There are a few quick ways to check if there are any problems with your computer’s hard drive:
- Listen for any unusual noises coming from the hard drive, like clicking or grinding sounds.
- Check the hard drive’s S.M.A.R.T. status using a disk utility program.
- Run the CHKDSK utility in Windows to scan for and repair disk errors.
- Monitor hard drive health with a program like CrystalDiskInfo.
- Test read/write speeds using a benchmarking tool to see if they are abnormally slow.
Your computer’s hard drive stores all of your important files and allows your operating system, software programs, and data to function properly. Over time, hard drives can start to experience problems due to mechanical failures, logical/file system errors, corrupted data, malware, bad sectors, and other issues. Detecting hard drive problems early on and troubleshooting them quickly is important to avoid potential data loss or system crashes.
There are a number of symptoms that can indicate an impending hard drive failure or existing problems, including strange noises emanating from the drive, read/write errors appearing, inaccessible files and folders, unexpectedly slow system performance, inability of the drive to mount or be recognized by the OS, and abnormal overheating of the drive.
In this article, we will cover the most common signs of hard drive problems and the best methods you can use to diagnose issues on both HDDs (hard disk drives) and SSDs (solid state drives) in Windows and Mac computers. By learning how to thoroughly inspect your drive’s health, performance, and error logs, you can identify issues before they lead to failure and take steps to back up your data and potentially repair the drive.
Listen for Unusual Noises from the Hard Drive
One of the first signs that a physical hard disk drive (HDD) may be experiencing problems is if you begin hearing strange noises coming from the drive.
A properly functioning HDD will generally produce very little noise while operating, usually just a low humming sound from the drive spinning combined with some muted clicking sounds from the read/write heads moving into position. Any loud or unusual noises are an indicator of a mechanical or physical problem with the drive.
Some noises to listen out for include:
– Clicking – A rhythmic clicking sound, especially during drive activity, often signals the read/write arm is having issues moving or aligning properly. This is known as “click of death” and is a serious issue.
– Grinding – An unpleasant grinding noise usually means the hard drive’s spindle/platters are struggling to spin smoothly. This could point to motor problems.
– Buzzing – A loud electrical buzzing/vibrating noise could indicate a problem with the drive’s circuits or firmware.
– Screeching – High-pitched screeching or squealing sounds are never normal and likely stem from a mechanical component in the drive going haywire.
– Chirping – Bird-like chirping sounds from the drive are most likely caused by degraded drive bearings that need replacement.
If you notice any recurring unfamiliar sounds like these coming from your HDD, there is likely a mechanical fault brewing. Make sure to back up your data immediately and have an expert inspect the drive, as HDD noises can presage a complete failure.
With solid state drives (SSDs) there are no moving parts, so noise issues are rarely a problem. However, if you do hear odd noises it could point to an electrical issue or a problem with the drive’s circuit board. Have the SSD inspected by a technician.
Check S.M.A.R.T. Status
One of the best ways to monitor your hard drive’s health and catch issues early on is to periodically check its S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) status.
S.M.A.R.T provides a way for drives to internally track different performance metrics and details about their operation over time, log any problems detected, and give you a general idea of the drive’s current condition. Most modern HDDs and SSDs support S.M.A.R.T monitoring.
Checking up on your drive’s S.M.A.R.T status just takes a few minutes. On Windows you can use the integrated Disk Management utility, a program like CrystalDiskInfo, or a hardware sensor monitor like HWiNFO. On macOS, utilities like DriveDx and smartmontools provide S.M.A.R.T insight.
Ideally you want the S.M.A.R.T status to report back as “OK” or “Good”. Anything else like “Caution” or “Failure imminent” means the drive has logged internal errors and you should immediately backup your data and scan the drive.
Specific S.M.A.R.T parameters known as “attributes” to keep an eye on include:
– Read error rate – High numbers of read errors happening.
– Spin up time – Drive taking longer than usual to spin up.
– Reallocated sectors – Bad sectors that have been marked by the OS to avoid.
– Current pending sector – Unstable sectors waiting to be remapped.
– Uncorrectable errors – Errors that couldn’t be fixed via ECC.
– Operating temperature – Drive running hotter than normal.
Monitoring tools like CrystalDiskInfo will color code these attributes based on their status/severity and give you a heads up when values exceed optimal thresholds. Keeping tabs on S.M.A.R.T will alert you to problems with your hard drive while there is still a chance to save your data.
Run CHKDSK in Windows
When using Windows, one of the best built-in utilities for detecting and repairing common disk errors is the CHKDSK command.
