When Hard Drives Go Shitty: An XP Story

Around Saturday night, I was playing the Sims (don’t laugh! this game is crack) and copying music from my Seagate slave to the Sims’ stations directory on the Maxtor master. Then I noticed an odd stutter to the music in SCMPX, but I thought it was only because I had the game open currently. Still, it was odd, as SCMPX always runs with an above normal process priority (as dictated by my 1337 ShellMPX app). So, I go back to the Sims and it locks cold almost instantaneously. I restart XP and then the Sims has no sound whatsoever. And whenever I open an app on the Maxtor, SCMPX would stutter and it almost never skips, let alone stutter like that. 😕 By watching Task Manager, I could see that there was 100% CPU usage going down when there was disk I/O occuring. But no programs, even explorer.exe were using the CPU hardly at all. On Monday, I started assuming something was seriously fucked up, so I installed HD Tach, a great HDD benchmark that you can pick up here, and ran it on both drives. Here’s what I came up with:

These results were very disturbing, as you can probably tell. :( They showed the possibility for a total hard drive fault, given that the Seagate was unaffected yet the Maxtor was. To try to rule that out, I did a complete scan of the Maxtor, updated my 4in1 drivers (which are now in an executable form and called “Hyperion”…go figure), updated my SBLive driver package (which now comes with a hardware EQ and compressor…sweeeet), and did a factory recertification test. I thought that if a driver got corrupted, this would set it straight. But, it was still pulling 100% CPU and only 4MB/s in HD Tach. So, I slept on it and then decided at school to rule out a hardware fault by transplating the Maxtor in my sister’s new rig. I did, and it worked fine, luckily. When I went to put the Maxtor back in my rig, I reversed its bay position with the Seagate so I wouldn’t have to use my funky IDE cable voodoo anymore. Then as a final hope before having to reinstall XP, I scoured the XP newsgroups looking for someone with a similar problem. After about an hour, I came across a thread where the dude talked about having slow HDD performance and the answer posted was to reinstall the Primary IDE Channel. So, I Win+Break to Device Manager, look at the Primary IDE and sure enough, device 0 was listed as PIO Mode 1 (which tops out at 5MB/s and uses the CPU instead of the chipset/itself to handle transfers) instead of DMA Mode 3 (theoretical 66MB/s max). So I killed the Primary IDE Channel, restart (taking 1min 9sec), install it again, restart (taking 52sec), and everything is fine and dandy:

This compressor sounds really cool on rock songs, but is a little too problematic for most NIN songs, except for The Becoming. The more disturbing The Becoming, the better 😉 .

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