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Hard drive failure -- just making sure!

By DIYer ยท 8 replies
Mar 18, 2012
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  1. Hello,

    I am still learning, so hopefully this is an easy one, and I am welcoming suggestions! I am an engineer from 1990 who played in the business world since 1992, so unfortunately, that's the era and extent of my knowledgebase.

    I am trying to salvage a dell laptop that stopped booting a while ago (hard drive not found). I am not worried about recovering files as I moved them all to a newer PC long ago.

    I created a boot disk (CD) and started the system which shows the A: drive as the boot files and the R: drive as CD drive with additional utilities. The first thing I tried was cd c: and the response was "invalid drive specification"

    > Is this the no-brainer sign the discard the drive and start anew?

    Dell Latitude D600
    Pentium M 1.4 GHz/600 MHz
    512 MB Memory
    WIndows XP Pro

    Create a working PC for kids to use (homework and exploring, not gaming), primarily internet browsing, MS Word, MS Excel.

    Additional Questions:
    > Is this PC worth spending a little $ to restore (new drive probably $60)
    > Will I need additional memory, too (it seemd to work fast enough when I last used it)?
    > If the hard drive is unreadable and I don't have Windows CDs how does one re-install windows (this was a pc retired by my prior workplace, has product key sticker, service tag, etc.)

  2. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    It appears your hard drive is dead or damaged. Install a new hard drive, and run your reinstall. You should have no problems. But count on a long time for downloading updates using Microsoft Update.
    One thing for sure, you need more memory for that Dell D600... I would put in 2 GB of Put in the largest drive you can afford. Be sure that your drive is either a SATA or an EIDE drive before you order a new one. As you probably know, that system has two memory slots for DDR PC2700. My suggestion would be to get two modules of 1 GB each... which will cost you about $35 to $40 per module, depending on where you buy them.
    Because of the destruction of the hard drive factories in Thailand, laptop memory is priced very high right now... you will pay closer to $100 or more, rather than your hoped for $60.

    You can get a copy of the Dell Windows CD by calling Dell or going on line... usually free... If you still have the Windows Sticker product ID on the computer. Or they are $20 on eBay.
  3. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,729   +409

    Could very well be a hd failure, that is probably the most likely case, but it could be something obscure like a controller failure on the main board. I'm not sure how you can test that aside from hooking up the drive to another PC. Unfortunately since notebook drives are 2.5" rather than 3.5" you'll need an adapter, a dock, or an available external enclosure - things most people don't have.

    As far as restoring it to make it useful again. Its probably worth it if you can keep the investment low. Problem is, that system has an EIDE drive in it rather than SATA, EIDE is not very common anymore and will probably be more expensive than a larger sized SATA, but there isn't anything you can do about that...

    If you want this thing to be online, you will benefit greatly from more RAM. Unfortunately, it is DDR RAM and that is expensive now. Max you can put in is 2GB (2x1GB) and if you are going to put more RAM in it, it is worth maxing out. XP and XP SP1 ran fine with 512 megs of RAM, but SP2 and SP3 introduced new features and it takes a lot more RAM to run well.

    Put Microsoft Security Essentials on it for a free antivirus, its close to if not the most lightweight AV out there now.

    If you didn't care about internet access, you could just install XP with SP1 (maybe SP2) and not upgrade the RAM and it would be fine.

    Since you don't have the Windows disk, it gets a bit more complicated because you'll have to get one. You can download a copy from some torrent sites, but that is borderline illegal... You have the license sticker on the laptop, so you aren't actually stealing, but I doubt you'll be able to convince your ISP of if they flag you...

    What you could consider doing is scrapping the idea of using Windows, and instead running a linux distribution on it. It would be more secure than Windows XP and has free office suites that are mostly compatible with MS Office, plus its free.
  4. DIYer

    DIYer TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Great - thanks for the direction.

    I pulled the drive and it is a Hitiachi Travelstar 60GB ATA/IDE, so I am a little concerned about getting the right replacement and having it connect.

    > I see a 80GB Seagate Drive that is Ultra ATA - is that compatable?

    It looks like this PC is only worth about $150-$200, so I need to be mindful of the outlay to rebuild (although the learning is good).

    1 GB RAM is about $40 each. I have been running XP Home SP3 on an old desktop with 1 GB total RAM and it has been ok (Pentium 4)

    > Is fair to compare this performance to XP Professional (with all SP's) with a different CPU?
  5. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,729   +409

    Yes, the 80GB drive will work fine.

    For $64 you can get 2GB of DDR RAM. In my opinion it is worth getting 2 if you are going to get any at all.

    The Pentium M should be pretty comparable in performance to a mid 2Ghz P4. But that 80GB hard drive will probably be slower than whatever is in the P4 desktop, compounded with 512MB RAM you'll have a lot of read/writes to the pagefile on the hard drive and that will make it feel slower than the desktop. With 2 you'll get a lot less pagefile activity.

    I'm not saying you absolutely have to put 2 gigs in it, I'm just saying the performance difference would, in my opinion, be worth the money. Particularly if you intend to have a few programs open at once (Office, Internet, maybe a program to play back music, instant messaging)
  6. DIYer

    DIYer TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Parts on the way

    Thank you for the overview and guidance.

    I've ordered the drive and 1.0 GB RAM. The folks at crucial.com felt I might be successful running their board with the exixting 512 MB board, giving me 1.5 GB. If not, at least I have 1.0 and room to expand (they didn't have a deal for 2 boards anyway).

    I'll post back in a few days - hopefully she is up and running!
  7. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,729   +409

    Cool. I've had pretty good success mix-matching RAM in the past, but you'll come across a lot of tech people that will tell you to never do that. Good choice with Crucial RAM, I've been using their RAM in my systems for over a decade and I've only had a bad stick once and their customer service was top notch.

    Hopefully that will work for you as 1.5 should be pretty good. The thought of mixing didn't cross my mind, so sorry for that. It won't run in dual channel mode, but that probably won't be noticeable anyway.

    Just be aware if you get odd program crashes here and there and any otherwise unexpected behavior it is probably because of the mixed RAM. Take out the 512 and see if the problems go away.
  8. DIYer

    DIYer TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks SNGX1275 - the new drive works great (Ultra ATA), the memory seems to help too, but I've hardly put it to the test.

    Made a boot disk from bootdisk dot com - and that really helped - it included a couple utilities that helped me understand the old drive was really dead. Memory came from Crucial dot com and they were great, too.

    Not sure if it was worth the time and expense to fix this thing, but happy I learned along the way.
  9. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,729   +409

    Good to hear. Thanks for the follow-up.

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