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Tech Q&A: What to do if a tablet PC starts losing data

Steve Alexander, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Science & Technology News

Q: My Microsoft Surface Pro 4 tablet computer is behaving strangely. The problems began after I installed a larger SSD (solid state drive) that had 64 gigabytes more capacity. I configured that extra memory as a "D drive," and used it to store eBooks (digital books), pictures and music.

Now, whenever the Surface Pro is turned off and restarted, or goes into sleep mode and is reawakened, any new eBooks I've downloaded have disappeared and any old eBooks I've deleted have reappeared. I've tried cleaning out old stored files, running computer optimization software and redoing the system settings, but nothing works. What's wrong?

-- Terry Jones, Blacklick, Ohio

A: It sounds like your SSD is failing. I suggest that you back up all of your files to an external storage device, either a flash drive or hard drive, then replace the SSD chip.

SSD failures are sometimes hard to diagnose. Because they are computer chips with no moving parts, SSDs don't suffer the often noisy mechanical failures that beset hard disk drives, which use rapidly spinning disks. But SSDs can suffer from internal memory flaws, or from a loss of basic functionality, that shows up in odd ways.

One thing SSDs have in common with hard drives is that they may contain flawed areas that don't properly record data. On a hard drive these are called "bad sectors," and on an SSD they are called "bad blocks." These bad blocks can reveal themselves in different ways.

If your Surface Pro tried to save data in a bad block and failed to do so, you would get an error message. But if the tablet succeeded in saving data to a bad block, there might be no error message. Instead, when you restarted or reawakened the tablet, you would discover that it couldn't find the data you had most recently stored. Why? Because the SSD would refuse to read the bad block.

This latter type of failure might explain why your newly downloaded eBooks disappeared. But it doesn't explain why your previously deleted eBooks keep reappearing.

For the latter to happen, your SSD would have to suffer a different type of failure in which it loses the ability to store or delete data, and thus becomes a read-only storage device. That would mean your newly downloaded eBooks weren't stored (and thus seemed to "disappear") and your old eBook files weren't deleted (and thus seemed to "reappear.") To learn more about SSD failures and SSD diagnostic programs, see tinyurl.com/gogdk4w.

Q: My PDA (personal digital assistant), a PalmOne Tungsten E2 introduced in 2005, has problems backing up its data to my PC. I know that Palm Inc. was sold to Hewlett-Packard in 2010, and that HP discontinued the Palm PDAs in 2011. Given that, is there anything I can do?

-- Edwin Rodemoyer, Groveport, Ohio

A: Your Palm PDA is new enough to communicate with a modern PC if you download a new PC software driver. The driver, a small computer program, acts as a bridge between Windows and the "Palm Garnet" operating system your PDA uses. Go to tinyurl.com/y7dya5du, scroll down to "drivers" and choose the one for either a 32-bit or 64-bit Windows PC. If you don't know which one you need, go to your PC's Control Panel and click the "system" icon.

About The Writer

Steve Alexander covers technology for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Readers may write to him at Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55488-0002; email: steve.j.alexander@gmail.com. Please include a full name, city and phone number.

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