The hard drive is like the heart of your computer; it is your hard drive that stores all of your documents, emails, music, pictures and videos etc. Most of the elements that are used to make up a computer are electrical rather than mechanical – such as a car – electrical components do not have a lifespan that depends on time, unlike mechanical products. Your hard drive however, is one of the only parts of a computer that is mechanical so it is inevitable that it will fail over time. The more it is used and the more it stores will obviously shorten the lifespan. For this reason it is important to recognize the signs that your hard drive is failing so that you can back up all of your data – whether that’s on the internet or via a USB memory stick – as, if your hard drive fails all of your data will be lost and it is impossible to retrieve.
[Read more: Why an External Hard Drive is Important to You]
So what makes computer hard drives fail?
There are quite a few things that can cause the failure of a computer hard drive and there isn’t a promising diagnosis on any of them. Logical failures are to do with the software within the hard drive and although these problems are cheap to fix, they’re also extremely uncommon.
Media failures happen when the magnetic platters become scratched, this is also an extremely rare occurrence but if it does happen then any data that remained on the hard drive will be lost.
Head failures are one of the worst, they’re also extremely common; if this happens it is because the read/write head has collided with the platters and it cannot be repaired.
Mechanical failures are the reason for most hard drive failures though and it is to do with the motor burning out and bearings getting stuck. Most of the time, this type of failure means a new hard drive however, recovery may be possible if the platters weren’t affected, although this will be pricey.
[Recommended reading: Is Defragmenting Computer Drives Really Necessary?]
Can you tell that it’s going to fail?
Sometimes yes, there are some indications that should tell you to back up your data quickly, other times though, they can just die with no prior warning. If you suspect a failure is imminent you should never try to open it up as they’re extremely sensitive and even the slightest amount of dust will destroy them immediately. If you are given any idea that your hard drive is failing you should back up your data straight away as it’s much easier to back it up than it is to recover it – it’s much cheaper too.
If you hear strange noises within your hard drive then this is an indication that it’s coming to the end of its life – if you’re hearing these noises then it’s beyond repair. It could also mean that you have noisy bearings or the motor has failed; if you hear these noises be sure to back your data up quickly in whatever way you can as you won’t have much time.
Other indications that you could be about to face a problem is disk errors or data disappearing. If you encounter disappearing data be sure that someone hasn’t removed it or that your computer doesn’t have a virus before you go any further.
Your computer not recognizing the drive, slow access and constant crashing when you open programs are also all indications that your hard drive is on its way out. Act quickly and it’ll be a much easier problem to overcome. Just to remind you, prevention is better than cure, hence taking good care of your hard drive with regular maintenance is the best way to make its lifespan longer.
So, when was the last time you run a maintenance schedule on your hard drive?