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Thread: hard drive question

  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    Nov 2004

    hard drive question

    Recently, I installed a program given to me by a friend. It ran fine for a couple months and one day while using it, my computer crashed bad. First it froze, I forced a reboot and Windows would not load after that. A clicking noise could be heard from the hard drive. I ran scandisk and that crashed and I got a message warning of "imminent hard drive failure" and advising me to replace the hard disk. I assumed it was my hard drive that crapped and had nothing to do with the program. I replaced the hard drive and it worked fine.
    A week later my boss asked me about the same program and I told him I had a copy I could let him use. He installed it and the same exact scenerio described above occurred. Of course I proceeded to trash the cd with an apparently destructive program.

    My friend said he downloaded the program (doh! initally I assumed he owned it). Is it possible for a virus to cause such damage? The audible clicking noise seemed like physical damage within the hard drive - the same noise could be heard on the computer at work. Or is it possible a corrupt file from the program could cause such damage?

    Apparently it was the program, but any further insight would be appreciated - I can't be comfortable until I understand why something went wrong so I can possibly prevent it in the future. I know I will no longer be borrowing any programs which I don't know where they came from...

  2. #2
    the beign of authority kurt_der_koenig's Avatar
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    Jan 2004
    Apparently it was the program, but any further insight would be appreciated - I can't be comfortable until I understand why something went wrong so I can possibly prevent it in the future. I know I will no longer be borrowing any programs which I don't know where they came from...
    Did you scan it with antivirus! Screams virus to me. You should always scan your freshly downloaded programs and most definately ones coming from other people on cds/floppies etc. But to further figure it out:: What OS <operating system-windows 98,xp etc> do you have? Did you try formating and reinstalling your HD before buying another HD? Do you have anitvirus?

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Feb 2003
    Memphis, TN
    If I remember correctly there are viruses out there that will make your hard drive spin faster than what it was designed for.

    I'll have to find a link to back that up, but I belive that is possible.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    Oct 2001
    In short, a program can trash a hard drive's data, but cannot cause physical damage to the drive.

    In long, many consumer products have corners cut to bring it to market affordably. There is always that chance that the seek head wasn't ever up to the task of seeking inner and outter tracks continously for long periods of time. If you haven't seen how fast these things "flick" around to access different tracks, you'd be supprised. A lot of things go on inside that aluminum box and it is very complex. Unless the hard drives in these machines are the "IBM Death Stars" or something, the reasons surrounding these failures are very weird.

  5. #5
    Junior Member
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    Nov 2004
    Well I did assume it was my hardware until the same exact thing (clicking and all) happened at work. but i really didn't think a virus was capable of causing something like that. The OS was windows XP in both cases - and I do have anti-virus software and scanned the file before installing.
    Also I did try to reformat the drive but after I got the imminent hard disk failure it wouldnt' do anything. The clicking noise became more frequent and it wouldn't even begin to boot up after that. What really threw me for a spin was when it happened at work because I never saw software cause a problem quite like that (the clicking). Thank you for the feedback.

    (and the drive was a Maxtor, which I hear tend to click, not sure about the drive at work. I replaced it with a Western Digital in any case.)

  6. #6
    Junior Member
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    Oct 2004
    A virus can damage the data in your hard drive but it could not cause physical damage to the drive. Nothenlast for ever sow your hard drive probley did go bad. But it is very wierd that your hard drive went bad then when you gave your boss the program his went bad to ill have to look in to it more.
    There is all way\'s one way to fix a computer. Our i think sow at least


  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2004

    just a coincidence?


    I apologize when I partially paraphrase Tim_axe, but as so often, he is right

    The past

    I just read your thread, maez, and it reminded me heavily on the disturbing
    clicking-sounds of 2 of my HD's - before they died. After they died, they just clicked
    unmotivated another 2-3 times after "turn off/turn on"ing, then remained silent.
    Both were by IBM...

    The backup

    Fortunately, nowadays SMART[1] is developed, and we can backup our data right
    in time, when we get the message "imminent hard drive failure".

