Boot Device Not Found Error or Hard Drive Not Detected

pcoverhaul-no-boot-device-available

This series of error messages- Boot Device Not Found,  Hard Drive not Detected, No Boot Device Found, No Bootable Device,, No Boot Partition Found, Hard Disk Drive Failure, Data error Reading Drive, Blank screen with flashing Cursor, Seek error – Sector not found, Missing Operating System, Operating System Not Found, Primary Hard Disk Failure, Error Loading Operating System, Drive not Ready- all these messages are really saying the same thing. The computer can’t find your operating system so it can’t boot into Windows.

pcoverhaul-hard-drive-issue

The easiest thing to check is whether the hard drive, or the cable running to the hard drive may have come loose from the motherboard. Connecting the drive or cable snugly to the motherboard will quickly resolve the problem.

The hard drive on the left has a loose cable, the one on the right shows the cable connected snugly.
The hard drive on the left has a loose cable, the one on the right shows the cable connected snugly.

Virus or malware infections can also damage or remove the Windows boot files, which would give you this message. Sometimes a Windows Update doesn’t install correctly or isn’t finished installing when you restart your computer, and that can prevent Windows from starting too.

Many times, the error results from some type of problem with the hard drive itself. You can read my post about some of those problems here.

e - 20131231_184859_Nahatan St

If you receive any of these messages and want to get your computer working again and recover your data, contact me for an appointment.

 

 

 

World Backup Day

Have you backed up your data recently? Every day people and businesses lose huge amounts of
valuable data because they fail to run a backup of their files. World Backup Day is set aside
as a reminder to back up those important files.


If you have files that are important to you and can’t be easily replaced or recreated, you should have some sort of regularly scheduled backup. Hard drives can crash. Computers can be infected with malware and viruses. And your smartphone can be damaged, lost or stolen. Losing irreplaceable and valuable documents or photos with no way to recover them is a nightmare scenario.

pcoverhaul-files

No matter how new or secure your smartphone or computer is, it’s important to back up your
files, because even new hardware can fail. Some polls have shown that almost 40% of people
don’t have any type of backup at all, and another 15% only backup 1-2 times a year.

Malware and viruses infect roughly 1/3 of the world’s computers. There’s a whole class of
viruses that will lock your files and hold them for ransom. In most cases, even paying the
ransom won’t get your files back. If you have a current backup, you can completely wipe your
computer’s hard drive to rid it of the virus and restore your files from your backup copy.

The hard drive on your computer can also fail or crash. In those cases you may be able to recover the files by sending them to a professional data recovery lab, but that type of service is expensive. Depending on the exact problem, the cost could be anywhere from $300- $2000 and you may not even get back 100% of the data.

This laptop was damaged beyond repair in a house fire, and all the data was lost.
This laptop was damaged beyond repair in a house fire, and all the data was lost.

Any natural disaster that strikes your home or business can damage or destroy your computer and with it, your files. Fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes can eradicate your data permanently with no chance of recovery.

Computers can be stolen, whether they are laptops, desktops, or even servers. Your data may or may not be valuable depending on who the thief is. In many cases, they wipe the hard drives to conceal who the original owner is before they sell the computer, so even if you can recover the system, your files may be gone.

More than 3 million smartphones were stolen last year- that’s more than 100 smartphones stolen every minute, each day. Another 1.4 million phones are lost every year and never recovered. Smartphones are prime targets for thieves because even more so than computers, smartphones hold loads of personal information like banking and credit card info, photos, emails, and even your whereabouts thanks to GPS location. The thief may be after your
identity or financial information and not your documents or photos, but you’re going to lose them regardless of the motive. Phones are also small and easy to conceal in a pocket or handbag, and they have a high resale value. And the first thing they will do is wipe it clean of all traces of your files.

There are dozens of other things that can happen to your files. A regularly scheduled backup
gives you peace of mind in those situations. There are several methods you can use to backup your files.

An external hard drive.
An external hard drive.

If you’re backing up a computer and have a relatively small amount of data, you can use a USB flash drive. If you have larger amounts of data you probably want to use an external hard drive. External drives are portable so they can be thrown in a laptop bag or backpack. They also allow quick access to all your files at once. There are downsides to external drives though. The drives are affected by all the same things computers are- they can be lost, stolen, damaged by natural disasters, get infected by malware and viruses and they can have mechanical failures. If your data is very valuable you should use more than one external hard drive.

