What to Do With a Failing Hard Drive

Posted by Tushar Bedekar

 When a hard drive eventually fails, for the vast majority of end users it can come as a real shock. Panic begins to set in, then you realise you did not back up the vast majority of the files on your hard drive.

Trying to fix it is the natural cause of action, especially if you have important data on it that you would like to access. But the chances are, unless you have some understanding of exactly what causes it or what you’re doing, there’s very little that you can do to fix it.

If you’re fortunate and most of the drive has remained to intact, then the problem could be caused by the printed circuit board (PCB). A damaged PCB is usually caused by a power surge which inadvertently overheats the drive. In situations like this, you can take the drive to a computer technician who can repair it by replacing the PCB with a working one.

However, there are those other circumstances when things can be a little more difficult to gauge what is what.

Determining What Causes the Crash


When you experience a hard drive crash, the first thing you’ll want to do is determine whether or not the crash was logical or physical. This can be quite tricky; though there are some tools that you can use to monitor your drive, letting you know when there may be potential problems with it. If your computer crashes and refuses to boot up, such circumstances can be caused by both physical and logical failure.

If your computer refuses to boot up, and you hear clicking, grinding or whirring sounds, that is a good sign that the cause of the failure is physical. At which point, you’d want to power the system down and consider physical repair solutions.

That said, as I touched on earlier, there are many tools that you can use to predict when your hard drive is going to fail, these tools do that by reading the S.M.A.R.T (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) data that is recorded by the operating system. Unfortunately S.M.A.R.T is known for being quite unreliable when it comes to predicting hard drive failure as the drive failure will usually occur before the S.M.A.R.T warning kicks into action. If you have a hard drive that is working, but you’d like to keep tabs on its health, then there are a number of tools that you can use to do that. So be on the lookout for them.

Logical Hard Drive Failure


Logical failure typically occurs when the hard drive is fine, health wise, but you are unable to access your operating system. There are many different factors that can cause this. A corrupt system drive, a malicious file or human error, all are capable of causing a drive to crash. When you experience a failure on this scale, cloning or imaging the computer will usually not work. Utilising professional data recovery software is your best option, although there is a Check Disk tool that you may want to try (assuming you can boot into Windows).

Accessing this tool is as simple as doing the following:

1. First, boot into your computer with full administrative rights.

2. Then press Windows Key + R, type into the Run Command box and click on OK.



3. When My Computer loads up, right click on your Drive and select Properties.



4. This will load up Hard Drive Properties, from here, click on the Tools Tab, and then click on the Check Now button under Error-checking.



5. When the Check Hard Drive applet appears, tick the box next to automatically fix file system errors and scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors, then click on Start.



One thing you must keep in mind is that, just because you are unable to access the data on a crashed drive, it doesn’t mean the data no longer exists. The option that you choose to take will be determined by how important the data on the drive is to you.

Physical Hard Drive Failure


If the crash of your hard drive was due to a malfunction, there is still a good chance that the data on it is still intact and accessible. The best giveaway for a physical fault is clicking and grinding noises whenever you turn the computer on, never mistaken these sounds for a malfunctioning cooling fan. In most cases the sounds will be relatively loud, however in some other cases you may be required to open up your PC case to hear the sounds.

If you are still able to boot into the operating system while the hard drive is making those noises, it’s possible that you could clone or copy the hard drive, but it will come at a risk. Do not try booting up the computer then using an external hard drive to copy the files from your active faulty drive, as this will stress the drive out even more. Your best solution is to remove the drive altogether and put it in a working computer as a secondary drive and use Data Recovery software to clone or copy its contents.

If you are able to retrieve the data on it, then you’re done. Next thing you’ll need to do is purchase a new hard drive and install your operating system and applications on it. This process can take some time, but is not too difficult. Alternatively, if you were able to clone your drive, you could simply copy the contents of the old drive to your new one. That way you won’t need to reinstall anything, just install the drive as your primary and you’re good to go.

Conclusion


Its best that you do not rely on software or those tell-tell signs to let you know when, if ever, your drive will fail, as it is most likely that it will fail unexpectedly, without any signs or warnings. You’re best option is always to be one step ahead of these incidences, by backing the data up on your computer constantly.

  

--AUTHOR INFO—


Uchenna Ani-Okoye is a former IT Manager who now runs his own computer support website where he writes extensively on failing hard drives and other computer related issues and topics.


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