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IDE Drive Diagnostics Return Code 7

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IDE Drive Diagnostics Return Code 7

  • Howdy Everyone,

    This past weekend I had the "Return Code 7" fail error from the IDE Drive Diagnostics program included with my Dell Dimension 8250, on two ATA-100 250 GB disk drives. I have been using these drives for the past three years in external ADC Technologies enclosures, which allowed the ATA-100 drives to be used as Firewire (IEEE-1394) devices for backup purposes. This past weekend, I cloned my 120 GB Windows XP SP2 boot drive onto one of the 250 GB drives and moved it into the PC, only to get the "Return Code 7" error from the IDE Drive Diagnostics program.

    When I visited this forum to find out what the return code actually meant, I was agast to find that the number one recommendation was to instantly replace the disk drive, because of a READ error! What a TOTAL WASTE OF MONEY and a perfectly good disk drive ... unless it had been dropped from 10 feet high, or had a gallon of water poured onto it, while it was running.

    Seriously, the only time anyone should even think about throwing away a modern disk drive is when it makes a continual rattling noise, or it's smoking and/or very smelly ... both of which are indications of a physical "crash" of the heads onto one or more of the disk platters. The preparation for this event is a process called BACKUPS ... the copying of your critical data onto another disk drive or tape drive for easy recovery/reloading.

    Until your disk drive physically crashes, or has some kind of other internal electrical problem, you can use a program that's been available for over ten years, called SpinRite ( I've been using SpinRite since the late 1990's quite successfully. And no, I don't have any interest in the company that sells this product (Gibson Research Corporation) or it's owner (Steve Gibson). I am simply a very satisfied customer who has saved thousands of dollars in NOT having to replace disk drives during the past 10 years or so.

    In 2004, I paid $400 for the pair of 250 GB drives I mentioned above. Since I currently live on a disability income, I was not about to take the advice of other folks here, to run out and replace BOTH drives. Instead, I went to the SpinRite web site, bought an upgrade to my previous version of SpinRite, for $29, and spent about 1-1/2 hours running the program at level 2 recovery on each drive. The program has FOUR levels of recovery available in it.

    My result was that BOTH drives passed the IDE Drive Diagnostics program tests at a total cost of $29 and three hours of time ... WITHOUT having to reload the OS OR any files from backups!!! SpinRite works on just about every disk drive made, that is running just about any file system on any Operating System out there, so there is just no excuse to throw out a perfectly good disk drive, along with your hard-earned money!

    So, if you got to this message by searching for the English meaning of a return code from the IDE Drive Diagnostics, or other disk diagnostics program, I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND your first step as going to the SpinRite web site (, buying and downloading SpinRite, and then running it on the drive that is giving you trouble. If it can't recover your data and the drive itself, THEN you can think about replacing the drive, reloading your OS, all of your programs and data files, etc. Do the EASY and CHEAP thing first (smile)!

    Good luck!



  • Backups? What are those?
    Seriously, though, your post is extremely helpful. The recommendation of SpinRite will undoubtedly prove useful to those 95% of computer users who never heard of backing up their data.
    EDIT: It's a shame Dell doesn't stickie user posts. This one deserves consideration.

    Message Edited by osprey4 on 05-24-2007 07:30 AM
  • The problem, for many people who use computers for business purposes, is that they do not have the time to spend running a diagnostic. It costs a company more in labor to run SpinRite than to replace a drive. It all depends on your point of view.
  •  > osprey4 wrote: Backups? What are those?
    Unfortunately, new computer users learn what a backup is all too late, which is probably one of the reasons SpinRite was created to begin with. My hope is that others who are searching for an explanation of the IDE Drive Diagnostics return codes, like I was, will find this post useful, and save themselves some money, time and grief.
     > ejn63 wrote: The problem, for many people who use computers for business purposes, is that they do not have the time to spend running a diagnostic. It costs a company more in labor to run SpinRite than to replace a drive.
    If a business can find an employee to stop what they are working on, go out and buy a new disk drive, tear a computer apart, replace the drive, run diagnostics to make sure the drive is usable, format the drive, put the computer back together, reload the operating system, AND reload all the data files from a backup ... all in less than 45 to 60 minutes ... then they are most likely a computer store, or a large business that has a dedicated IT support staff.
    IMHO, for any other business, or a home user, it would take much longer to do these things than merely running a disk/data recovery program. But, as the saying goes, to each their own.
  • Having just done this for someone, the total time to remove the faulty drive (which had bad sectors - clearly failing), install the new one and reload the image backup is under 30 minutes. I will admit that SpinRite, Ontrack, etc., are useful for situations where there's no backup, but the end result of such a program is a re-certified drive with questionable reliability.
  • dgoyette

    I'm not as fast as Ejn63, but it takes me less than 45 minutes, to reinstall XP, all the files, applications etc, on new drives and have the system running again.


