Uncommanded HPA activation

Yesterday, the request came through like

we got a Samsung 40GB hard drive which started to show 4GB capacity. The drive was partitioned 4GB+35GB, now the second partition is just gone, and the first is displayed as raw file system.

So naturally, I pulled up the hard drive capacity troubleshooting manual and started going through it.

  1. Old mainboard? No way, it was working just fine the day before with the very same mainboard.
  2. BigLBA? Not relevant because the limit is 128/137GB whilst the drive is 40GB.
  3. Jumper settings? Checked, removed/reset, no fix.
  4. Host Protected Area (HPA)? That was the only option remaining.
Atola's HDD capacity restore does not work on x64 Vista (and presumably Windows 7 as well) because of the driver issues. It took a while to move to a 32-bit XP installation, but it was well worth the hassle. It turned out that resetting HPA returned the drive to the normal condition immediately.

The question however remains what caused the HPA to activate in the first place. This is not an unusual occurrence, as we've seen it several times last year, and resetting capacity always seemed to resolve the problem, but the root cause was never identified.


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