Hard Drive Failure: Risk Factors And Remedies

By: Lane Kramer

Computers have made communication and trade easier but they're only machines. And, like all machines there comes a time when components start to fail or unforeseen problems crop up. Repair work may be done but when all else fails, it's time for a replacement.

Hard disk drive failure has to be the most frustrating and alarming problem for computer users. So much data is stored, some important and others confidential. The loss of information can have huge consequences depending on what is stored which is why data must be backed up. Recovery attempts can prove successful but not every bit of information can be saved. To prevent this, computer users must keep an eye out for signs of failing and learn how to potentially extend the life of HDDs.

The points listed below can help users know when drives are failing but the 'symptoms' aren't exclusive to HDD failure.

1. Data corruption

Signs of data becoming corrupt can start with the mysterious disappearance of files despite being saved. They may unexpectedly reappear as well. Again, this could be due to other reasons but can also be a sign of a hard drive gradually dying.

2. Slow boot and saves

A slow startup or saving of files can be an indication that it's time to replace a HDD. This may be accompanied by frequent freezing or hanging.

3. The dreaded Blue Screen of Death

This indicates a critical error where data cannot usually be recovered. A system crash is usually inevitable. The causes may be software- or hardware-related. If it's the latter, a faulty RAM, over clocking or overheated components are several causes.

4. Bad sectors

Bad sectors are parts in a HDD that aren't integrated properly. Running a disk check can identify whether there are errors.

5. Weird noises

Computers should operate in relative silence with minimal grinding, clicking or straining sounds. If a machine seems like its struggling or produces clicking noises when turned on it can be a sign that the mechanical components in the drive are wearing out.

Risk factors

Power surges, accidents that cause a hard jarring or bump, heat and human error are the top risk factors for hard drive failure. Computers are delicate machines and hard drives even more so. The disk, platters and spindle work to precision and any imbalance can cause malfunctions. Treating a computer like a child can minimize these risks and increase the life of HDDs.

Tips to extend the life of hard drives

Run a disk check periodically. It will tell you the nature of errors and attempt to fix bad sectors, directory problems and lost clusters.

Separate data storage. The OS drive shouldn't contain user data. This separation will reduce the I/O load on the OS drive to keep it from failing too soon.

Ventilate surroundings. More often than most, overheating causes electronic components to fail. By enabling cool air to enter and hot air to exit away from computers, components run a lesser risk of failing.

Run weekly defrags so that the read heads don't have to move too often. It's simple to do and computers can be set to automatically defragment drives at a given time.

Back up

Backing up data is the single most important effort a user can make to ensure no loss of data. It can be a pain especially when moving heavy files but is the only way to keep data safe in the event of a hard drive failure.

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