Bad Sector in Hard Drive - What does this mean?

By murphyk08
Feb 28, 2008
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  1. Hello everyone,

    Recently, my computer was in standby and when it came back on, my wireless wasn't working. I figured it wasn't a big deal so I restarted my computer, but it never turned on...it went in a loop from the booting to a flash of the blue error screen after the windows xp logo had stayed on for awhile. After the blue screen, it went back to the boot menu, giving me options now of starting with last known good config, safe mode, etc. However, none of those modes worked, and I ended up doing a system restore. Once I got it up and running I did a chkdsk and it found bad sectors. For the chkdsk, I had the boxes checked to automatically fix file system errors and scan for and attempt for recovery of bad sectors.
    It's running and I thought everything was fine. Now, my AOL instant messenger will not load, nor will my windows media player. I have uninstalled and reinstalled both programs, but neither are working still. I just had my computer fixed one month ago and it has been running great, up until this happened. I'm confused as to why it even happened and would just like to have a working computer! If anyone could help me, it would be greatly appreciated!! I am contacting the man who fixed my computer, but he is back at home, and I'm away at school. So, if I am at all able to fix it with your help, I would appreciate it.

    Thanks for your help in advance!
    Katie
  2. kimsland

    kimsland Ex-TechSpotter Posts: 18,353

    Bad sectors are a small area on the Hard Drive that are physically faulty, and therefore any data written to that spot can be corrupted. More info HERE

    The real issue is, that when you start getting Bad Sectors, you start getting more and more as time goes on. ie it may be wiser to backup, and purchase a new drive.
  3. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,037   +222

    you did everything right; I would have run chkdsk asap, but the outcome would have
    been similar.

    IF chkdsk finds problems (bad sectors is just one kind), it does two things:
    1. copy whatever it can out of that sector marking it BAD
    2. rewrite the data in a new sector and chain it into the file

    It's not too hard to see that if the data is really bad, the file that contained that sector
    is in jeopardy.

    Most of the time all goes well, but in your case it appears to have tripped over your file.

    Your choice is to uninstall; boot and reinstall the programs effected.

    WHILE YOU HAVE THE CHANCE --- backup your \Documents & Settings\yourlogin\
  4. Tmagic650

    Tmagic650 TS Ambassador Posts: 20,457   +135

    These days a "bad sector" notification means that the hard drive is failing and it should be replaced as soon as possible. An all "0"s write may save the drive but all data will be lost... Some drives will respond, some won't
  5. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 10,067   +13

    ALL hard drives have bad sectors, this is because the magnetic coating and the flat surface of a hard drive cannot be made to perfection. This is just reality. So manufacturers have what they consider an acceptable amount before they sell the drive. Now over time, HDs can develop even more bad sectors. When this happens, keep an eye out. Your OS should mark these parts of the drive as unusable. But if it starts to get flakey, it's time to replace the drive.
  6. Tmagic650

    Tmagic650 TS Ambassador Posts: 20,457   +135

    I'm afraid you are a bit behind the times dear Tedster. While the data surface of a platter is not perfect, it is 10000 times better since the first days of modern hard drive production... even from just 5 years ago. If bad sectors exist, they are automatically marked now at the manufacturers factories. The consumer should never be aware of them at all. When they do become noticed, it is a bad sign indeed. You can reformat, but bad sectors may still crop up. A Zero fill may "clear" the bad sectors and all will be fine, but if this fails, the drive is toast.

    So I again say, bad sectors are a sure sign of a failing hard drive. Data should be backed up and the drive should be retired
  7. murphyk08

    murphyk08 Newcomer, in training Topic Starter

    What about if it is a laptop? Is it expensive to have a new hard drive installed and/or is it worth having that done to a 3 year old laptop?
  8. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,037   +222

    This is very true; there's a dedicated sector that holds a Bad-Sector-Map and another
    that holds the User-Bad-Sectors found and fixed by tools like chkdisk.

    HOWEVER, this has been true from DAY-1 of personal computer. I have a system
    dating back to 1989 and it came with zero bad sectors and over the life of that system
    it stayed that way (Quantum Hd). Just a few years later and another HD was shipped
    with 100s of manufactured marked bad sectors. Today, they ship with even more!
  9. Tmagic650

    Tmagic650 TS Ambassador Posts: 20,457   +135

    Yes it is worth replaceing a hard drive in a 3 year old laptop, if that's all that's wrong
  10. rf6647

    rf6647 TechSpot Maniac Posts: 931

    Is there any truth and/or benifit to partition the HD around the bad sectors?

    As of late, I have not seen utilities showing a graphical display of bad blocks. Likewise, calculations based on the sector count are challenging to the casual user when it comes to using the calc to size the partition.

    Is there freeware out there that gives up details for the defect tables on the HD?
  11. kimsland

    kimsland Ex-TechSpotter Posts: 18,353

    Norton utilites use to show that
    Yes you can try to recover bad spots via chkdsk /? (shows all commands of Check Disk)
  12. murphyk08

    murphyk08 Newcomer, in training Topic Starter

    Okay.. does anyone know about how much it would cost to have this repaired? Does it affect anything else.. i.e. is my motherboard affected at all by this or anything else? I just don't want to have something else go wrong if I invest more money into this thing since I have 2 years of school left
  13. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,037   +222

    Good questions. Typically there are two levels of formatting;
    highlevel:-
    quick format (which just makes all block free) vs. full format rewriting all sectors​
    lowlevel:-
    which writes zeros, rereads it, writes ones, rereads it, and writes a pattern of 1010101 and rereads it.
    THEN if any reread fails, it marks that sector as a USER bad block​

    Any vendor of hd hardware will provide such a tool. Microsoft chkdsk may or may not
    perform the lowlevel test. Historically, it was fighting to avoid cross-linked files
    in Fat32 filesystems.

    Personally, I highly suspect that chkdsk is not running lowlevel tests, as
    it takes HOURS to do this level of testing AND it is destructive as well.
     
  14. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 10,067   +13

    I think you just restated what I just said, but that's ok.... Consumers will never really know what the tolerance rate is on new HDs.... that's usually proprietary manufacturer info. But in any case, the controller board marks these imperfections so the end user doesn't notice anything at all. The issue is when new defects show up. And yes, technology has improved light years in the last 5 years.
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