    Please don't send me questions about your system by DCF Messenger.
    Post the issue in the appropriate Board, where they will be answered.


    If my answer was helpful, please use the 'Did this answer the question' and click: Yes
    Forum Member since 2001
    I am not employed by Dell

  • I'll second dgoyette's recommendation of Spinrite 6. I have also used it recently to recover a disk that exhibited the increasingly ubiquitous "Return Code 7" error. The disk also failed the manufacturer's test utility. My plan was to recover the client's data and return the disk for warranty replacement. However, after using Spinrite, I can't return the disk because it now passes every diagnostic test I've thrown at it! As an added bonus, Spinrite even managed to recover the data that was in the bad sectors--a feat which I find utterly phenomenal.

    I'm not sure I would characterize the recovered disk as necessarily more "questionable" than any other disk that's been in use for awhile. Remember, all disks have defects, and all have a pool of replacement sectors that can be called into use to replace active sectors determined to be marginal. Spinrite has the ability to refresh the disk surface and remap any questionable sectors out of use. Now that it's passed a Spinrite retest, I have just as much confidence in that disk as any other.

    As far as the economics of simply replacing the disk and reloading everything, don't forget the consider that Spinrite requires very little labor. Yes, it takes several hours to run, but that's not hours of actual labor. It takes about a minute or two to boot Spinrite and get it started, then you walk away and do something else, and come back when it's done. If we're talking about a company's tech support department, I imagine they've got other things to do, so Spinrite's going to save them time.

    And for home computers, Spinrite is likely to be well worth the $89 if the user is someone who neglected to backup his gigabytes of music and vacation photos.

  •  > ejn63 wrote: ... but the end result of such a program is a re-certified drive with questionable reliability.
    Why do you feel that the drive's reliability would now be "questionable"? The fact is quite the opposite ... the drive would now be MORE RELIABLE than it was before the SpinRite scan. You can find out why this is by learning how modern disk drvies function (locking out and replacing bad sectors) and by reading exactly what SpinRite does (refreshing [reading and writing] every storage bit position on the drive).
    I've been using SpinRite for nearly TEN YEARS and have NEVER had a "reliability" issue with a drive that has been scanned with SpinRite. However, I only buy what I consider to be "high end" disk drives, staying away from "cheap" disk drives, and stay away from companies that produce drives with a bad reputation from the general public.
    During the past 10 years, I've used Seagate (SCSI) and Western Digital (IDE, EIDE, ATA, etc.) drives and have NOT had to replace a single drive, thanks to SpinRite. The only time I replace a drive is when I want more capacity, or when I get a new system (about every 5 years).
    For the 250 GB drives I mentioned above, SpinRite took about an hour and a half at Level 2. HOWEVER, for a 120 GB drive, it would be HALF of this time, or about 45 minutes. For a 60 GB drive, it would be ONE QUARTER of this time, or about 25 minutes. Running SpinRite at a different "Level" of recovery, or if your drive has fewer or more problems than mine did, SpinRite will require more or less time accordingly. But if you guys would rather tear apart your computers, replace disk drives, reload Operating Systems, restore all the files, etc. ... by all means, go for it and enjoy every minute of it <LOL>!
    Also, I forgot to mention that the price of SpinRite varies from $29 (previous version upgrade) to $89 for the full retail, non-upgrade version. For me, it's been well worth the price to upgrade each year, in order to keep all of my drives (internal and external) in perfect working condition with no "doubts" about reliability. The only time I ever run the IDE Drive Diagnostic program is when I physically move drives (about every 6-10 months to balance usage), or if the OS can't read something. However, I do run the built-in Windows CHKDSK program at least once a week, and always before doing backups (drive-to-drive copy).