’s too large. I’m not sure what it does if you don’t check “fill the SSD” and your OS partition is larger than the SSD. Which may matter if you want to continue with your arrangement of two drive letters for one disk.

Thanks Gus. The D drive contents will be reassigned to other hard drives. So I picked up a SSD today and will attempt the OS transfer tonight. I might even beat my dying hard disk to the punch. :)


Recent versions of Acronis (after 2011 or so) are SSD-aware and will align the partition properly. I haven’t used the other software.

Good call with the SSD. It’s 2013, nobody should use magnetic storage for their OS/programs disk.

Don’t be tempted to keep the old disk. Once SMART says it’s dying, it will be dead very soon. Once you transfer all of your files off, take a screwdriver to the connections at the rear of the drive, throw it on the driveway a couple times, then toss it in the garbage.

I thought I would post an AAR of how things went as you guys were kind enough to help and might want to know how it all ended.

So. I started around 9pm and it’s now 2:15am and I’m posting with a machine running my new SSD. At several points, I thought it would not boot anymore or that I had killed it.

The evening went like this:

Step 1: Get rid of Ubuntu

The boot option into Ubuntu (installed on a whim) had been a needless pain in the ass for weeks. I had been too lazy to figure out how to get rid of it. But I wanted my OS disk image to be based on a pure Win 7 boot to avoid any unplanned side effects. Also, the first time I tried the reimage, my machine didn’t boot because the SATA cable I was temporarily using for the SSD was, in fact, plugged into the HD where the small Ubuntu partition had been created. Doh! So it was time to get rid of the thing.

I used this how to guide: http://www.howtogeek.com/141818/how-to-uninstall-a-linux-dual-boot-system-from-your-computer/

And about 30 minutes later (by this point, my boot drive was getting slower and everything took forever), I had a clean boot into Windows 7, 30 more GB of free space on my games partition and a fixed master boot record. So far, so good.

Step 2: Plug in new drive, check BIOS, start Windows

Totally painless. Noticed at that point that AHCI was disabled but decided to worry about that later.

Step 3: Paragon software and the OS copy

As I mentioned above, my HD seemed to really struggle to simply boot into Windows by that point and took forever to start programs. But I didn’t receive any errors. So I don’t know if the general lack of speed explains the Paragon performance but I spent about 20 minutes all told watching messages begging me to be patient with not much changing. I was getting worried.

But the partition copy finally started and took about 35 minutes.

Paragon then posted helpful instructions on how to proceed from there on:

All in all, pretty painless if boring.

Step 4: The HD switcheroo

That’s when I unplugged the dying HD, replaced it with the SSD and decided to replace the D: partition with a spare HD I had taken out of another machine this week. Queue half an hour or more with much swearing and pushing and moving cables to try and fit a 4th SATA cable into one of the 3 controllers (i.e I had to manage to fit it under another SATA cable and all the cables and my video card made that a mess).

Step 5: Cry bitter tears and prepare to order a new machine

I got the drives connected. Plugged all the plugs back in, pressed the power button and… nothing. Checked the PSU switch, tried again, nothing.


By that point, I thought I had managed to break something. Queue half an hour of googling about my motherboard and looking at the manual to see what cable I might have taken out; until I noticed 2 tiny loose jumpers. One labelled Power and the other Reset. Ah ha! With the motherboard’s manual admonishing me to make sure the + and - sides were not crossed (but no clue which was which), I set to put the jumpers back in. I also had to unbend one of the pins for the power switch I had evidently mistreated while trying to fit all my SATA cables and drives.

This one was all of my own doing. When I plugged everything back in and pressed the switch, the machine started.

Step 6: Boot into Windows, Enable AHCI post Windows install

I knew that AHCI is supposed to make a performance difference for SSD’s and wanted to switch it on. So I followed this guide (tested on Win7 and Vista):

  1. Startup "Regedit
  2. Open HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE / SYSTEM / CurrentControlset / Services
  3. Open msahci
  4. In the right field left click on “start” and go to Modify
  5. In the value Data field enter “0” and click “ok”
  6. exit “Regedit”
  7. Reboot Rig and enter BIOS (hold “Delete” key while Booting )

Find the AHCI option in the BIOS and make sure it’s enabled.

Boot into windows 7, the OS will recognize AHCI and install the devices. Now the system needs one more reboot and voila … enjoy the improved SSD performance.

After the extra reboot, Windows detected all my hard disks as new media (first time only) and that was that.

Step 7: Enjoy

And here I am, with Excel, Chrome and iTunes starting in about 1-2 seconds and with one more hard disk installed (nearing 3 TB of space on this system between 4 hard disks).

All in all, most of the misadventures (breaking the boot sequence by taking the Ubuntu drive offline, Ripping out the power jumper and bending pin) were of my own making. Though playing with SATA and power cables in a crowded config is no fun.

The steps that were actually the move to SSD and reconfiguring Win 7 were a breeze though.

Many thanks to everyone for your help.


Good advice. So I shall.


Power supplies can do unexpected things.

~6 months back I upgraded from a 128 GB SSD to a 256 GB SSD. I’d keep the 1 TB data drive, and pass the SSD on to my wife’s computer. So, I wanted 3 drives in my machine at once: 2 SSDs and a hard disk. I needed another SATA power source, so I grabbed an appropriate cable, plugged it into an unused socket in the power supply and turned the machine on.

Nothing. Failure to boot. I unplugged the cable, tried again, it booted. Plugged it in, it failed. It wasn’t a polarity thing, the cables are polarized.

So I attached a 4-pin Molex to SATA power adapter on to one of the existing cables, and used that. Everything went fine. It wasn’t a capacity thing, it was that using that socket caused the power supply to give up.

That kind of issues remind me why I’ve been buying already built machines (to spec) those past few years. I used to enjoy assembling a machine from scratch back in the days of my 486 DX and my first Pentium. These days, it stresses me out. :)

I will upgrade the memory or the video card or add a HDD. And most of the time I will not even rip out any cables. But I really hate going too near the motherboard, fans or CPU.


Hah, yeah, that sounds about right. Traditionally I scratch the hell out of my hands inside the computer too. Rite of passage.

My most recent adventure came with my new 770 videocard. It takes 1 6-pin and 1 8-pin power connector, but my power supply only had 2 6-pins. Luckily, the card came with a 2 6-pin to 1 8-pin adapter and a molex to 6-pin adapter. Holy shit, I fucked with installing that card for well over 90 minutes. By the end of it I was soaked in sweat, had soaked through a paper towel blotting the sweat from my eyes, and had cursed God many, many times. I screamed “motherfucker” and various variations (use your imagination) so frequently that the neighbors must have thought I stepped on a rusty nail. My hands looked like cube steak. It was a horror show. In the end, the trouble came down to the molex connector not fully connecting unless I pinched the sides just so.

That sort of thing was I why I was so angry at that goddamned HP Envy 15 in the other thread. In my case it was purely software, but jebus, spending a couple of days getting beaten up Windows and an intentionally straightjacketed BIOS is enough to make you forget why you want the damned thing in the first place.

To be fair, Wendelius, installing a CPU in the last few years is completely different to the old “pry it on” experience. It all works vertically. Night and day compared to the old PITA.

(Of course, lately I’ve been fixing laptops…bloody things…)

The CPU itself is no sweat. It’s the cooler that I really hate dealing with (stupid plastic pins that make you doubt whether you have it fully clicked down or not).

As much fun as coolers are today, they’re nothing compared to the coolers of yesteryear. I distinctly remember trying to force a cooler on using a screwdriver only to have it slip and ruin the motherboard.

Sometimes I don’t miss the good old days…