Signs of a failing Hard Drive

Thursday, 10. July 2014

Signs of a failing Hard Drive.

Do you know what piece of computer hardware is the most likely component to fail? If you answered the hard drive, you’re absolutely correct! Why? It’s one of the few moving parts left in a computer. With a hard drive, it’s not if it will fail, it’s when!

So, we know it’s going to fail. What can we do to:

  • Protect our data from loss.
  • Predict when a hard drive will fail.
  • Recover from a failure.

Protecting data.

If you aren’t backing your data up on a regular basis, then you WILL LOSE YOUR DATA. There’s no ifs ands or buts about it. If you need some advise on how to backup your data, here is an earlier post that covers the basic ideas. The bottom line is BACK UP YOUR DATA! Oh, and make sure you have created your ‘recovery media’. This should be a menu choice on your PC somewhere. When your disk fails, you will need it to re-install.

 Predicting a failure in advance.

Predicting a failure is difficult. Sometimes a Hard Drive will tell you it’s failing. This usually shows as a message while you are booting the computer, or a popup that tells you that the drive is reporting issues. Unfortunately, this happening is a rare event. Usually, a drive fails with little or no direct warning. There are some things you could consider an indication of a hard drive failure…

  • Slow boot times.
  • Missing or damaged files.
  • Strange noises coming from PC.
  • Messages in the error logs suggesting hard drive problems.
  • System hangs for no apparent reason.

Any of these symptoms could be a warning sign that your drive is heading toward disaster. There are also things we can do to verify your hard drive(s) are healthy…

  • Run a ‘disk check’ on your disks at least once a month.
  • Run a ‘disk check’ with ‘Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors’ checked at least once a quarter.
  • Check your system logs at least once a month for warnings and errors associated with hardware.

And, if there is any indication of problems, replace the hard drive!

 Recovering from a hard drive failure.

OK, so it’s happened. If you caught it early, then you have a couple different options. If you didn’t, if it just up and died, then you only have one option. Nobody likes that one option… Sorry to tell you, you will need to re-install your system from scratch. You will then need to install all your programs and reconfigure all those little settings, like how long it takes for the screen saver to come on, and what color the bar at the top of the window is. You are also going to need to setup all your remote accounts such as email and instant messaging. Oh yes, and the data, you will need to restore your data files from backup. You did backup recently right?

Now, if you got some early warning, and your drive is still pretty much accessible, you have a few more choices. But, before you do anything else, BACKUP YOUR DATA! Once you have your data safely off on another drive somewhere, you can try to image your old hard drive over to a new hard drive. This is typically the most painless. You will need to have the old and the new drive installed in a computer and boot up to a rescue CD/DVD, but it is possible to transfer your disk image to a new disk. We use a free tool called DDRescue which comes installed on the System Rescue CD.

Now, both re-installing from scratch and disk imaging might be a bit beyond your current skill set. If that is the case, any reputable computer repair facility can do this for you. If you are in the greater Los Angeles area, feel free to contact my company for help with any of the things we have discussed in this post. And remember, BACKUP YOUR DATA OFTEN!

— Stu



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