Cloud storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive/Google Photos are popular for both smartphone and computer backups. They give you a small amount of space for free, and can be
accessed from anywhere on any device (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, PC, MAC). The problem is, one glitch and your files are gone, because there’s only one copy of your files there. If you accidentally delete a file, that deletion gets synced up to the cloud and there’s no way to get it back.

If you have an iPhone, you can back it up right to your computer using iTunes. This is nice because you only get 5 GB of space in iCloud so all your files may not fit there. Your computer probably has a ton of free space, and an iTunes backup is a complete backup of all your photos, videos, music, documents, SMS messages, call logs, contacts and apps. If you ever lose your iPhone or upgrade, just plug the replacement into your computer, open iTunes and you can restore your entire configuration from your last backup.

A Cloud Backup Service is different because it offers the ability to keep multiple versions
of your files, so if Tuesday’s backup is corrupted or encrypted from a virus infection, or
deleted by mistake, you can get the files back from Monday’s backup. You do have to pay for a
backup service like that, but if the data is important or irreplaceable, it’s well worth the
cost. If you have a large number of files to back up, you’ll find cloud backups are slower than backing up to an external hard drive. And if you ever need to retrieve a large number of files it may take hours or even days to pull them down from the cloud.

A sound backup solution would combine all these methods.

The accepted rule for backup best practices is the three-two-one rule. It can be summarized as: if you’re backing something up, you should have:

  • At least three copies,
  • In two different formats,
  • with one of those copies off-site.

    pcoverhaul-google+photos
    I use Google Photos to automatically back up photos from both my smartphone and my wife’s phone whenever we are in WiFi range.

I have multiple external hard drives for my most important files, which happen to be photos. These are backed up daily. Everything is also backed up to the cloud via Google+ Photos and Amazon’s Prime storage service. I also burn Blu-Ray discs so I always have a “negative” that can’t be deleted, and store a copy of these with a relative. Both my smartphone and my wife’s smartphone are set to automatically backup to Google and Amazon whenever we have WiFi access.

Whatever method you choose, please be sure you backup your files. If you’re overwhelmed and you don’t know where to start, I’ll be happy to help you out.

 

 

Repair or Replace?

All hardware will fail at some point. The typical lifespan of both laptop and desktop computers is in the 3-5 year range, and according to this study by Backblaze, 90% of hard drives will last 3 years, but after that there’s a 12% chance per year that your drive will die (always keep current backups).

If this is your home computer, you may want to make different choices than if these are business computers. Often you can delay replacing a home computer until a good deal comes along, and you may have other devices to fill the void in the meantime if you are waiting for a repair. But in business, time lost waiting for a repair can offset any potential savings.

So should you repair or replace?

This handy infographic by Lexicon Technologies shows there can be a decent amount of money saved when making the right choice between repairing and replacing broken technology.

replace-or-repair

 

Help, My Hard Drive Failed!

Why do some hard drives crash and others seem to run forever? Most of the time you probably replace a computer before your hard drive stops working, but if you let them run long enough every hard drive will crash, fail or die.

There are 3 types of hard drive failure you have to concerned about.

First, there’s a physical problem with the drive. The most common things that fail are the PCB board, or the chips or power connector on the board, but there are dozens of moving parts in a typical IDE or SATA hard drive and they can all fail. I explain this kind of failure in more detail here. Symptoms vary. If there’s certain physical damage you may hear a loud clicking noise. Sometimes if the heads are stuck on the platter you’ll hear more of a buzzing or beeping noise. Or if the power connector is damaged, you may hear nothing- no spinning, no whirring- and the drive may not be seen by Windows at all.

The green circuit board seen on the underside of this hard drive is the PCB board. The little black chips contain the firmware. At the bottom right you can see the gold data and power connectors.
The green circuit board seen on the underside of this hard drive is the PCB board. The little black chips contain the firmware, which is the software that tells the drive how to function. At the bottom right you can see the gold data and power connectors.

Your hard drive can also crash if it has too many bad sectors. Sectors are small clusters of storage space that hold your data. When a sector goes bad, software on the drive is supposed to try to move the data to a good sector, and mark the bad one so it never gets written to again. In some cases, sectors can become so damaged that the computer can have trouble reading the data, lock up, refuse to boot or crash.

in this example, the hard drive shows problems with the reallocated sectors count, the current pending sectors count and the uncomfortable sectors count. Each variable has exceeded the allowable threshold, so the data on this drive needs to be backed up right away.

CrystalDiskInfo has reported sector problems with this hard drive.
CrystalDiskInfo has reported sector problems with this hard drive.