CHKDSK scans the file system and structure of your hard drive, checks for bad sectors, invalid file paths, directory issues, and other problems, then attempts to repair any errors found. You should run CHKDSK regularly as preventative medicine, or whenever you suspect your hard drive has developed issues.
To perform a CHKDSK scan in Windows 10 or 11, follow these steps:
1. Open the Start menu and search for “Command Prompt”, then right-click on it and select “Run as administrator”.
2. In the command prompt window, type:
chkdsk C: /f
Replace C: with the letter of the drive you want to scan if different. The /f parameter tells CHKDSK to fix any errors found.
3. Allow the CHKDSK utility to scan the drive. This may take a while depending on the drive size and state. Once finished, it will report if any errors were discovered and repaired.
CHKDSK helps validate the file system integrity of your drive and remedy common logical errors. However, it cannot detect or fix physical problems with the hard drive hardware itself. Make sure to also monitor your drive’s S.M.A.R.T status and overall performance to avoid missing mechanical issues.
Use Disk Utility on Mac
Mac users can take advantage of the built-in Disk Utility application to check connected hard drives for problems and errors.
To verify or repair a drive with Disk Utility:
1. Open Disk Utility, typically found in Applications > Utilities.
2. Select the hard drive volume you want to inspect on the left.
3. Click the “First Aid” tab.
4. Press “Verify Disk” to scan the drive for directory issues, bad sectors, and other logical errors.
5. If errors are found, “Repair Disk” should resolve many identified problems.
The S.M.A.R.T. status of drives is also visible in Disk Utility by selecting the drive and clicking the S.M.A.R.T. Data button at the bottom. This provides information on drive health such as total host writes, temperature, uncorrectable errors, and more.
Disk Utility can help validate and restore proper file system operation on Mac hard drives. But like CHKDSK, it cannot physically repair mechanical or hardware problems if the drive itself is failing. Be sure to also listen for unusual noises and use a tool like DriveDx to monitor S.M.A.R.T stats.
Check Read/Write Speeds
One symptom of issues with your hard drive is a marked decrease in data transfer speeds. This shows up through unusually slow load times when opening files or programs.
You can test whether your hard drive’s read and write speeds are up to par using benchmarking software. On Windows, tools like CrystalDiskMark or ATTO Disk Benchmark can measure your drive’s transfer rates for various file sizes. On Mac, Blackmagic Disk Speed Test is a popular free option.
Compare your drive’s current results in MB/s against its expected speeds when brand new. Significant drops in sequential or random reads/writes are a red flag. Very slow 4KB speeds can point to highly fragmented files.
Possible causes for degrading hard drive speeds include:
– Excessive bad sectors skipping across disk.
– Heavily fragmented files.
– Issues with drive heads or motors.
– Damaged cache memory.
If outside the normal aging process, such mechanical or firmware problems will steadily worsen and slow the drive further. Getting notably slower speeds warrants backing up your data immediately and scanning for errors with CHKDSK or Disk Utility. Replacing the aging drive may be required.
Monitor Drive Health with Third Party Tools
For deeper insights into your hard drive’s general health and performance beyond built-in utilities, third party disk monitoring tools are extremely useful:
**CrystalDiskInfo** – Provides comprehensive details on drive attributes, health status, temperatures, total host writes, power on hours, and more for both HDDs and SSDs. Color-codes troublesome S.M.A.R.T values. Free for personal use.
**Hard Disk Sentinel** – Rates the health and estimated lifespan of installed drives as a percentage based on S.M.A.R.T analysis. Monitors for performance changes. Has HDD/SSD benchmarks. Offers a paid “Pro” version.
**HD Tune** – Evaluates drive speeds, benchmarks performance, scans for bad sectors, checks health status, monitors temperatures, and more. Available as a free or paid Pro version.
**Macs Fan Control** – Lets you monitor system temperatures, including connected HDDs and SSDs, on Apple Macs. Graphs temperature changes over time.
These types of utilities are beneficial for tracking detailed drive metrics over time and spotting issues early before they become catastrophic failures. Most also provide S.M.A.R.T monitoring and validation testing to complement OS tools like CHKDSK and Disk Utility.
Check Event Viewer for Drive Errors
The Windows Event Viewer provides a look inside errors logged by the operating system, including notifications about hardware issues. By sifting through certain drive-related error messages, you may uncover problems with your hard disk.
