Harddisk failure causes system crash, please help

Jeremy Chadwick koitsu at FreeBSD.org
Thu Nov 8 13:29:27 PST 2007

On Thu, Nov 08, 2007 at 10:40:49PM +0200, David Naylor wrote:
> I have been using this laptop for a few months now with FreeBSD without any
> problems with the hard disk however today as I installed editors/vim the
> system crashed (without a core dump or any message).
> When ever the system boots (and proceeds to do a fsck on ad0e (/usr)) it
> also crashes without any message.  I have tried the following commands:
> # dd if=/dev/ad0 of=/dev/null bs=1M     ( System crashes)
> # smartctl -C -t short     ( Succeeds )
> # smartctl -C -t long     ( Failes with a message: ad0: FAILED - SMART timed out)

Sounds like something mechanical inside of the disk is failing, or
possibly the drive firmware is somewhat buggy when it comes to handling
bad blocks.  What brand/model of hard disk is this?  atacontrol output
would suffice.  I'm just curious (personal interest).

> I have no idea what is wrong (if the disk has corrupted should the kernel
> not display error messages?).  Can you please help/advise?

Not necessarily, although I would expect to see a bus timeout of some
kind, but it doesn't surprise me that you don't see one.  If a long
SMART test results in the drive timing out and falling off the bus,
there's a much bigger problem at hand.  There is a possibility that the
system is simply going bad in some way (RAM issues or mainboard that's
broken somehow), but all your problems seem to indicate issues with the

If I was in your shoes, I would try to get all the data off that disk,
purchase a replacement, install FreeBSD on it, and restore your data.

I'd then take the old/possibly-bad disk and download one of the drive
fitness test utilities from the manufacturer's website.  Run that and
see if anything comes up / if anything bad happens.

Laptop hard disks are sometimes a pain to deal with (some laptop
manufacturers have BIOS tweakery where they refuse to recognise any hard
disk other than ones of a specific brand/model.  I haven't seen this in
recent years, but it's something I've seen in the past), so I wish you
luck.  Laptops -- such a pain.

| Jeremy Chadwick                                    jdc at parodius.com |
| Parodius Networking                           http://www.parodius.com/ |
| UNIX Systems Administrator                      Mountain View, CA, USA |
| Making life hard for others since 1977.                  PGP: 4BD6C0CB |

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