Why do I keep getting drive errors?

Getting frequent drive errors can be extremely frustrating. These errors indicate there is a problem with your computer’s hard drive, which can lead to crashing, data loss, and other issues. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the common causes of drive errors and how to diagnose and resolve them.

What are drive errors?

Drive errors occur when your computer is unable to read data from the hard drive. There are several different types of drive errors you may encounter:

  • Read/write errors – The system cannot read data from or write data to the drive
  • Bad sectors – Portions of the drive have become inaccessible
  • Not recognized – The drive is not detected by the system
  • Mechanical issues – Problem with the physical hard drive hardware
  • Corrupted system files – Important OS files have become damaged

These errors are usually caused by underlying issues with the hard drive itself or driver conflicts. When they occur, you may get warning messages with codes like “error code 0x80070020” or “disk I/O error.” The system may run slowly, apps can crash unexpectedly, or you may be unable to access files stored on the drive.

Why do drive errors happen?

There are several potential causes of frequent drive errors:

  • Failing or damaged hardware – Like any hardware component, hard drives can deteriorate and malfunction over time. Dust, overheating, manufacturing defects, and normal wear and tear can physically damage the drive.
  • Outdated drivers – If your hard drive drivers are outdated, conflicts can occur leading to read/write errors.
  • Fragmented hard drive – When files become fragmented across the hard drive, the system struggles to assemble the fragments during reads/writes.
  • Bad sectors – Unreadable clusters of data can form on the drive platters.
  • Viruses or malware – Malicious programs may intentionally corrupt hard drive data.
  • OS file system errors – The file system manages the structure and location of data on your drives. If core operating system files get corrupted, drive errors can occur.

How to diagnose the cause of drive errors

Pinpointing the exact cause of your drive errors is crucial for resolving them. Here are some steps to help diagnose the issue:

  1. Check Event Viewer – System warnings and error messages are logged here.
  2. Update hard drive drivers – Outdated drivers are a common source of drive issues.
  3. Run CHKDSK scan – This built-in utility detects bad sectors and file system errors.
  4. Check S.M.A.R.T. status – This hard drive monitoring technology can detect problems.
  5. Test with bootable media – Try booting from a USB or DVD. If the drive works normally this way, it indicates an OS issue rather than hardware.
  6. Listen for sounds – Unusual clicking or beeping from the hard drive may signal mechanical failure.

Using these troubleshooting steps will help you identify the root cause, whether it stems from hardware, drivers, or system files.

How to fix common drive error causes

Once you know the source of the drive errors, you can take steps to fix them:

Resolve hardware issues

If faulty hardware is the culprit, you will need to replace the damaged drive. Or you may be able to resolve minor issues by:

  • Opening up the computer and reseating connections
  • Cleaning accumulated dust using compressed air
  • Updating the hard drive firmware

Update drivers

Outdated, incompatible, or corrupted drivers can lead to drive read/write failures. Download the latest versions from the manufacturer’s website and reinstall them.

Check file system and OS files

Use CHKDSK and SFC scans to fix corrupted system files causing drive issues. You may need to reinstall the OS if repairs are not successful.

Defragment the hard drive

A fragmented drive will slow down read/write speeds and can eventually cause errors. Defragmenting reorganizes files and consolidates fragmented data.

Repair bad sectors

Tools like CHKDSK can repair bad sectors by remapping those clusters so they are no longer used for storage. If too many bad sectors exist, the drive may need to be replaced.

Erase and format the hard drive

As a last resort, you can wipe your hard drive clean and completely reformat it to start fresh. Back up any important data first, as this will erase everything on the drive.

Best practices to avoid drive errors

Practicing proper hard drive care and maintenance will help minimize errors:

  • Defragment your drive regularly
  • Scan for errors and bad sectors monthly
  • Keep your system and programs updated
  • Install the latest hardware drivers
  • Use antivirus software
  • Don’t move your computer while powered on
  • Ensure proper ventilation around the PC case
  • Handle hard drives carefully if transporting your system
  • Back up your data regularly

When to replace your hard drive

If drive errors persist and your troubleshooting efforts don’t improve the situation, it may be time to replace the hard drive entirely. Here are some signs your drive needs replacement:

  • Frequent bad sector warnings
  • Disk read/write speeds are very slow
  • You can hear strange clicking or beeping noises
  • The drive is over 5 years old
  • S.M.A.R.T. status shows the drive is failing
  • OS fails to recognize the drive
  • Drive errors continue despite reformats or replacing cables

Recovering data from a failing drive

Before replacing a failing hard drive, it’s essential to recover any personal files and data you want to save. Options include:

  • Trying to copy files over to a secondary drive
  • Using data recovery software to extract files from the damaged drive
  • Taking the drive to a specialist for professional data recovery

The sooner you act, the better chance you have of salvaging your files before the drive fails completely.


Dealing with incessant drive errors can be aggravating, but identifying the cause is 90% of the battle. Updating drivers, optimizing your system, replacing faulty hardware, and improving your long-term maintenance habits will typically get those drives running smoothly again.

However, if your hard drive ultimately needs to be replaced, make sure to recover important data beforehand. With the right troubleshooting techniques, you can get back to computing confidently.

Error Code Meaning Possible Solutions
0x80070020 Data error (cyclic redundancy check)
  • Check cables
  • Test RAM
  • Replace hard drive
0x80070015 Drive not ready
  • Try a different SATA port
  • Ensure drive has power
  • Replace ribbon cable
0x80070103 Write protect error
  • Disable write protection
  • Update disk drivers

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