long story short, it seems that my laptop is among those that is incompatible with smartudm ... and i don't think i have a power connector for a mini sata hdd for my tower pc ... the hdd in question is a toshiba mk1633gsg mini sata hdd.
so we're kind of at an empasse. i still want to keep using this hdd but only if i can get it to a usable state.
i downloaded hirems boot cd 15.2 which is what i attempted to use to run smart udm as well as some other tests ... the hdd instafailed both smartudm and the 'toshiba smart' test due to not detecting an ide drive.
the toshiba error was: 'NG device defective' ...
the smartudm error was: 'error, ide drive not found'
the hdd passed seatools' long test , and the ram passed 8 hours of memtest86 with both sticks of ram connected. i have not (yet) attempted to run memtest with the reverse orientation or with each stick by itself.
these questions still stand: could reformatting/zerofilling the drive potentially circumvent/repair damaged sections? what would you do to move forward from this point, besides getting a new ssd? thanks!
also, rather strangely, it seems like this laptop is having some new troubles with booting from usb. it has been able to do so flawlessly in the past ... but in order to run these tests i had to actually burn them to cd; hence i downloaded hirems boot cd 15.2.
i used a kingston 101 g2 usb drive which used to have linuxmint installed upon it, which i used quite frequently in the past with this laptop and which is also the same drive that is mentioned in the most recent release notes for memtest86.
each time, i reformatted the drive in fat32 as an initial step.
each time attempted to boot from usb with memtest86 (multiple versions including 4.3 and the latest), smartudm or hirems boot cd, the following occured:
first of all, the bios would refuse to acknowledge my usb drive as a boot drive; the usb drive would light up and then the usual 'select your os' screen would emerge, with no option for selecting the usb drive.
the only way to get bios to attempt to boot from the usb drive was to enter the bios settings, which would of course naturally indicate that in fact it is set to boot from usb first of all ... i don't have to make any changes here. it just seems like i have to visit this screen to get bios to attempt to boot from usb (this is new).
even after performing this step, when attempting to boot from usb i get this message 'Non-System disk or disk error' and can't go on even after removing the usb drive. in order to move past this error, i have to restart. damn weird.
i have since discovered that my bios might need updating, since it is not the latest version ...
also this little tidbit:
"Most Intel (not AMD!) based laptops (and desktops by the way) have had UEFI based firmware on them for the last five/six years, but almost all have had the CSM (compatibility Support Module) hard coded into it, to make it look like it was a legacy BIOS running, allowing BIOS-based OSs to load.
This practice is slowly changing. HP has a lot of systems in the marketplace that allow you to expose the UEFI interface, my EliteBook 2730p being just one example."
"One of the new features of UEFI is 'Secure Boot' which does not allow loading of drivers or operating systems that do not have a valid digital signature. Memtest86 does not have such a signature so if this feature is enabled then Memtest will fail to boot. Most systems have this disabled by default, however if it is enabled you will need to go into the UEFI settings and disable it in order to boot."
unfortunately, i was unable to find any bios option to disable 'secure boot'
i'm still experiencing sporadic mouse / keyboard problems ...
at first i thought i was just imagining things ... like maybe i was hitting the wrong keys ... but i just tried hitting shift and up and somehow that caused the text input cursor to jump to the very top of this text input box. so yeah. stuff is still fubar.
thanks for all your help so far! i really appreciate you guys!