In our line of work we see dead hard drives quite regularly but last week was a bad week for an unusually high number of people. We saw so many hard drive failures last week we began to wonder if there was something in the air! We have put together this article to explain the causes of hard drive failure and to let you know how to prevent one.
And of course, always …always back up your computer! Hard drives can fail any time, anywhere – the only real protection is to ensure you have regularly back up your data!
What causes hard drive failure?
There can be many causes of hard drive failure – both physical and logical.
Physical types of failures are usually due to a failure of the electric motor or the drive itself – the moving parts.
Logical failures come from corruption within the file system. If you accidentally deleted an important registry entry or formatted the drive incorrectly, or if you have a bad virus, hard drive problems can occur. The BIOS will recognize the drive, but it won’t boot.
Much like a car engine – you hard drive is a mechanical device and parts can just wear out over time and fail.
Also because of these moving parts, sometimes if you aren’t as gentle with your computer as you should be – this can contribute to hard drive failure. This is especially common in laptops that people carry around with them frequently. Unfortunately we tend to see it with people like university students who constantly take their laptops to and from uni with them. All the constant movement can cause issues.
Other ways you can damage the mechanical components of your drive:
• Your computer is bumped or knocked while it is in use;
• The electric motor which allows the platter to spin fails due to bad bearings or other components;
• Extreme heat while running causes the electronic circuit board to fail;
• There is a sudden power failure while the disk is writing data
Some of the most common causes of hard drive failure are to do with power problems. Anything from power failures to electrical surges can cause major problems for both computers and hard drives.
Usually due to poor ventilation in your computer. We so often have customers bring in machines that are caked solid with years of dust accumulation (along with the odd dead lizard or other creature). It is very important to ensure your computer is ventilated correctly and that your computer fans are all in good working order. We can clean out your machine quite easily as we have all the proper equipment to do so – if you remove the side of your PC and find it caked with dust – bring it in!
This is very common also. We regularly see machines that have had corruption from somewhere within the operating system. When your hard drive can’t find the correct files to load your operating system it will throw some errors. In most cases this is an easy fix – bring it on in!
How can I prevent hard drive failure?
Being gentle to your computer is a good start. However that is no guarantee of a prolonged hard drive life. The following tips always help:
- Ensure your computer is kept clean and free of dust.
- If a storm is on its way, don’t just turn your computer off – completely unplug it from the power source at the wall. Also ensure you unplug your modem as a power surge can come through phone lines, through your modem, and then through an ethernet cable into your computer.
- Always have your computer plugged in to a surge board. That will protect from the odd power spike.
- If you live in an area that regularly has brown outs – we would recommend a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) that has moderated power. This ensures the power flowing into your computer (or other devices) is at a constant flow.
- If using a laptop – try not to move it when it is on. If possible, always turn it off or put it to sleep before moving it around. Some notebooks actually have a locking device on their hard drive to protect from this sort of issue.
Can I get a better hard drive?
Yes you can! Solid State Hard Drives (SSD’s) are a great option if you want the freedom to be a bit rougher with your computer. They use flash memory and have no moving parts in them (much like a USB flash drive).
They are also so much faster than a standard hard drive so upgrading to one of these should result in a significant speed increase in your computer.
We can retro-fit an SSD to both notebook and desktop PC’s and Macs – if you are interested just give us a call.