Hard Drive Partition Committed Suicide and Didn’t Leave a Note

I have a running rant about Flash being worthless and the symptom of a much larger problem with design: give them blinky lights and they’ll be happy.  Last night I went to watch a YouTube video and the entire laptop froze.  SEE- Flash ate my laptop :)

It would not reboot, no matter what I did.  When hardware locks up like this, it’s never a good thing.  When I manually rebooted, I got Grub Error 17.   Far from being some sort of malady for which one can get shots, grub is the linux boot loader.  If I dual-booted with Windows or another linux, grub would boot my choice.  At this point, grub didn’t even give me a choice; it just gave me an error.  Lovely.

I Googled the error and most responses indicated this was quickly fixable with Super Grub Disk.  So I downloaded it. It’s a very well made and useful utility.  You can boot from a hard drive, CDROM, or usb disk.  I chose usb.  They have good instructions too, both for installation and use.

No matter what I did with SGD, I could not get the hard drive to boot.  I have three partitions on the drive: /(root), swap, and /HOME.   The drive boots from /, where only the operating system lives.  The reason I use a separate partition for HOME is that my private data can live on a separate partition from the OS, so if the OS gets hosed or needs to be updated, my data is (relatively) safe.

As luck(?) would have it, it appeared to be the OS partition that got eaten.  I could still mount /HOME and see my data, although the permissions were weird.

I ran fsck (the linux version of chkdsk) and let it run for a long time.  NOTE: always run fsck with the -y switch.  Fsck will find errors and ask you if you want to fix them.  If so, you hit `y’ or enter,  This can go on forever.  If you use the `y’ switch, it says yes for you, so you don’t have to sit there hitting enter five times for each question for hours.

After all that, I still couldn’t mount the OS partition.  I ran SGD again, with the same results (none).  Ran fsck again, this time with the proper switch.  It took a while and did nothing appreciable.  My linux gurus from the local linux user group jumped right in and suggested some of the things I already did, BACKUP, and Spinrite.  Spinrite is put out by Steve Gibson, noted hard drive guru and security expert.  This utility examines and attempts to fix all sorts of hard drive issues.  It’s ok to run regardless of OS.  It has saved many people from total loss of data and put many hard drives back into use til the physical end of their lives.

Before I tried anything else, I continued what I was doing before; reinstalling Xubuntu to the OS partition.  The result was really telling… when it went to format the partition, it came up bad.  Oh well….

Because it runs at such a low level, Spinrite can take forever to work.  I have seen it take a few days to go through a hard drive but I have heard about it taking much longer.  It recognized all of the partitions and I told it to have a go at the OS partition.  It must have found something, as it has been running for over an hour and hasn’t indicated it is even one percent finished. [sigh]

Updates will be posted as things progress, which hopefully they will….