Is your computer starting to freeze up randomly? Getting stuck during the Windows loading screen? Missing the documents you put on your desktop yesterday? These could all be signs of a failing hard drive!
Having your hard drive fail is unfortunately something many households experience, and is never a fun situation. It often leads to the loss of data, and a rather expensive repair. There are often many warning signs that can help prevent you from losing your precious data you store on the system. First lets examine the different ways a hard drive can fail.
- Electrical-The firmware/logic system of the hard drive fails, preventing it from being read by your computer. This can be fixed by reflashing the hard drive with newer firmware, but still may result in data loss. This is a very uncommon failure type.
- Media/Head-The actual physical parts of the hard drive can fail. The internal parts can collide with each other, or get scratched from movement while reading/writing data. This is almost a guaranteed data loss, as these are the pieces that actually store your data.
- Mechanical-This is probably the most common hard drive failure, typically caused from either the motor burning out, or the drive itself overheating. Fortunately, the data can usually still be recovered, as the platters are usually left unaffected by this type of failure.
These failures can be caused by a few different scenarios, most of which are avoidable.
- Electrical surges are known to ruin hard drives, as well as whole computers. The solution to this is a good surge protector, or even better a UPS(Battery Backup).
- Physical shock is another big killer of hard drives. Bumping into or moving the computer while it is on runs the risk of causing physical damage to the platters. Especially if it’s currently reading/writing data. This can be prevented by making sure the computer doesn’t get moved while it’s on. Laptops are very susceptible to this, and unfortunately the only way to be sure it won’t happen to your laptop is upgrading to a new Solid State Drive.
- Age is another big killer of drives, as with any mechanical part. Unfortunately over time, motors burn out, circuits short out, and wires wear down. This is something that isn’t preventable, but often gives you plenty of warning signs that the drive is going to fail. Most people don’t keep computers long enough for this to be a factor anyways.
Now let’s discuss what the warning signs of a failing hard drive are. Now most of these can be related to another problem within your computer, but it’s always better to be safe and have your computer checked out if any of these symptoms are true with your machine.
- Data disappearing from your folders. This is almost a guaranteed failing hard drive, unless another user is in there deleting it on you. Viruses do have this capability, but they usually make themselves known to the user by popping up non-stop offering some sort of service.
- Unfamiliar noises emitting from your computer. This could be a metal on metal noise, a scratching noise, or a odd beeping, not to be confused with your typical motherboard beeps. If your hard drive is making noise, I highly recommend not trying to use it any further, and take it to a local computer store to have the data recovered before it fails any further.
- “No Operating System” or “No hard drive detected” at the startup of your system is another almost guaranteed failed hard drive.
- Programs and files taking way too long to open up, often freezing during the loading. This also applies to booting into Windows itself. This is often one of the earliest signs of a failing hard drive.
If you’re experiencing any of this, it may be worth having a local computer professional take a look at your system, especially if you keep important data on it. Hard drives are always replaceable, but data is not. If a hard drive fails to a certain point, data is not recoverable through any method. This is also why keeping a backup is worth it. Many people are oblivious to the warning signs, and one day turn their computer on to find out their hard drive has failed. Don’t let that happen to you, and have your system checked out today!