Karmic Upgrade and Drive Fail warning

Today, I upgraded my laptop, currently running Ubuntu 9.04 to Ubuntu 9.10.

In general, 9.04 has seemed to have been an ill-behaved release with all sorts of problems handling the Intel GM965 chipset in my Inspiron 1720, in particular the X3100 graphics subsystem. It got so bad for JP that he moved his laptop over to a very pre-release version of Karmic a few months back.

One of the new features that runs on Karmic is that Palimsest Disk Utility 2.28 which you can find at System->Administration->Disk Utility. This utility monitors the SMART data from all drives in your system to let you know when the disks start getting flakey. When JP upgraded, the utility warned him that his disk was starting to go bad, with dire warnings about the disk failing at any moment. JP replaced the stock Fujitsu drive with a Seagate 500Gb drive and all has been well. When I did the Karmic upgrade, Palimsest gave me a disk failure warning too. I looked at the SMART data that the utility was reporting and marveled that the numbers that were being reported were so high. So then I ran Spinrite 6 against the drive. Spinrite did not detect any problems, but did show the same oddly high SMART numbers. So I ran smartctl

> sudo smartctl -a /dev/sda

Now this pointed out that the particular drive, a FUJITSU MHY2160BH is not in the smartctl’s database. Apparently, SMART isn’t as much a standard as it should be. Different vendors do different things with the SMART attributes. My suspicion is that if the particular drive is not in the database, the program cannot know how to interpret the raw numbers correctly. Palmisest and smartctl are show the same raw values for the SMART attributes.

Lets take a look at some of the raw numbers:

Wow, thats a lot of reallocated sectors. 8 trillion. On a 160Gb hard drive. I’m not buying it. But that number in hex is 07D0 0000 0000, an oddly round number. Maybe its not a 48 bit number in this case, but rather a 16 or 32 bit number and the real value is zero.

Lot of hours. I know the drive has not been powered on for 101 years, so this number is suspect too. Converting to hex gives 000D B1C2, but I cannot relate any portion of this number to reality. I would expect in the order of 16800 hours (0x41A0).

Ok, so now I don’t trust anything that Palimpsest is telling me. Maybe its wrong. Spinrite thinks the drive is fine and that is good enough for me. I only have the single drive in my laptop and have automatic daily backups and regularly run Spinrite on the drive. So if Palimpsest is not telling me anything useful, no sense in it taking up memory, so I have stopped it from starting when my laptop boots.

One Reply to “Karmic Upgrade and Drive Fail warning”

  1. I had the same problem, only instead of just a warning the drives actually failed. 3 of them!!! All after upgrading or installing Karmic Koala for the first time. 1 computer was under warranty, with the other 2 I am SOL.

    I believe that Karmic is actually destroying hard drives. Its not a bad reading. Its actually destroying your hard drive because of an energy saving setting that causes too many rotations and the early (sometimes within days) death of your hard drive.

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