    Past the past

    Still, I am wondering what all this has to do with that ominous tool. As it has been
    stated, a tool might not be able to damage your HD physically, even when it makes
    the "heads to jump around". At least not nowadays. There was once a tool (15/20? years back )that tried
    to read some unaccessible blocks, causing some sort of HDs to have the mechanical
    arm blocked...but I was young at that time and maybe cannot recall it properly. But
    anyway, it's a good story. Another one: I was told, 10 years ago, there was
    another c-program around, that was able to do a physical scratch, ruining the HD.
    Whether this is rumour or not, I cannot say.

    That ominous tool

    Just to repeat: You gave that tool to your boss, and his HD crashed as well (And he is still your boss? )
    A serious question: Did/do you still use that tool on your own machine? And your HD is still alive?
    You did not comment on that.

    As others, I guess it's just a coincidence that both HDs died, and is not related to the tool.
    But still I would be interested to have a look at it. Could you post a link where to get it,
    or, if it is not too large, PM it to me or post it?


    You can tweak the RPM of your harddisk using this nice tool: HDparm[2].
    It was also said, that this tool might damage your HD physically.
    Might it be possible to damage a HD with that nowadays? Most unlikely,
    since most manufacturers (should?) have built-in mechanical limits.


    [1] http://www.spcug.org/reviews/bl0102.htm
    [2] http://freshmeat.net/projects/hdparm/
    If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
    (Abraham Maslow, Psychologist, 1908-70)

  8. #8
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2004

    Re: just a coincidence?

    Originally posted here by sec_ware
    A serious question: Did/do you still use that tool on your own machine? And your HD is still alive?
    I threw the cd with the program in my trashcan, right behind me bad hard drive - so no, I didn't reinstall it. I was also under the impression software could not cause physical damage to a hard drive, but I'm still not convinced it was a coincidence after it happened on two computers within a week - the only common denominator being the installation of the program.

  9. #9
    Senior since the 3 dot era
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    While a virus normaly cannot physicaly damage hardware it is possible to make hardware complete useless using code. Most modern hardware contains a manner to flash eeprom's making updates easy, so it's not that difficult for a skilled programmer to write a virus that fills the hw eeprom with garbage making the hardware completly useless. For instance a pc that writes garbage to it's own bios, next time it boots ... no boot up. Or dvd-roms with software regio change, a code that constantly switches dvd-regio until the limited regio change number is reached, making it unusable for the remaining regio's it's not switched to. There are a lot of overrun attacks possible on hardware, remember the cih virus from 1998. So it isn't real hardware damage, cause it's a code exploit, but it's on such a low level that the result is nearly the same.
    The good thing is that there's no standard flash method to the various existing eeprom's making a general virus affecting all kind of boxes nearly impossible.
    And talking about cpu's, mobo's, most mobo's software control fan speed, by altering the bios instructions you could make the user and the control mechanisms believe that cpu fan is spinning while it's only spinning at 1 rpm or something, so your cpu runs hot. If the shutdown feature is worked around too, you have a death cpu.

    Basicly viruses can do no more than other programs can do, cause they are just what they are: programs!

    If a regular program can damage hardware, a virus can do the same.
    Therefor programmers and hardware designers do their best to avoid such cases, so normally the answer is NO, a program cannot physicaly damage a computer, however all theories have their exceptions. If there is a flaw that can cause the hardware to be damaged by soft instructions then a virus can easily render the hardware useless.
    For example, some early IBM monochrome adapter cards couldl alter horizontal sweep rates, setting those behind the specs of the monitor for example to 0, makes the monitor to be damaged in the long term and even burn out.

    Other examples, a deliberatly wrong written driver for tape robots can cause damage to the robot arm due to the exessive movements instructed. Using microcode you can even reprogram certain intel cpu's.

    Viruses that actualy have a general impact and both destroy hardware and spread themselfs are not yet reported.

    The click sound you described is the very known 'click of death'
    sort of the last scream of a disk before he dies

  10. #10
    Junior Member
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    Nov 2004
    Originally posted here by VictorKaum
    The click sound you described is the very known 'click of death'
    sort of the last scream of a disk before he dies [/B]
    yes... his was a slow and painful death (and I made sure to put him out of his misery with a stab from a screwdriver, more out of anger than compassion).

    That was helpful (and scary) information, thanks. I didn't know to what extent mere code could potentially do damage.

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