I've been backing up old IDE hard drives onto a new USB drive this afternoon.

One, a 2002 120gb Western Digital, has been a bit of a problem. I have connected it (as with the other hard drives) to the IDE port on the motherboard, and when I power on the computer, it makes clunky/whirry sounds which I'd prefer not to hear. Clunk, whirr, HDD powers down, powers up, OS tries again, then eventually the OS (OpenSuse right now) loads.

The relevant output from dmesg is as follows:

[    1.044144] ata1: clearing spurious IRQ
[    1.065767] ata1.00: ATA-5: WDC WD1200JB-00CRA1, 17.07W17, max UDMA/100
[    1.065769] ata1.00: 234441648 sectors, multi 16: LBA 
[    1.065858] ata1: clearing spurious IRQ
[    1.072420] ata1: clearing spurious IRQ
[    1.072685] ata3.01: ATA-8: ST3500418AS, CC38, max UDMA/133
[    1.072689] ata3.01: 976773168 sectors, multi 16: LBA48 NCQ (depth 0/32)
[    1.080399] ata4.00: ATAPI: BENQ    DVD DC DW220S, 9B32, max UDMA/100
[    1.080614] ata4.01: ATA-8: ST3500418AS, CC38, max UDMA/133
[    1.080617] ata4.01: 976773168 sectors, multi 16: LBA48 NCQ (depth 0/32)
[    1.081269] ata1.00: configured for UDMA/100
[    1.081374] scsi 0:0:0:0: Direct-Access     ATA      WDC WD1200JB-00C 17.0 PQ: 0 ANSI: 5
[    1.081574] sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] 234441648 512-byte logical blocks: (120 GB/111 GiB)
[    1.081609] sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Write Protect is off
[    1.081611] sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Mode Sense: 00 3a 00 00
[    1.081628] sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Write cache: enabled, read cache: enabled, doesn't support DPO or FUA
[    1.081722]  sda:

In fdisk -l, nothing relating to sda shows up. What I was hoping to do, was do a big ol' dd copy of /dev/sda, then use photorec or something to get some files out of it. The fact that it was recognized in dmesg is encouraging, but I'm wondering whether there is in fact anything to be done.

Would be grateful for any help in deciphering the dmesg info!

  • What does fdisk -l -u s /dev/sda say (-u s stands for using sectors as size units)?
    – peterph
    Jun 1, 2014 at 12:58
  • Hi peterph, there's no output from that command - I presume because the OS isn't detecting a partition and therefore isn't allocating a /dev/sda.
    – Nathan
    Jun 1, 2014 at 22:49

1 Answer 1


Any noises other than the normal hum from a HDD is bad news. This typically the result of either bearings that have or are disintegrating over time, or from the head as it's banging into the guards on either side as it searches in vain for specific sectors. If it's, by some miracle still operating, I would attempt to get any data off the HDD that's critical and stop using it immediately.

The last message is telling you that the HDD is being detected by the sd driver but there are no partitions to be had.

[    1.081628] sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Write cache: enabled, read cache: enabled, doesn't support DPO or FUA
[    1.081722]  sda:

Specifically that last line. You'd normally see this if there were partitions:

[336660.757985]  sdb: sdb1

So what ever partitions were there would seem to be lost. I'd not waste my time in further attempting rescue unless there's absolutely critical data on this HDD.


I've used these tools successfully in the past to breathe life into dead/dying HDDs but it's a crap shoot. Many of the tools/techniques are discussed in some of these Q&As. Also search this site for others.

  • Thanks slm. I'm not sure what's on this hard drive, so I can't imagine it's too important. I've decided to abort the whole exercise and instead enjoy some new strong fridge magnets. Thanks for your help.
    – Nathan
    Jun 1, 2014 at 22:51
  • @Nathan - ha. We just had 2 HDDs die at work and I elected to do the same thing with the magnets 8-). If you want can you mark this as the accepted A so everyone knows your issues been resolved? Thanks.
    – slm
    Jun 2, 2014 at 0:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .