How to know if HDD is broken?

A hard disk drive (HDD) is a vital component of any computer system. It stores all of your data including the operating system, programs, and personal files. Unfortunately, HDDs can and do fail eventually. Knowing the signs of a failing or dead HDD can help you take preventative steps and avoid potential data loss. In this guide, we will cover the top signs that indicate your HDD may be broken and what you can do about it.

Strange Noises Coming from the HDD

One of the first signs of a potential HDD issue is if you hear unusual noises coming from the drive. Some noises like a low humming or quiet whirring are normal operating sounds. However, if you hear loud clicking, grinding, buzzing, or screeching noises, that likely indicates a mechanical failure inside the HDD.

The sounds are typically caused by the read/write head scraping across the platters or the spindle motor failing to spin properly. As the HDD components degrade over time, the noises get louder and more frequent. The abnormal noises signify that the drive is starting to break down. At this point, you should immediately backup your data before complete failure occurs.

Slow HDD Performance

Another symptom of HDD failure is a noticeable drop in system performance. Things like boot up times, loading programs, file transfers, and access times for saving or opening files will take longer than usual.

This happens because an HDD with bad sectors or mechanical issues has difficulty reading and writing data. As more sectors go bad over time, the performance gets progressively worse. The slow HDD will bottleneck your system and make simple tasks feel painfully sluggish.

Running diagnostics shows high read/write error rates, I/O errors, and bad sector counts also point to deteriorating performance. Make sure to backup data as soon as you notice slow HDD activity. The gradual performance decline indicates the drive is failing.

Unusual Sounds or Vibrations

If you notice strange new sounds or vibrations coming from the area of the hard drive, that’s an ominous sign. Sometimes the noises start intermittently and then increase over time. This includes clicking, buzzing, grinding, humming, knocking, screeching, or whining.

Any unusual sound typically means there is a mechanical problem within the hard drive. Issues like a seized spindle motor, failed ball bearings, crashed heads, or a stuck/broken part can produce noise. Vibration and sound changes indicate components inside the HDD are malfunctioning or stuck. As problems multiply, the sounds get louder and more frequent until the drive fails completely.

Files Missing or Corrupted

Another warning your HDD may be failing is if your files are randomly disappearing or becoming corrupted. This can happen for a few reasons:

– Bad sectors – Portions of the platter surface contain defects and can no longer reliably hold data. Any files stored in those bad sectors may seem to vanish.

– Mechanical failure – If a head crash or spindle motor failure occurs, data loss in those areas follows. The files don’t appear gone, but the contents are corrupted.

– Indexing errors – The file allocation table or directory structure is damaged. The drive can no longer find your files.

– Logical failures – Viruses, instability, or errors create inconsistencies so files seem to disappear.

If you notice documents, photos, videos, or other personal files are missing or corrupted, your HDD should be examined for damage and imminent failure risk. Back up any remaining files you need immediately.

computer is Slowing Down

One of the first signs of a failing hard drive is noticeable sluggish performance. Your computer will have delays and lag times when reading and writing data. This happens because bad sectors take longer to access and the drive spends more time error-checking and relocating data.

As the HDD has more difficulty operating properly, everyday computer use seems to slow down. Things like booting up, opening files, saving data, downloading, web browsing, and more take longer. Simple tasks become frustrating as the computer tries to work with flawed hardware.

A diagnostic scan will show high latency, high I/O activity, excessive bad sector relocations, and slow drive operations. Make sure to backup critical data because a sluggish computer often means the hard drive is starting to fail. Replace the HDD if performance does not improve.

Computer Freezing or Crashing

Another sign of imminent hard drive failure is random computer lockups and crashes. If your computer suddenly freezes and stops responding out of the blue, the HDD could be to blame.

Here are some of the common factors related to HDD failures:

– Bad sectors – Unreadable parts of the platter cause read/write operations to get stuck. This leads to hangs and crashes.

– mechanical faults – problems with the heads, motor, or other components cause errors and crashes during drive access.

– Data corruption – Viruses, bad sectors, or indexing issues create inconsistencies leading to crashes.

– SMART errors – Reliability indicators show high rates of reallocation, hardware ECC problems, I/O issues, position faults, and calibration retries related to HDD defects.

Frequent random computer crashes, especially during HDD activity, indicate component degradation and physical damage. Have the drive inspected and urgently back up critical data before catastrophe strikes.

HDD not Recognized by BIOS

If your computer can’t detect a connected hard drive, that likely means the HDD has completely failed or the interface is damaged.

When an HDD is missing from the BIOS settings, it’s because communication over the SATA or IDE cable is interrupted. This usually happens when:

– The HDD electronics fail – Internal components like the controller, onboard RAM, or firmware damage cause total malfunction so the drive is no longer detectable.

– The interface is damaged – Problems with the connector pins, cable, driver circuits, or power supply components prevent the motherboard and HDD from establishing communication.

– Mechanical seizure – Spindle motor failure or another hardware problem leads to a catastrophic mechanical failure so the platters and heads no longer function at all.

If your PC can’t recognize an internal or external HDD, don’t bother running diagnostics. The drive is non-functional and requires professional data recovery to restore your files. Replace the faulty HDD immediately.

Frequent Bad Sector Warnings

Most hard drives can remap a few bad sectors without issue by swapping in spare good sectors from a reserved pool. However, if you notice the HDD is detecting lots of new bad sectors on subsequent scans, that indicates a high failure risk.

Bad sectors multiply when the platters suffer from progressive physical damage. Causes include:

– Magnetism – Strong magnetic fields alter the magnetic platter material so areas can’t reliably store data anymore.

– Physical damage – Bumps, drops, vibrations, and head crashes create defects in the platter surface.

– Wear and tear – Normal aging causes the platters to degrade over time.

– Manufacturing defects – Imperfections arise during the HDD production process.

– Overheating – Excessive heat causes the platters to warp and deform over time.

If the bad sector count is incrementally increasing, the drive will eventually run out of spares and cannot remap further errors. At that point, the HDD becomes unreliable and will begin losing data. Get a new drive and clone your data over before it’s too late.

External HDD Not Spinning Up

If your external hard drive isn’t powering on or spinning up, that indicates a serious mechanical fault. There are a few possible causes:

– Spindle motor failure – The motor that rotates the platters seizes up and can’t get the HDD spinning.

– Stuck heads – The read/write heads get stuck on the platter surface and prevent rotation.

– Controller malfunction – The bridge board or control circuits fail so the drive electronics stop working properly.

– Broken SATA/USB connector – Damage to the SATA or USB port interfaces interrupts communication.

– No power – Cables get accidentally disconnected or internally damaged so no power is delivered.

– Burnt circuit board – Electrical surges fry the PCB electronics which disable HDD components.

– Seized bearings – The mechanical bearing assembly gets stuck and prevents platter rotation.

If an external HDD is not powering up, the circuitry or mechanical components have catastrophically failed in most cases. At that point, professional data recovery services will be required to attempt extracting your files before replacing the dead drive.

HDD makes beeping noise

If your hard drive starts beeping abnormally, that’s a bad sign. The beeps are an alert generated by the internal HDD logic board when there is a critical hardware failure detected.

Possible causes include:

– Bad power supply – Issues with the power supply unit can cause beep codes. Try a different compatible PSU cable.

– Damaged controller board – Faulty components on the logic board trigger error beep sequences. May require board replacement.

– Failed spindle motor – A seized spindle motor often creates a beep pattern signaling the drive can’t spin up.

– Stuck heads – Jammed heads produce detectable resistance that generates beep alerts.

– Badsectors – Severe platter surface defects trigger warning beeps during operation.

– Firmware corruption – glitches in the HDD’s programmable firmware can lead to beep codes.

– Overheating – Critical temperature thresholds exceeded lead to overheat warning beeps.

Don’t ignore new HDD beeping noises. The sounds indicate a catastrophic mechanical or electrical failure. Turn off the computer immediately and backup critical data before the drive completely dies. The beeps likely mean the HDD needs replacing.

Can’t Open Files on External HDD

When your external hard drive won’t open any files and displays access or I/O errors, that points to major file system corruption. Causes include:

– Bad sectors – Unreadable platter surface areas lead to missing file system data.

– Directory damage – Errors make the folder structures unreadable so no files are found.

– Partition loss – The partition data including file allocation tables and boot records is corrupted.

– Viruses – Malware and spyware infections damage filesystem data and cause widespread file inaccessibility.

– Power failure – Improper drive disconnects during power loss cause filesystem inconsistencies.

– Controller failure – glitches in the bridge chip firmware cause widespread data access issues.

– Broken port – Damaged USB or eSATA connections interrupt communications.

– Cable problems – Faulty cabling prevents proper data transfer between the drive and computer.

If your external HDD won’t open any files, don’t run chkdsk or reformat the drive. This can overwrite your existing data making it unrecoverable. Use data recovery software or professionals to restore the files before reformatting the external drive.


Catching the signs of a failing hard drive early allows you to take preventative steps before catastrophic failure results in permanent data loss. Periodically scan your HDDs using built-in SMART diagnostics tools. Also be on the alert for performance issues, strange noises, crashes, file corruption, bad sectors, and mechanical problems. Immediately backup your data and replace any potentially failing drives. With proper prevention and diligence, you can avoid losing precious files and photos stored on deteriorating HDD hardware.