How do I scan and repair my hard drive?

What are the signs my hard drive needs repairing?

There are several signs that your hard drive may be failing and in need of repair:

– Frequent crashes, freezes, or blue screens – This is one of the most common signs of a failing hard drive. If your computer often crashes or displays the Blue Screen of Death, it could point to problems with the hard drive.

– Strange noises – Clicking, grinding, buzzing or other odd sounds coming from your computer can indicate issues with the hard drive. These noises are generally a sign that the hard drive is starting to fail mechanically.

– Slow performance – A deteriorating hard drive can slow down read and write speeds substantially, leading to laggy performance. The computer may take a long time to boot up or open programs.

– Failure to boot – In severe cases, a damaged hard drive can prevent the computer from booting up entirely. You may get an error message like “Hard disk not detected” or “No boot device found.”

– Data corruption – If sectors on the hard drive begin to fail, it can lead to data corruption. You may experience frequent crashes, missing files, or get error messages warning of corrupt files.

– SMART errors – Hard drives have built-in S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) capabilities to detect problems before failure. SMART errors indicate possible hard drive issues.

If you notice any of these warning signs, it’s a good idea to test your hard drive and scan it for errors as soon as possible. Leaving a failing drive unchecked can result in catastrophic data loss.

How do I scan for hard drive errors in Windows?

Windows has a couple built-in utilities you can use to scan for errors and bad sectors on your hard drive:

**Check Disk (CHKDSK)**

Check Disk is a utility built into Windows that scans the file system for disk errors and bad sectors. To run it:

1. Open the Command Prompt as administrator.

2. Type “chkdsk C: /f” and hit Enter (replace C: with your hard drive letter if different)

3. Allow Check Disk to run – this can take a while if scanning a large hard drive.

4. Restart your computer afterwards for repairs to take effect.

Check Disk will scan your drive and repair any file system errors it finds. If it locates bad sectors, it will mark them to prevent data from being stored there.

**S.M.A.R.T. Check**

You can check your hard drive’s S.M.A.R.T. status using Windows’ built-in tools:

1. Open the Start menu and search for “Create and format hard disk partitions”

2. Open the Disk Management utility.

3. Right-click your hard drive and choose “Properties.”

4. Click the Tools tab > Click “Check” under Error checking.

5. Check the “Scan drive” option and click Start.

This will run an extended SMART check and warn you of any errors or bad sectors found. Make note of any issues – you may need to replace the drive if problems are detected.

Using Third-Party Tools to Test Hard Drives

For more robust hard drive diagnostics, you can use third-party tools:

**HD Tune**

HD Tune is a popular hard drive utility for Windows. It provides drive info, benchmarks, error scanning, and health monitoring tools:

– Use the Error Scan feature to perform a surface scan and check for bad sectors.

– Check the Health tab for S.M.A.R.T. drive status and temperature.

– Monitor read/write speeds with the Benchmark test.

**Data Lifeguard Diagnostics**

This is a free utility from Western Digital for testing WD brand hard drives:

– Run the Quick Test for a basic surface scan of the drive.

– Use the Extended Test for a full scan overnight that checks every sector.

– View the S.M.A.R.T. status of the drive to catch early warning signs.


GSmartControl is an open-source SMART monitoring tool that works on all drives. Key features:

– Read SMART attribute data to see health status and drive errors.

– Perform offline data collection to diagnose issues.

– Run self-tests on the drive to scan for defects.

– Get notifications of critical SMART warnings.

Using these tools helps identify impending drive failure before you lose important data. Be sure to backup regularly as an added precaution.

How to Repair Bad Sectors on a Hard Drive

If your hard drive scan turns up bad sectors, there are some repair options available:

**Run chkdsk /r**

The /r option tells Check Disk to locate bad sectors and recover readable data. chkdsk /r will:

– Scan drive and flag detected bad sectors as unavailable.

– Repair any file system errors.

– Recover data from affected sectors when possible.

**Use the manufacturer’s tools**

Most hard drive makers offer their own diagnostics tools, such as SeaTools for Seagate drives. These tools attempt to lock out bad sectors.

**Low-level formatting**

This erases and recreates the drive’s partitioning and file system. All data will be lost, but it may allow bad sectors to be remapped.


This involves shrinking the writable area slightly so there is extra space to redirect data in case sectors go bad.

**Replace the drive**

If the drive has exhausted its spare sectors, replacement may be the only option. A drive with growing bad sectors will likely continue deteriorating.

Be aware that bad sectors indicate the physical media is degrading and prone to further damage. While repairs can help, replacement gives the most reliable fix.