To navigate to the Event Viewer in Windows 10 or 11:
1. Type “Event Viewer” into the Start menu search bar and open the app.
2. Expand Windows Logs > System to see system events.
3. Filter the log by Event Sources for disk (storahci), RAID (disk), file system (NTFS) or other drive related sources.
4. View error events involving the disk/drive and their details. Critical errors typically point to hardware faults.
Potential hard drive errors flagged here range from inability to read or write to certain disk sectors, to detected defects on the drive surface, to general hardware malfunctions. While many will be benign/resolved single errors, recurring and critical issues demand further diagnosis.
The Event Viewer provides another avenue to uncover and confirm hard drive problems that may be developing on a Windows machine beyond obvious symptoms and S.M.A.R.T status changes.
Test with Manufacturer Diagnostics
Most major hard drive manufacturers provide their own diagnostic software tools to test the health of your drive and confirm suspected issues are stemming from the hardware itself rather than other factors.
Two top hard drive makers with available diagnostics utilities are:
**Seagate** – Seatools provides a DOS based bootable diagnostic as well as a Windows program for testing Seagate brand HDDs and SSDs. Performs comprehensive S.M.A.R.T analysis and read/write speed evaluation among other drive validation checks.
**Western Digital (WD)** – Data Lifeguard Diagnostic gives a short or extended test option for checking WD brand HDDs and SSDs. Also monitors drive temperature, performs bad sector scans, and checks read performance.
Running the maker-specific diagnostics will validate the drive is functioning up to its rated specifications and reveal any performance issues the integrated S.M.A.R.T monitoring may have missed. These tools help determine if troubles clearly stem from the drive hardware itself before taking other corrective actions.
Check for and Scan for Bad Sectors
Bad sectors are sections of a hard disk’s magnetic platters that have become inaccessible due to physical damage, corruption, or other errors. As sectors go bad, data written to them cannot be read back, eventually leading to data loss if not addressed.
You can check for bad sectors causing problems in a few ways:
– S.M.A.R.T attributes – Monitor raw “reallocated sector” and “pending sector” values over time for growth.
– CHKDSK in Windows – Scans file system for hard errors and marks bad clusters.
– Manufacturer tools – Seatools, WD Data Lifeguard etc. will scan for bad sectors during diagnotic testing.
– Disk utility apps – Such as HD Tune, Hard Disk Sentinel can scan entire disk surface and report bad sectors found.
If the number of bad sectors is low, the OS can remap them automatically to avoid using those areas. However, once bad sectors exceed a certain threshold, the drive will have pervasive issues storing and retrieving data reliably. Replacement of the faulty disk is recommended before mass failure occurs.
Back up any data and run comprehensive scans using multiple utilities if you suspect bad sectors on your hard drive. Identifying them early is key to avoiding crippling file system damage.
Check Drive’s RAW Capacity
When hard disks start having serious logical issues or file system corruption, they may enter a “RAW” state where the full capacity of the drive is inaccessible to the operating system. The RAW state prevents data from being read or written and effectively renders files on the drive “lost” until corrections are made.
You can identify a hard drive running in a RAW state through these symptoms:
– Missing file system / drive information in Disk Management.
– Dramatically reduced available space versus total capacity.
– “You need to format the disk” error message to access any data.
– No longer assigned a drive letter in My Computer/This PC.
– Changed file system to “RAW” from NTFS/exFAT/ext4 etc.
– Marked as “Not initialized” or “Unallocated” in disk management.
To return a RAW drive to normal without formatting and data loss:
1. Run CHKDSK /f to detect and repair file system errors.
2. Use recovery software like EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard to scan and restore partitions.
3. Initialize the disk and assign a drive letter if needed in Disk Management.
4. Format the drive only if other repairs fail and data has been backed up.
A hard drive stuck in the RAW state will function very poorly if at all until the underlying software problems are fixed. Ruling out a RAW state is important if a drive is not being recognized correctly or data seems missing suddenly.
Catching hard drive issues in their early stages allows you to take preventative steps, back up important data before failure, and potentially prolong the disk’s lifespan through repairs. Learning to recognize the telltale signs of a struggling hard drive gives you the best chance to respond before complete failure.
Listen for odd noises, routinely check your drive’s S.M.A.R.T health statistics, monitor for performance changes and errors, utilize disk utilities to scan for defects, and confirm hardware issues using diagnostics tools from the drive maker. Also keep your drive firmware, OS, and disk management software updated.
With vigilant monitoring and early intervention when problems arise, you can often detect hard drive problems before they result in permanent data loss and catastrophic damage. Implementing smart Hard drive care and maintenance practices helps ensure your data is safe.