Q: About six months back, (my computer) started having problems booting, and leaving folders on the hard drive found.xxx. The HDD checks out OK but I am unable to defrag the HDD or run any type of fix it program. I am thinking of (wiping everything out) and starting over. Any suggestions before I do this? - Barry
A: It’s been awhile since I’ve answered a somewhat technical question in this column, but I think nontechnical readers can gain some solid knowledge about their computer by answering this one.
Your brief description has all of the classic signs of an impending hard drive failure. Hard drives are one of the few mechanical devices that exist in your computer, and if all of the moving parts are not working precisely, you can experience the symptoms you described.
Don’t know what you mean by “HDD checks out,” but the first suggestion is to immediately get all of your critical data backed up and verified while you still have access to it.
Our data recovery lab routinely sees folks who knew they were experiencing some issues, but thought “I’ll backup tomorrow” and of course never got around to it.
The reference to the found.xxx folder is the result of Windows 2000 or Windows XP (not used in Windows 98) finding a problem in the operating system and placing random segments of unallocated data that it finds into those folders.
A sign that you are having hard drive problems is when you see lots of found folders; found.000, found.001, found.002, etc.
The folders reside on the “root” of your primary hard drive (usually the C: drive) and are hidden. There are a number of ways to see if you have built up found folders, but my preference is to use the command line.
Click the Start button, then on Run and type “cmd,” which should open a small black window with white text. Begin by typing “CD\” (without the quotation marks), which tells Windows to Change Directories (\ is the symbol for the root directory). The prompt should now look like this: C:\> .
Next, type “dir /ah”, which will generate a list of all files and directories including the “hidden” files and folders. Look for items that have the
If you only see one, it is likely the remnant of a single situation (sudden power loss, inadvertent reset, etc.), but if you see a list of found folders, you are definitely having corruption issues, which can often be an indicator of an imminent hard drive failure.
If the computer is used for important data, I would not take the chance of continuing to use the old hard drive. Get a new drive and start reloading or transfer the image (if you still can) from the questionable drive to a new one.
Finally, running “fix it” software on a hard drive that is experiencing intermittent drive failures is a very dangerous thing to do because the drive will not properly report data structures to the program. This miscommunication can result in your data being scrambled into small chunks of incoherent files in nondescript folders or TEOTWAYKI (The End Of The World As You Know It).
So be careful!