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Is Your Hard Drive Dying?

Losing a hard drive can cripple your productivity. Whether it’s a sudden stoppage while you’re working, or a non-start that happens when you try to turn on your computer first thing in the morning — a dead hard drive can put a damper on your day.

Hard drives hold all your data. Pictures, spreadsheets, tax forms, program files — a hard drive on its last legs chugging to a a sudden death can take your work and memories with it. Some hard drives last years, running reliably. Others don’t last long, sputtering and refusing to power on correctly.

Hard drives are complicated machines with moving parts that can get damaged very easily. A small mechanical glitch can lead to total failure, causing users stress and frustration.

I’m going to list some of the symptoms dying hard drives exhibit. I’ll also go over some tools used for diagnosing hard drive integrity in case your hard drive is already showing signs of wear and tear. In this discussion, I’ll be going over some of the everyday situations I deal with as a computer technician,

Symptoms

Sound

First, let’s start with sound.

Unless your computer case is a soundproof block, you’ve heard the sound of a working hard drive. A working hard drive clicks, whines, and occasionally rumbles. Some drives are louder than others, but noise isn’t always a bad thing.

If you begin to hear unusual sounds  — grinding, drilling, squeaking, hard clicking, or anything else you haven’t heard before — your hard drive might be singing its swan song. Strange noises are signs that the moving parts in your hard drive are starting to wear out, and you should begin to start backing up that drive immediately.

Errors

Frequent CHKDSK errors during your computer’s startup routine could be a sign that your hard drive is beginning to fail. CHKDSK is a program that scans your file system, and when it finds an error, it attempts to recover bad sectors — the sections on your hard drive where information is stored. If you see CHKDSK on a routine Windows startup, don’t cancel the scan. Running a CHKDSK can prolong the health of your hard drive by repairing problem spots and keeping things running smoothly.

If CHKDSK scans come once in a while, it may not be a sign that your hard drive failing. Errors come in many shapes and forms, and if CHKDSK runs once in a blue moon, your hard drive might be dealing with small problems. But if CHKDSK becomes part of the routine — you see it more often on startup —  it’s time to start thinking about replacing your hard drive. Constant errors could be warnings that your hard drive is damaged and moving towards failure.

SMART (self-monitoring, analysis and reporting technology) is another tool that monitors hard drives. It detects and reports on the reliability of your hard disk, alerting you when a hard drive is likely to fail. I personally don’t  rely totally on SMART — I’ve had hard drives die moments after a successful scan — but I won’t write it off. I would liken SMART to tornado warning sirens — by the time it goes off, you only have a few minutes to find shelter. Don’t ignore SMART warning. If it gives you a message, it could very well be time to back up your data and buy a new drive.

Another message that could signify problems with your hard drive is the disk failure error. If you see this message while booting up your computer, it may be too late. Basically, your computer is having trouble finding your hard drive or the operating system on the hard drive. When I encounter disk failure errors, I hook up the hard drive to an external USB to see if I can recover files. If a hard drive can’t be read, I recommend sending the drive to a specialist.

 

Final Thoughts

If you think you’re having hard drive issues, backup your data as soon as possible. Waiting only increases the chance your hard drive will stop working, and once it does, the cost of recovering your data by a specialist can cost thousands of dollars.

If you have a hard drive that’s no longer useable, I recommend replacing over repairing.  And if your hard drive suddenly begins working again, putting data on a drive that’s exhibited issues could lead to more and newer data being lost.

To protect your data, start backing up your files now. There are lots of ways to backing up your hard drive — whether it’s cloning a drive, saving individual files and folders, or mirroring — and you’ll be glad you did.

A hard drive can stop without warning. Keep your data safe by making copies. Give AB Computer a call if you have questions or want a solution that’s custom built for your needs.

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