Why is a healthy hard drive important?
Hard drives store all of your computer’s data and allow your system to operate properly. An unhealthy or failing hard drive can lead to catastrophic data loss and prevent your computer from booting up correctly. Taking steps to monitor and maintain your hard drive is essential for protecting your files and ensuring your system runs smoothly.
How can a failing hard drive affect my computer?
A hard drive that is starting to fail can exhibit a number of issues:
– Frequent crashes and freezing
– Strange noises like clicking or whirring
– Much longer boot up and program loading times
– Corrupted files and problems accessing saved data
– Blue screen errors and other system crashes
– Difficulty detecting the drive or specific partitions
These types of problems indicate you are dealing with a hard drive that is no longer functioning properly. As the drive continues to degrade, you may find it becomes completely undetectable by your computer. At this point, a total hard drive failure has occurred.
Why do hard drives fail over time?
All mechanical hard drives will eventually fail due to general wear and tear over time. Some of the factors that can contribute to a hard drive’s lifespan include:
– Constant spinning: The platter(s) holding your data constantly spin whenever powered on, which can eventually lead to mechanical breakdown.
– Heat: Excessive heat causes expansion and contraction, which stresses the physical components.
– Failed sectors: Bad sectors or data errors can spread overtime.
– Magnetism: Magnetism allows data to be written, but it can gradually erode the physical platters.
– Physical shock: Dropping or jarring a hard drive can damage internal components.
– Factory defects: Imperfect manufacturing can cause latent defects.
Most consumer hard drives are designed to last somewhere between 3 to 5 years with regular use. Hard drives for servers and other demanding applications are built to higher standards and can operate reliably for 5 to 10 years. But any individual drive may fail prematurely for a variety of reasons.
How to check overall hard drive health
To get a sense of your hard drive’s current condition, you can utilize tools that analyze various health parameters and generate an overall status report. Here are some options:
Check hard drive SMART data
Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART) refers to a system built into hard drives that monitors various internal metrics as the drive operates. These attributes provide insight into the physical condition and operation of the drive.
To view your hard drive’s SMART data on Windows:
1. Open the Start menu and search for “Disk Management” to launch the Disk Management console.
2. Right click on the desired hard drive and choose “Properties”.
3. Switch to the “Tools” tab and click the “Check” button for Start Disk Check.
4. In the window that appears, check the box for “Scan drive for errors” as well as “Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors”. Click Start.
5. This will initiate a scan of the drive and provide a SMART health status report when complete. Review the report closely for any warning signs.
On macOS, you can use a utility like Smart Utility to easily view SMART details for all drives connected to your system. Look for the “Verified” status to confirm your drive is healthy.
Use the S.M.A.R.T. feature in Disk Utility
macOS includes a built-in disk health check utility called Disk Utility that can be used to view SMART data:
1. Open Disk Utility (located in Applications > Utilities).
2. Select the drive you want to check.
3. Click on the First Aid tab.
4. Click Verify Disk followed by Verify Disk Permissions.
5. When this scan completes, you can click on the S.M.A.R.T. status button at the bottom to view the current SMART report.
Any errors or issues detected by Disk Utility should be addressed immediately.
Check hard drive health with manufacturer tools
Most hard drive manufacturers provide their own drive utilities that enable you to view health status and run diagnostics. These tools can provide more in-depth and drive-specific information compared to the built-in operating system options:
– Seagate SeaTools – Works for Seagate, Maxtor, and Samsung drives
– Hitachi Drive Fitness Test
– Western Digital Data Lifeguard Diagnostics
Download and run the appropriate tool for your specific drive brand and model to get tailored diagnostics and health monitoring. Carefully review any reported errors and consider replacing the drive if issues are found.
Monitor hard drive health with third party tools
There are also many free and paid third-party utilities capable of comprehensive hard drive monitoring and testing:
– **CrystalDiskInfo** – Provides health status, temps, error counts, and lifespan estimates.
– **Hard Disk Sentinel** – Tracks drive health and performance statistics over time.
– **HD Tune** – Tests and benchmarks drive speeds, health, and other attributes.
Using these utilities on a regular basis enables you to identify potential problems at the earliest stages before they result in failed drives and data loss. Quickly replace any questionable drives.
Check for and fix hard drive errors
To fully validate your hard drive’s health, you need to directly scan for errors across the entire surface of the drive. Here are some ways to check for and attempt to remedy errors.
Run CHKDSK in Windows
The CHKDSK utility built into Windows scans the file system and structure of your hard drive checking for problems such as bad sectors. To run CHKDSK:
1. Open the Start Menu and search for “Command Prompt”. Right-click and Run as Administrator.
2. Type `chkdsk C: /f /r` and press Enter to start scanning the C drive.
3. Allow the process to complete. CHKDSK will report any errors found and attempt repairs.
4. Restart your computer afterwards.
Repeat this for each drive you want to validate. Use the appropriate drive letter in place of C.
Use First Aid to check connected drives on Mac
To scan for hard drive errors on a Mac:
1. Open Disk Utility located in your Applications > Utilities folder.
2. Select the drive volume you wish to check.
3. Click First Aid in the top center and then click Run.
4. Allow First Aid to complete – this can take several hours for larger drives.
5. Repeat steps 2-4 for each additional drive you need to scan.
First Aid checks the file structure and attempts repairs as needed. If any issues are found that First Aid cannot fix, it is time to replace the drive.
