Very Strange Hard Drive Failure Symptoms

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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