OK I have a bunch of old Compaq HP laptops I use for work as my computers away from my computers. I have to be not in my office at times due to air quality issues, perfume, chemicals, people using white board markers. And when I have to be away I take a couple of laptops with me for connecting to my desktop and using as a test server.
Well one of the laptops had a hard drive failure and we put a new hard drive in it, the smallest we could find, a 320 GB device. Well the computer only works with up to a 100 GB drive. It worked just fine for a while but as soon as it wrote to a sector beyond the 100 GB limit the next time it rebooted, hard drive read error press Ctrl-Alt-Del.
OK at first we thought it might be a hard drive failure but ti checks out fine and if I boot from a Linux CD everything on the drive is just fine, all of the files are readable and seem to be just fine. OK so not the hard drive, it must be the MBR? Nope flashing the MBR didn’t help. OK then what is not being read?
So what happened. What i think happened is that when it got over 100GB the bios cycled and the bits over the limit were written to the front of the disk and it clobbered the fat for the first directory on the disk, Windows, and some file required for booting the hdd is just not listed anymore. So My alternatives seem to be copy everything off I can and then reformat the drive partitioning it into an 80 or 90 GB partition and leaving the rest blank.
Some people have had success running Linux on these larger drives, apparently Linux replaces the bios interrupts for the hard drive and the laptop will work with larger drives if the boot partition is less than 100 GB and is the first partition. Something else to try I guess.