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.
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.
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.
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. Most technicians will ship a drive like this out of state to a lab that can open the drive to solve the problem. I have a local partner with the appropriate tools and experience to fix it for you, saving you lots of time.
How and why do hard drives start clicking?
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 a record player, with a big stack of records, 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.
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.
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 donor parts are removed and your damaged hard drive is disposed of properly.
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.
Most of the time you will probably replace a computer before your hard drive stops working, but if you let them run long enough every hard drive will eventually 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 (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.
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.
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 your files are the books on the shelves. Your computer has its own version of a card catalog to find your files, called a File Allocation Table, or FAT. Saving changes to your FAT is one of the things Windows does when we shut down or restart the computer. If the FAT is corrupted, Windows can’t find the files it needs to run the Windows Operating System, and you will be unable to boot your computer.
Just like the books will still be on the shelves in a library without a card catalog, your files should remain intact on your hard drive even with a damaged FAT- your computer just doesn’t know how to find them. This can be caused from a virus infection, system driver conflicts, damaged Windows files, bad Windows updates and other software issues.
If this is the problem, in most cases I can perform a Level 1 data recovery to get your files back. The files can be backed up to a good hard drive or flash drive, then your hard drive can be wiped and reloaded with a fresh version of 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.
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 connectors die or break after dropping the drive. In that case, the hard drive inside may work perfectly and the enclosure may be the issue.
With all the different ways your hard drive can fail, this is a good time to remind you to always 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.