The second possibility is called logical failure. This is not a problem with the physical drive itself but with the file system on the drive. Imagine your hard drive is a library, and the files on it are books. Your computer has its own version of a card catalog to find the books, called a File Allocation Table, or FAT. If the FAT is corrupted, Windows can’t find the files it needs to run Windows, and you will be unable to boot. This can be caused from a virus infection, system driver conflicts, damaged Windows files and other software issues. In most cases I can perform a data recovery if this is your problem. I can back your files up to a good hard drive or flash drive, wipe your drive and reload windows with a new FAT. Then I can transfer your files back over to your new Windows installation. I can backup any user created files (photos, documents, music, videos, etc) but not your programs – I would need the software and licensing information or serial numbers to reload your software.

One of the most common errors when your hard drive has a logical error,
One of the most common errors when your hard drive has a logical error,

External hard drives are susceptible to physical and logical issues as well, but they also have a potential problem that doesn’t exist in internal hard drives.  External drives are really just an internal hard drive in a fancy enclosure so you can connect them with a cable and move them around from place to place. The enclosure has its own power supply and data connector and sometimes these die or break after dropping the drive. In that case, the hard drive itself may work perfectly and the enclosure itself may be the issue.

 

Two different external drives. The one on the left has a larger desktop hard drive inside which requires a power adapter and the one on the right contains a USB powered laptop drive inside.
Two different external drives. The one on the left has a larger desktop hard drive inside which requires a power adapter and the one on the right contains a USB powered laptop drive inside.

 

With all ways your hard drive can fail, this is a good time to remind you, please keep an updated backup of your files. Spending $100 on an external hard drive or a cloud backup service can save  $1000 in data recovery fees, so backup, backup and then backup again.

Whatever issue you may be having with your hard drive, or if you need to create a backup plan for your data, feel free to contact me for help.

 

Clicking Hard Drives

Probably the most common symptom of a failing hard drive is that distinct clicking noise – sometimes called the click of death.

If you have ever had this problem in the past, chances are it was diagnosed as a hardware failure. And in some cases it is. Unfortunately, I can’t fix this type of problem, but I can do what other local places will do and ship it off to a place with the appropriate tools to fix it for you.

Traditional IDE and SATA hard drives have lots of little moving parts inside. Your information is stored on magnetic discs arranged in a stack. Imagine an old record player, with a big stack of records instead of just one. And in between each record is a separate needle. That’s exactly how the platters that store your information work inside your hard drive. You ask the computer to read a file, and the platters spin to put the file under the correct head  so it can be read. There are motors and other parts in there too, but the point is, any of these parts failing or breaking down is going to cause your hard drive to crash.

e - 20131231_184859_Nahatan St

If it’s a physical problem, the clicking noise is usually caused when one of the heads can’t find the first sector on the drive and it goes into a loop looking for it. If you let the drive run and it clicks for a long period of time, the platter itself can get warped. Since the platters are where your data is, that’s not good. If your drive is clicking and you want to be able to possibly recover data from it, shut it down as soon as possible.

But sometimes, your hardware is functioning exactly the way it should, and the drive is clicking anyway. Newer, large capacity hard drives have a language they use to communicate called micro-code, which is stored on the green circuit board underneath your hard drive (called a PCB board).  If the firmware fails, the drive can do all kinds of strange things, including clicking.

The green circuit board seen on the underside of this hard drive is the PCB board. The little black chips contain the firmware.
The green circuit board seen on the underside of this hard drive is the PCB board. The little black chips contain the firmware.

 

If it’s a physical problem, you’re looking at an expensive repair, starting in the $1000 range and running to $1600. The drive needs to be shipped to a facility with a cleanroom so it can be opened without dust and debris damaging the platters. usually the process involves transferring good parts using a donor drive that’s the exact model of your hard drive. Once your drive is working, they can copy the data to a brand new hard drive that you can either purchase from them or ship to them. The  the donor parts are removed and your damaged hard drive is disposed of properly.

You can see the chips on the PCB board a little more clearly here, slightly raised off the surface of the board.
You can see the chips on the PCB board a little more clearly here, slightly raised off the surface of the board.

Luckily, if the problem is with the PCB board or the chips that are on the outside board, no cleanroom should be required and the cost is usually less than $500. One place I recommend checking out is 300 Dollar Data Recovery. They can diagnose your drive for you and if the problem does require cleanroom facilities they can even forward it along to one of those companies if you are interested. If you’d be more comfortable, I can handle the arrangements and ship it off to 300 Dollar Data Recovery for you.