A few days ago I had to repair a notebook with symptoms that didn’t look like a hard drive failure at all. But the problem was fixed after I replace the hard drive.

Hard drive failure

It was Toshiba Satellite A70-S249 notebook with the following problem.
When I press on the power button, the laptop starts up as usual and a red Toshiba logo appears on the screen. After a moment the logo disappears and the screen turns black without any faint image and flashing cursor. The blue light around the power button stays on and fans continue to spin normal but nothing appears on the screen. I noticed that the hard drive LED blinks green on the startup and after that shows no activity at all. After a closer inspection I noticed that the screen is not completely black (like dead black), it didn’t have any image on it but it had a very faint backlight (I would say about 3-5% of normal brightness). I was able to see that there is some backlight after I pressed on the lid close switch and the screen turned to completely black.

Here are my troubleshooting steps that I went through to find the problem.
First of all, I replaced the memory module and didn’t get any changes. Removed the wireless card, still had the same problem.
After that I removed the hard drive and started the computer. This time I got something. The notebook successfully passed the Toshiba screen and started looking for a boot device. I got some activity on the screen. To make sure that the notebook itself works fine, I booted it from Knoppix (live Linux CD) and successfully loaded the Linux operating system to the desktop. So, that’s the hard drive problem!
I installed the hard drive back in the laptop and tried to boot it again. The same failure occurred again; I got a black screen with a very faint backlight and no hard drive activity at all. I tested the hard drive with Hitachi DFT test and failed an advanced test. The problem is detected!
Finally I installed a new hard drive, reimaged the drive with a recovery DVD and got the laptop back up and running.

By the way, even though the customer’s hard drive failed the DFT test, I still was able to access it from another computer. The customer had important personal files on the failed drive. I connected it to our recovery desktop computer using IDE adapter. The “failed” hard drive was detected without any problem and I was able to recover the data.

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94 Comments

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  1. 34
    shadi Says:

    I have forgotten my laptop on standy before travelling, 45 days later I came back and encountered this problem:
    when I switched it on for some reason it wouldn’t boot up. It starts and as it tries to load Windows I get some error message on a blue screen which only stays on for about a second so I can’t read it. Then it reboots itself and I get a message saying there has been an unexpected error etc and asks me whether I want to try booting again normally, or in safe mode etc. I’ve tried in safe mode and all the other options but it just does the same thing. When the Windows XP logo appears and it seems to be loading, it then takes me to this blue screen with an error message and then straight away reboots itself.

  2. 33
    cj2600 Says:

    Ish Loaum,
    Can you see Dell logo on startup? Test the laptop with an external monitor attached to the laptop. Can you get the external monitor working or it has a light grayish screen too?

  3. 32
    Ish Loum Says:

    Dell laptop. When I turn on the laptop. I can hear it booting up but I can only see a light grayish screen instead of the windows Operating system. Is this a screen problem or somethingelse?

  4. 31
    DilsherSingh Says:

    I have a desktop(assembled) the mouse pointer is stuck on the screen .I tried by restarting the computer and also checked the PS2 port which was in good condition and also reconnected the wire but could’nt get any result.Tell me any other trouble shooting steps.

  5. 30
    Andy Says:

    I have Dell 600m and it was not booting up (i.e. it show the initial boot BIOS process but then blank black screen). I called up Dell Technical support, the ran System Diagnostic test and said that my hard drive is BAD. I bought a new hard drive and installed it. Still when I boot my laptop, it stays the way (i.e Blank Black screen) though I have OS CD in drive.

    I even tried to go in setup (by pressing F12) and marked it to boot from CD but it does not do anything.

    Interestingly, if I remove my hard drive then it boots up from the CD drive.

    Can someone help?

  6. 29
    cj2600 Says:

    Leanne Arnott,

    now it starts up but just stays on a blank screen with a flashing dash (-) in the top left corner

    Sounds like a bad hard drive to me. Run diagnostics on the hard drive and if it fails the test, replace the hard drive.

  7. 28
    leanne arnott Says:

    recently iv been leaving my laptop on overnight etc when i came to use it yesterday a blue screen appeared asking boot sequence i think that dissapeared and now it starts up but just stays on a blank screen with a flashing dash (-) in the top left corner i need help!!!thanks
    im desperate please email me if you can help :)

  8. 27
    Travis Musseau Says:

    hi. i bought a toshiba a-100 last november. i recently kept getting bluescreens all the time. even picking up the computer resulted in a blue screen. i was thinking a corrupt hard drive or bad memory module. it was still under warranty so i brought it back and they took it for 2 weeks, got it back today, got home it worked fine for about and hour. then i started putting my programs back on and i got the blue screens again. and as before, it wont let me recovery my xp using the toshiba recovery discs. they put in a new hard drive so im assuming its the memory. it says im missing system32/hal.dll now. idunno i waited 2 weeks to get rid of the blue screens and now i have them all over again. email me if u can with any solutions!! thanks

  9. 26
    cj2600 Says:

    J Brincau,
    On some laptops you can adjust the brightness level in the BIOS. Check the BIOS settings. Enter the setup menu and see if you can increase brightness for the battery mode in there.

  10. 25
    J Brincau Says:

    If I do not plug the ac power supply to my computer i get a very dark screen, no difference if I try to improve brithness by contrast sequence buttons. Computor is very dark if I use on its battery.

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