How to Test and Repair an External Hard Drive

External hard drives can also develop bad sectors and corruption, though the steps to test and repair them are largely the same:

– Use the CHKDSK command on the external drive letter to scan for file system errors.

– Check the S.M.A.R.T. status using Windows’ Disk Management console.

– Use HD Tune, Data Lifeguard, or GSmartControl to conduct read/write tests and SMART monitoring.

– If errors are found, attempt repairs with chkdsk /r, low-level formatting, or the manufacturer’s tools.

– Try a different USB port/cable if connection issues arise.

– Consider removing the drive from its enclosure to test directly via SATA as an enclosure issue can cause problems.

– If all else fails, data recovery services may be able to recover data from failed sectors, but replacement is the ultimate fix for a badly damaged external drive.

The same principles apply, but external drives are prone to additional vulnerabilities from damage during transport and connections through the USB interface. Always handle them with care and maintain backups of your data.

Should I Repair or Replace a Failing Hard Drive?

When your hard drive starts showing signs of failure, you have to decide whether you want to attempt repairs or replace it. Here are some guidelines:

**Try repairs if:**

– The drive is still under warranty for free replacement if repairs fail.

– Only a few bad sectors are found that can be cordoned off.

– You can’t afford to replace the drive or recover the data right now.

– The data is not critical or you have backups available.

**Opt for replacement if:**

– SMART stats indicate drive hardware is wearing out.

– Bad sectors are rapidly spreading across the platter.

– The drive is making strange noises indicating mechanical issues.

– Drive is out of warranty and replacements are affordable.

– Failing drive is used for mission critical data or applications.

– Data recovery would be costly compared to simply replacing the drive.

As a rule of thumb, repairs can extend the short-term life of a drive, but replacement is the only surefire fix for a failing hard disk. If the drive is deteriorating fast and your data is important, replacement is the safest choice before total failure occurs.

How to Perform a Full Backup Before Replacing a Hard Drive

Before replacing a failing hard drive, it’s critical to perform a complete backup of all data:

**1. Check SMART status**

Use a tool like GSmartControl to review SMART attributes and error logs. This can give you a sense of how quickly the drive is failing and how much time you have left.

**2. Copy data to another drive**

Manually transfer important files and folders from the failing drive to another internal or external hard drive with enough free space.

**3. Run a full image backup**

Use drive imaging software like Macrium Reflect to make a full system image backup of the entire drive contents to safeguard your OS and applications.

**4. Back up only most critical data if time is limited**

If SMART shows the drive is near failure and could die any minute, focus just on copying irreplaceable data like family photos and important documents.

**5. Remove failing drive after backup**

Disconnect the failing drive after completing the backup process. It poses a risk of further data loss if left connected as the sole drive.

**6. Verify backup integrity**

Boot from the backup image on another drive or selectively check files were copied properly. This guards against corrupted bits.

Following these steps before replacement ensures no data is lost when the original hard drive fails completely. You can then install the new drive and restore the backup.

How to Securely Wipe and Dispose of a Failed Hard Drive

Once you’ve replaced a failing hard drive and rescued your data, you may wish to securely erase the old drive before disposal to prevent sensitive information from being recovered. Here are some tips:

**Use drive wiping software**

Programs like DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke) securely overwrite all data on drive platters with multiple pass random data. This renders files unrecoverable.

**Perform a secure erase**

Many modern hard drives have a built-in secure erase function accessible through disk utilities. This performs a firmware level wipe.

**Open the drive and damage platters**

In extreme cases of highly confidential data, open the drive enclosure and use abrasion or physical destruction to damage the platters. Make data recovery impossible.

**Degauss the drive**

Degaussing exposes the drive to a powerful magnetic field that erases programmed information. Requires a professional degaussing tool.

Once wiped, ensure proper disposal:

**Recycle for parts**

Many recyclers will extract working components from failed drives while destroying platters. This keeps toxic materials out of landfills.

**Donate to charities**

Some charities will accept old electronics for recycling or resale, wiping drives beforehand. Provides tax benefits too.

**Use computer recycling services**

Many local recycling centers and electronic waste removal services will securely and responsibly dispose of end-of-life electronics.

With a wiped drive and responsible disposal, you can retire your dead hard drive without worry of sensitive data being compromised.


Catching hard drive issues early using S.M.A.R.T. monitoring and disk scanning tools can help prevent catastrophic data loss. Attempt drive repairs immediately if bad sectors are detected. Clicking noises and other signs of physical failure require swift drive replacement to recover data before it’s too late. Always maintain comprehensive backups as the last line of defense against hardware failure. Handle end-of-life hard drives securely by wiping them completely before recycling. Following best practices for hard drive health monitoring, repair and replacement will optimize lifespan while protecting your sensitive information.