One of the features boasted about Windows Vista is how visually responsive it remains despite being placed under load by simultaneous programs. Well, in the past month I have been battling with a Windows Vista that would occasionally freeze up, somethings even to the point of sticking the mouse pointer in its place. It would take around a minute for Windows to snap out of its trance with the spiritual dimension, of which time I have learnt to pick up short smoking breaks and socialising with neighbours in the yellow box. For all the work Microsoft software engineers have put into the operating system, which I know is extremely complex and difficult, it looks like Windows Vista is still susceptible to one uncontrollable factor - faulty hardware.
What was the problem? One look at the System event log reveals a rather large hint:
Log Name: System
Date: 14/11/2008 18:02:30
Event ID: 5
Task Category: None
A parity error was detected on \Device\RaidPort0.
Add the fact that restarting the system may yield a failure to properly start the device, issuing a boot-time black screen of death complaining storport.sys is corrupt (error code 0xc00000e9).
I tried to ignore the problem, and endured it, since I had other important matters to attend to, like clearing up the backlog of anime series accumulating in my disk drives. But yesterday, the occurence grew so frequent I could barely make use of this computer a few minutes at a time before a relapse came back. What exactly was the problem? At the point of time, I was not sure it was truly something wrong with my hard disk as the system events do not really indicate disk-related errors according to my past experience with disk failures and errors with other situations. I was not even using a RAID configuration on this computer, so why would "RaidPort0" come into the picture?
In searching around the Internet, it appears few people face similar problems. I followed some suggestions like changing the SATA cable, installing the latest nVidia nForce 4 series drivers, and swapping from SATA port 1 to port 4. The end result was the parity error then got detected on \Device\RaidPort1. Great progress!
One thing certain is the Western Digital Raptor WD74 disk is causing all these pain. This expensive 10,000rpm model I specifically selected to provide my system with speedy spins is ironically weighing me flat on my face with performance lockdowns. So not only does it spin fast, its time-to-failure is pretty fast too. One thing to be glad of is, Western Digital offers five-year one-to-one warranty; with dropping hardware prices and quality, I am at least appreciative that hard disks manufacturers acknowledge that mechanical moving parts wear down faster than plain electronics circuitry.
Yay, so I get to replace the faulty part one for one. No big deal, correct? Except that hard disks carry the personalities of systems. Lose the data, lose the system. A brand new blank disk does not return me to status quo; it just lands me with permanent amnesia. But hey, I am a high tech guy, am I not? Surely, I have some backup strategy to cover disaster possibilities. Yes indeed! I use Acronis True Image products to make complete disk backups for my systems. Only thing is, the scheduled backup task for this system is the 16th of every month - kicking in automatically yesterday - and that attempt failed miserably thanks to the Raptor disk's growing tumour. It essentially messed up the backup image I could have used as the base. Looks like I need to revert back to the practice of maintaining two alternating backup images. Oh, there's also the question of "who" is playing substitute while the main disk is sent to the bench for first aid? Looks like I have to make my fifth disk purchase of the year, if I am to keep it running (for a number of reasons I cannot effectively use another system as the nerve centre for my home). The consolation I get is when I get the Raptor back and have it recloned, this new disk can be slotted into my just-commissioned Dell PowerEdge.
As I write this, I am already operating the system on the new disk, thanks to Acronis True Image miraculously completing a full-disk backup in the afternoon (hurtling through the disk errors), providing me with an image to restore. Now is a matter of seeing how quick Achieva, the local Western Digital distributor, can bring about a replacement.
Happy ending? Did I mention yet another weekend burnt on matters that were not part of my plans?