“This drive has reported a fatal hardware error to Disk Utility”


I’m on the IT eqivalent of emergency life support for a few days. I returned to a DOA hard drive. If you’ve sent me mail in the last week or so, think about re-sending it. See the comments for the gritty details. -m

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2 Replies to ““This drive has reported a fatal hardware error to Disk Utility””

  1. What a way to return from a week out. Again, apologies for another poor-me off-topic post, but I need to record this information anyway, and this is as good a place as any.

    My ‘main machine’ at home, an Aluminum PowerBook, had the fan running as I returned home. Strange, I thought, that only happens when it’s working hard on something. I didn’t think much of it, and crashed for several hours of badly needed sleep. The next day, it was still fanning. I tried to get something done, but it was locked solid. No choice but to hard power down.

    Reboot. Up to a nice calming blue desktop, no wallpaper, only a movable mouse pointer. No way out but to hard power down again. Repeat. No good.

    Reboot holding Apple+S. /sbin/fsck -yt. Immediate exit:

    ** /dev/rdisk0s3
    ** Root file system
    Invalid Volume Header
    ** Checking HFS Plus volume.
    ** Checking Events Overflow file.
    ** Checking Catalog file.
    Invalid sibling link
    ** Volume check failed.

    Now, I’m not a Unix expert by any means, but when fsck fails immediately, I know it’s not good.

    Reboot with the 10.4 system DVD (holding down ‘C’ on boot). Utilities-> Disk Utility. My 74.5 GB TOSHIBA MK8026GAX shows in red. Hmm, never seen that before. Select it. “This drive has reported a fatal hardware error to Disk Utility. If the drive has not failed completely, back up as much data as you can and then replace it with a working drive.” Also on the bottom, under S.M.A.R.T. Status, in red: “Failing”. Ing? I wish.

    I have a disk that comes with AppleCare, which as always proved worthless. Time for the big guns. Disk Warrior. I pop the CD in, boot holding down ‘C’, and… get a system fault. “You need to restart your computer. Hold down the Power button for several seconds or press the Restart button.” (with a repeat in three other languages). Try again–same. Special code FF:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF.

    TechTool Deluxe it is. I want to zoom in on the problem, so I disable the lengthy RAM and Surface Scans, and run the rest. It gets to the Random Read test, rockets to 76 out of 100, then slows to a crawl. 77. Finishes with “! Fail”. Ramdom Read, balks at 76 again. “! Fail”. Linear Read, balks at 76. “! Fail”. Linear Write, balks at 76, “! Fail”. Seek: pauses at 76, “! Fail”. Read Buffer, 76, “! Fail”. Write Buffer, 76, “! Fail”. Volume Structure fails on “task” 1 of 7.

    As an aside, why would all of these various tests, both random and linear, fail on test 76 of 100? Most likely it’s due to the utter patheticalness of the TechTool software. It’s probably taking all kinds of shortcuts to make it look like it does an impressive amount of work. Apparently the first 75 of 100 disk tests don’t involve actually accessing the disk. Anyway, it generates a nice report at the end looking like this:

    Random Read
    Failed (Error = -4)

    (generic unhelpful message)

    Random Write
    Failed (Error = -4)

    Linear Read
    Failed (Error = -4)

    Linear Write
    Failed (Error = -4)

    Failed (Error = -4)

    Read Buffer
    Failed (Error = -4)

    Write Buffer
    Failed (Error = -4)

    Volume Structure
    Failed (Error = -987)

    And a button labeled “Repair”. Worth it? Probably not, but nothing left to lose at this point. After a useless confirmation dialog, it goes to work, powering straight through to step 4 of 6, where it pauses for a long time. Several hours pass. Eventually a report comes up, listing all kinds of technical details, some colored as a “Favorable Change” and others as an “Unusual Change”. Total folders from 113,991 to 113,887, and total files from 587,398 to 586,766. I don’t trust it though. First, I’ll try FireWire target mode.

    No good. I can get a view of the CD I have in the problem machine, but the hard drive in question doesn’t show up at all. Off to the Apple Store I go. Great service there, as usual, with same-day turnaround. But, it hurts to go through this, and now, to sift through the backups. -m

  2. I hope you have a recent backup! When the same happened to me last year, my most recent backup was *only* two weeks old.

    I was using my Mac (12″ PowerBook) and had about three minutes warning from everything OK to total disk failure.

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