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Issue #512: May 14-20, 2017

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Q: After returning from a week away from the house I plugged my PC back into the outlet and booted it up. Did not get very far on the start up before I got this message: “A disk read error has occurred Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart”. Pressing the keys to restart just gets back to this message again. My computer has a three year old Samsung 840 EVO 250GB drive for start up. I have tried to power it by unplugging the data cord to the SSD and leaving the power on for 30 minutes, turning off computer, unplug power cord, wait 30 seconds, then repeat the process. This did not power up the SSD. Tried unplugging and plugging all cords – no change. Took out the SSD and installed into a portable drive box – plugged that into my laptop’s USB port and the SSD was very readable, all files were there and the laptop saw the SSD as another drive. I figured the SSD was now powered and ready to work. Put it back in my PC and booted it up – same message about disk read error. I then unplugged the SATA and power cords to the SSD, and booted my PC just to see if it would see “E” drive Seagate Barracuda hard drive – it did, and started to try to boot up in windows XP – I guess there are some old files still on this old drive that I cloned over from an even older hard drive. It did not get very far locks up since the hard drive does not have a complete windows XP on it.  Could you tell me what to do next – it seems the SSD is working fine, just not with my PC.

– Randall R.
Miramar Beach, Florida

A: What an interesting problem, Randall.  I will compliment you on most of your diagnostic efforts so far.  You’ve done a pretty good job of proving that the drive is sound and that the files on it seem to be intact.  I’m not sure from where the idea came that a drive needs to be “powered and ready,” in the context in which you used it.  Of course, a drive needs to be powered-up, but once you unplug it to move it into another computer, it is no longer powered-up, and all bets are off as far as the drive being in a ready state when connected to another machine.  No matter though; no harm was done except to add to your frustrations.

I noticed in reading the description of your troubleshooting is that all your efforts seemed to be concentrated on the drive itself.  That’s fair, to a point. However, now that you’ve proven to your satisfaction that the drive is functional, you must look elsewhere for the problem.  There are interfacing cables, power supplies, motherboard connections, etc., all of which could contribute to a problem such as this.  To put it another way, I think you’re interpreting the message “A disk read error has occurred” as “the disk drive failed to read”, when it is probably more accurate to say “the computer failed to read from the disk drive”.  The difference is subtle, but distinct.

So, since you had to plug your PC back in upon returning, I’m assuming that you also unplugged it when you left.  In doing so, if you jostled the PC to any degree, you probably want to go back and double-check all the cable connections (both ends of every cable) to be sure nothing has come loose.  You probably handled most, if not all of these cables when you removed and re-installed the drive, so this may not be the problem, but it’s worth a check anyway.

Which leaves one last thing that I can think of: your motherboard.  All PCs have a battery-backed EEPROM (electrically-erasable, programmable, read-only memory) chip which contains a program called the BIOS (basic input-output system).  The BIOS contains information about the configuration of the PC that is independent of the operating system.  This probably includes the configuration of any attached devices, such as disk drives.  It’s possible that while you had your PC powered off, the battery that keeps the BIOS settings alive ran out of juice, and allowed your settings to be lost.  It is a relatively simple matter to get into the BIOS and reset everything, but the process varies by vendor, and sometimes by model.  Consult your PC’s documentation on how to access the BIOS, but first, consider replacing the battery, which is on the motherboard somewhere.  Your documentation will show you how to find and replace it as well.

 • •

 Hey, fellow Geeks!  Mark your calendars, and don’t forget that May 25th is Geek Pride Day!  (Seriously – go Google it if you don’t believe me.)  So get out there and celebrate your inner Geek – show your pride!

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