Repeated hard drive failures in common office environment (out of ideas for things to try...)

because

Estimable
Sep 3, 2015
3
0
4,510
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To shorten a very, very long story, we had a relatively new Dell business laptop's hard drive die early this year, so Dell sent us a new hard drive. This same thing happened four or five times over until they sent us a brand new computer in May. The same thing happened a few more times, and now we are all scratching our heads as to why...even after trying multiple things to troubleshoot.

The computer is used in a 20' x 30' office environment that contains many other laptops, including one or two that are the same model.

This is the only laptop that is occasionally removed from its environment, but that shouldn't matter because this last time (where it lasted only one week) I had the guy keep it on his desk and not bring it home. So I think we can rule out something in a different environment causing the problem.

According to the gentleman who uses this computer, he had no problems during the first six months of his employment. He also noted that others used his desk before him and never had a problem.

There are no obvious sources of magnetism at or near his desk. He does use an iPhone 6, which is often sitting right next to the computer.

The system does not have any spyware or malware on it, as we have endpoint protection on all machines.

Dell is dumbfounded, and so am I. So I thought I'd take to the internet to seek assistance with ruling out certain things. Any suggestions? Should I place a desktop in the environment? Move his desk? Somehow measure the quality of the electricity or even whether there is any magnetism or other field at all?
 

TyrOd

Honorable
Aug 16, 2013
5
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10,520
1


You've already ruled out anything in the environment or the computer causing drive failure, so obviously it's the employee causing the problem by mishandling the laptop in some way.

For example...hitting the keyboard in frustration will cause damage to the drive.
It's also pretty likely the employee is intentionally causing damage as to avoid actually working.

You need to monitor this employee and maybe even do so without their knowledge, because 10 drives failing within a short period of time like that is so unlikely that just having bad luck with drives is impossible.
 

luna74

Estimable
Sep 4, 2015
13
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4,570
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If we are giving the person the benefit of the doubt then I can only think of the following:

There is a fault in a common factor between each drive and both computers that you haven't found yet.

Can you be more specific in the manner in which these drives are failing specifically? Any information would be helpful, is it identical each time? How is the computer behaving?
 

because

Estimable
Sep 3, 2015
3
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4,510
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To answer the questions regarding the specific manner in which the drives are failing, all of a sudden a reboot results in a computer that won't boot due "drive not found." The system works fine before the reboot. Diagnostics fail as well - the drive just isn't seen by the system. That said, placing another drive in the computer works fine, so it's not the system itself, and the failed drive can be seen by a desktop computer when placed in an enclosure, but it cannot be read or formatted. I also tried this on Mac and Linux, but no luck.

All the drives have been the same, and Dell suggested I try a firmware update on the drive due to a "known issue that stops the hard drive from being detected." This also did not work.
 

luna74

Estimable
Sep 4, 2015
13
0
4,570
1


If this is the case then the problem is with either the sata controller or the motherboard itself. My bet is that there are power fluctuations causing there to be incorrect amounts of voltage to be sent through the sata port causing erroneous writes to occur on each of these drives. Now, the question is whether these are the result of a fluctuation in the voltage coming from the battery or some voltage source that the two systems have in common (charger, wall socket, etc.). What model laptop is this as I'd like to examine its motherboard to figure out the probability for each scenario. Thank you
 

because

Estimable
Sep 3, 2015
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Since we have tried three computers, it couldn't be anything specific to the system itself. All three were the Dell E6540. If it were to be a power fluctuation problem, how would I go about testing that? The interesting thing is that the same outlet has been used by others in the past, yet none of them had these problems.
 

MrZoolook

Estimable
Sep 17, 2014
1
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4,510
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You seem to have eliminated everything that woukd normally cause these issues. In fact, 10 hard drives, 3 machines, and several other persons using the workstation trouble free later, the only common factor I can see right now is the employee in question.

As a test of sorts, why not swap his next (assuming another replacement) drive/computer with another employees. If the employee you swap with has no issues, and the employee in question does, then you've eliminated dodgy batch productions of hard drive or computer totally.

Personally, I wouldn't bother with that, and if I was a gambling man, I'd probably put money on employee abuse. And I'd at least rethink giving him benefit of doubt at this point.

 
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