Perform a full bad sector scan
Bad sectors refer to parts of the hard drive platters that can no longer reliably store data due to physical damage or manufacturing defects. As these expand, data loss occurs.
To find and quarantine bad sectors:
1. Open the hard drive properties as covered above.
2. On the Tools tab, click “Check Now” under Error checking.
3. Check the boxes for Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors and Automatically fix file system errors.
4. Start the scan and allow it to complete. This can take several hours.
5. The check will identify, recover data from, and isolate any bad sectors found to prevent future issues.
Bad sector counts tend to increase over time, so repeat this process every few months. Immediately replace drives with high or growing bad sector counts.
How to resolve S.M.A.R.T. errors and failures
If S.M.A.R.T monitoring tools report issues, here are some troubleshooting steps:
Address any specific logged errors
Investigate any explicitly called out errors like “Uncorrectable Sector Count” or “Current Pending Sector Count”. These point to physical bad sectors.
– Run CHKDSK or Scan for Errors to identify the bad sectors.
– Migrate data to a new healthy drive if the counts are high or increasing.
– Replacing the drive is recommended when severe bad sector issues are reported.
Update hard drive drivers and firmware
Outdated drivers and firmware can sometimes cause S.M.A.R.T errors so:
– Search for driver/firmware updates for your specific hard drive model.
– Download and install the latest updates from your drive manufacturer.
Updating drivers/firmware resolves misc S.M.A.R.T. errors in some cases.
Rescan S.M.A.R.T. attributes after updating
Following driver and firmware updates, rescan S.M.A.R.T. information using:
– HD Tune Drive Monitoring
– Windows Disk Properties > Tools > Check
– SeaTools S.M.A.R.T. Tests
If issues persist, the drive likely has physical defects requiring replacement.
Replace failing hard drives
If S.M.A.R.T. errors remain after troubleshooting, the drive needs to be swapped out:
– Have important data backed up and migrated to a new drive.
-Purchase a new, compatible replacement hard drive for your computer/NAS/RAID setup.
– Install the new drive according to manufacturer instructions.
– Confirm S.M.A.R.T. shows no errors on the new replacement.
While no fix may exist for a failing drive, replacing it promptly preserves your system and data.
Best practices for maintaining your hard drive
Certain habits can help maximize your hard drive’s lifespan and health:
Keep drives cool and dry
Excess heat and humidity accelerate wear on hard drives:
– Ensure your computer case and storage enclosures allow for airflow to keep drives cool.
– Keep systems away from hot areas and out of direct sunlight.
– Maintain temperature and humidity in acceptable ranges.
Monitoring drive temperatures enables you to address heating issues proactively.
Handle hard drives carefully
Physical impacts can displace internal components:
– Avoid jarring or dropping drives.
– Pack and transport external drives in padded containers.
– Allow drives to spin down before unplugging or powering down systems.
Treating drives gently reduces mechanical stress and damage.
Manage hard drive vibration
Excess vibration from nearby fans or other components can affect hard drive operation over time:
– Use rubber standoffs or grommets to dampen vibration transmission in computer cases and racks.
– Separate external drives from vibrating desk fans or speakers.
– Limit sources of vibration near your storage setup.
Controlling drive vibration improves stability and extends lifespan.
Maintain a clean electrical supply
Unclean power with spikes and surges can damage components:
– Plug computer and external drives into surge-protecting power strips.
– Consider enterprise-grade UPS units for mission critical servers and storage systems.
– If you experience frequent power spikes or electrical noise, contact an electrician.
Clean and stable electricity reduces the odds of electrical damage.
Perform regular S.M.A.R.T. checks
As covered above, monitoring your S.M.A.R.T. status monthly enables you to address developing issues promptly. Quick replacement of suspect drives can help you avoid actual failures and emergency data recovery scenarios.
Making S.M.A.R.T. status review a habit provides peace of mind regarding drive health.
Recover data from failed hard drives
If your hard drive has already completely failed, you do have options for attempting to recover your data:
Use data recovery software
When a drive has failed, special data recovery software may be able to access files. Examples include:
– **[Stellar Data Recovery](https://www.stellarinfo.com/data-recovery.php)** – Has a free preview so you can see if your files can be restored before purchasing.
– **[EaseUS Data Recovery](https://www.easeus.com/datarecoverywizard/free-data-recovery-software.htm)** – Allows recovering up to 2GB files for free.
Follow the software instructions closely to avoid overwriting data. Recovering data yourself risks making files unrecoverable.
Send drive to a data recovery service
For complex drive issues, professional data recovery services may be able to repair drives just enough to extract your data. This requires opening the drive in a sterile clean room to safely access the platters. Expect costs to start around $300 to $700+ depending on drive sizes and damage.
Replace drive circuit boards
If the physical hard drive platters and internals remain intact but the logic board is damaged, replacing this circuitry can get the drive operational to pull data. Match boards carefully to your specific drive’s part number.
While an intricate process, logic board swaps allow data recovery if the drive failure is electronic in nature.
Keeping a close eye on your hard drive health helps avoid unexpected failures and data loss. Use S.M.A.R.T. tools and run scans regularly to catch issues early. Always maintain backups as a safety net. With proper care and maintenance, your hard drives can reliably operate for years before replacement is required. Be vigilant, back up often, and take failing drives out of service promptly.