Hard disk failures are the most common computer hardware problems. And laptop hard disks fail more often than desktop HDs. If you knock hard or drop your laptop even a few inches while it’s working, you may damage the HD.
- The laptop starts as usual but when Windows starts to load it goes to blue screen with either “UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME”, “hal.dll is missing or corrupt” or “WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM” (or similar) is missing or corrupt. All these error messages indicate a filesystem problem. Sometimes it can be fixed by just scanning the HD for errors. However in over 50% of the cases these errors indicate that the HD is starting to go bad and is probably developing bad sectors.
- The laptop starts as usual but Windows freezes on the initial “Windows XP” screen, although the blue bar continues to move, and you can hear feint but continuous clicking. Hard disk have to be replaced.
- As soon as the laptop is started there are loud clicks or grinding sounds and Windows doesn’t load. Hard disk have to be replaced.
- Shortly after starting the laptop a message appears (usually on a black screen) “SMART test failed. Backup your data immediately and replace the hard disk” or similar. Well, that says it all. S.M.A.R.T. is a self-test that is build into the hard disk.
In almost all cases the laptop can be started from a “live” bootable CD and everything works normal. In rare cases the HDs PCB (printed circuit board) may short or even burn. Then the laptop wouldn’t start unless the HD is removed.
The first case from above (corrupted filesystem) is by far the most common. There are several ways of diagnosing and fixing the corrupted/missing files. If this was just a software problem, the hard disk will continue to work properly. However keep in mind that this may also be a signs of deterioration and backup daily!
Also the hard disk will need some preventive maintenance. Check it for errors every few days or at least every week. To do that you must be logged in an admin account, then right-click the “C” drive in “My Computer”, select “Properties”, then “Tools”, then click on the “Check Now” button. Select both boxes and click on “Start”. Windows will tell you that the hard disk cannot be checked now but you can schedule a check for the next restart. Click “OK” and restart the laptop. The check will take from about 30-40 min. to over 2 hours, so do it when you’re not planning to use the laptop for some time.