So Close I inserted the bootable CD into the drive and proceeded to hard-boot my system. My VAIO booted from the CD and launched the Maxtor utility. It automatically recognized the system drives, so I selected the primary slave drive, the E:, and then ran a zero-fill format. This process took a few hours. When I returned to the PC, the utility was showing a dialog that proclaimed success. I exited the utility, ejected the CD, and rebooted.I was facing the prospect of removing the drive and destroying it (more to relieve my frustration than to protect my privacy). But before taking that drastic and final step, I checked in with the experts at PC Labs. First, technical director Rich Fisco laughed at me because I was too cheap just to go out and buy a new 100GB hard drive for probably less than $60 (after rebates). Still, when he stopped chuckling, he asked if I had used Maxtors utilities. I explained all I had done. He suggested I do a "low-level format" from within the Maxtor ISO utility. I had thought the zero-fill accomplished the same thing. No, he said. Only the low-level format can redo all the tables and potentially make the disk usable again. Of course, Fisco added, if anything happens during what promised to be an hours-long process, the drive is "toast." The other, even less comforting news he delivered is that when a hard drive begins failing, even reformatting it (at any level) can not truly save it. Yes, it should work and even be able to save data, but errors are likely to return as the drive continues its inexorable and probably rapid slide into the abyss. So, now my quest seemed more quixotic than ever, yet I figured I had nothing to lose. The disk was already as good as dead to me. I could only improve the situation, even if just for a little while . Its now about three weeks later. I tried low-level formatting the drive through the Maxtor utility, but it didnt offer that as a separate option. I tried to do the same in the Windows Command interface, but all I got was a message that this disk was missing the necessary BIOS information. Its official: My hard drive is dead.
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Windows launched normally, and in My Computer I saw all my drives, including the damaged E: drive. I clicked on it. Windows reported it as an unformatted drive. Frustrated, but not beaten, I ran the Windows-based Maxtor utility and did an NTFS format. Now this Maxtor utility reported success. I returned to My Computer, clicked on the E: drive, and faced another unhappy report: Windows said the drive was still in a raw, unformatted state. It asked if I wanted it to format the drive. I clicked "yes" and let the Windows disk-format routine begin. After an hour or so, a disk-format failure message appeared.
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