"Low Level Format" - Current Experience Part 2

"Low Level Format" - Current Experience Part 2

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Posted by Henry on December 04, 2001 at 10:53:25:

A few days ago I found a like-new looking 1.2GB IDE HDD in the "junk" box at a local computer store; it was marked "bad" and maybe it is - only time will tell now.

First, I booted to a floppy and inspected the drive - it was loaded with files (about 80% filled) so I ran scandisk and performed a Read/Write surface scan. The initial surface map showed one bad spot at about 40% with used sectors randomly distributed on the HDD. Scandisk ran through the first (approx) 44% of the drive very smoothly at the normal rate then stalled at several spots and ran very slowly from 44% to about 60% - normal rate again from there to 100%; scandisk found five more bad spots in the 44% - 60% region (six total). Bad spots usually indicate physical damage to a platter surface; physical damage (head crash) to the surface CANNOT be repaired (without installing good platters).

I decided to sterilize the HDD (My STANDARD PRACTICE for used HDDs) by running the "low level format" utility (wrote zeroes to every user accessible spot on the disk surface). I installed the HDD maker's diagnostic utility and the maker's standalone "low level format" utility on a bootable floppy and ran the LLF utility (overwrote everything on the HDD). Next I partitioned (one partition) and formatted the drive (format c:/s) - format progressed very smoothly (like formatting a brand new HDD); format DID NOT FIND any bad sectors (probably should have if they were REALLY bad). Since bad sectors were found in my first scan I ran scandisk again. Result: ZERO bad sectors; I didn't believe that so I ran the maker's diagnostic - NO ERRORs and no bad spots.

I have performed "low level format" on every used IDE HDD that I have ever owned (approaching 100 now) and a few of the ones I bought new when I wanted to make a clean start or to sterilize the drive after a virus attack. This is the first time I have ever seen "bad" sectors disappear; if they are physically bad they cannot just disappear - BAD is BAD - forever. So - maybe the sectors weren't really bad to begin with but maybe the files and file tables were squirreled up enough to confuse scandisk - that's OK with me but I don't understand how that could be possible - then again, this is windows. I'm guessing that the more likely happening was the maker's surface quality diagnostic (built into this maker's "LLF" program) swapped the bad sectors for good ones leaving the physical damage where it was and unrepaired. This drive will bear watching (monitoring) regularly with scandisk to see if fresh bad sectors appear. I wouldn't use this drive for critical files that were not also on a coulle of CD-Rs.

By way of explanation, the so called "low level format" utilities posted on the HDD maker's web sites are really pseudo low level formatters and they are perfectly SAFE to use, even at home. Pseudo low level formatters DO NOT FORMAT anything - they write zeroes to every user accessible spot on the HDD. I ALWAYS use the HDD maker's utility on a HDD, NOT a different maker's utility, NOT shareware, not freeware and not even a program or function that might be in one of my commercial diagnostic packages.

I'd be interested to hear of other true adventures with HDD maker's LLF utilities - or even TRUE IDE LLF utilities if any are available for evaluation.

Hope you found this interesting.


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