Vista laptop woes: drive keeps becoming corrupted

My mom bought a new Dell laptop with Vista a few months ago and it has had a number of substantial headaches. Out of the box, we had major Windows Installer issues with it, and within a couple of weeks, the drive became corrupted. We’d try to run Checkdisk and it’d prompt us that it would occur at next reboot. Fine. We’d reboot - no scan - no indication anything happened - no error messages - still corrupted.

I took the laptop to a friend who could not repair it with any number of disk recovery tools. He’d repair it, but, every time he’d repair it, more problems would show up with the next scan. Finally, he wiped the disk and reinstalled Windows.

Now, about a month later, Windows Defender is reporting that the disk is corrupted and unreadable. The Start menu appears empty, and I still can’t use Checkdisk.

Is this a sign of a failing hard drive, or should I bug my friend to try fixing it again? My mom isn’t doing anything exciting, so I don’t think this is a software issue - she’s pretty much just using Office and putting audiobooks on an iPod with it, nothing exciting.

When you say ‘corrupted’, do you mean just that certain files are missing/contain improper data, or that the disk has actual bad sectors? If the latter, something is certainly wrong with the drive, as modern drives handle bad sector re-allocation internally, and if something is exposed to the OS things are quite bad and total failure is imminent.

If you’re talking simple file corruption, the field is still wide open to bad memory, crazy drivers, perhaps a virus, or some other malfunctioning component. Since it’s new, I’d take it back to wherever you got it and ask them to check it out.

How would I find out the difference? What tool could I use to determine this?

Also, taking it back would mean shipping it back to Dell - it’s an internet purchase - which, being time consuming and difficult, I’d rather not do unless I must.

Download the Ultimate Boot CD and burn it.

Boot from the cd and run Memtest86 to start.

Run one of the drive diagnostics next. Do not run a test option that writes to the hard drive.

I’d not bother trying to diagnose the problem further yourself. Although it’s a hassle, it sounds like you’ve got an exceptional situation, and so you should return it to Dell. Any machine that has problems from the outset is effectively DOA, and it’s the vendor’s problem, not yours.

Thanks for the assistance.

I was able to borrow a Vista install disk and run CHKDSK when booted from the CD. That fixed the problems this time - not as severe as last time. No bad sectors.

As for why CHDSK won’t run normally, apparently, this is a weird Vista issue. We’re working on fixing it.

Thanks for the feedback, folks!