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Hard Drive Failure: Causes & How To Fix

Hard Drive Failures, Warning Signs of HDD Failure, How To Fix Failing Hard Drive

Unusual sounds, no response to commands, and error messages are a few signs of hard drive failure. And, if you do nothing, it will lead to the hard drive dead. 

As you notice hard drive (HDD) failure signs, back up your data and try to save your drive.

To prevent hard drive failure, you must know what are the signs and causes of it. As well as how to fix it.

Summary: Your hard drive can fail because of logical errors, external factors, and even manufacturer issues. But you cannot exclude usage. And for this reason, knowing how you can affect your HDD lifespan helps to prevent failures

Signs of hard drive failure

Our devices store vast amounts of precious, priceless, and crucial information. Encountering failures and all the subsequent data losses can be extremely frustrating. Although HDD has a limited lifespan of 3 to 5 years, you can make it last and use it to its full potential once you know how to prevent failures.

A wide variety of causes can shorten the lifespan of your hard drive. 

For instance, if you just dropped your HDD, then the cause for a hard drive failure it’s pretty obvious. However, some hard disk drive malfunctions might require some further investigation.

Common causes of HDD failure:

  • Repeated system crashes or reboots
  • Unresponsive (frozen) or blank screen
  • Error messages when trying to access files
  • Missing files, files being deleted or moved (corrupted)
  • CPU is unusually slow accessing and opening files
  • Irregular noises such as clicking, beeping, grinding, etc.
  • “Blue Screen of Death” error message
  • Bad sectors increase

In case your computer is experiencing any of the above hard drive failure symptoms, the best would be to turn the device off.

Summary: Being aware of the signs your hard drive gives before collapse is not different from paying attention to any symptom your body presents. And just like when you take medicine to get better, you can take action for each HDD failure sign to preserve it and save your data.

What causes hard drive failure

While being quite reliable, the smallest fault can cause hard drive failure. 

Physical contact or damage, heat, humidity, dust, power surges, or even time can cause hard drive failure.

There are three basic types of issues a hard drive may experience: logical failures, mechanical failures, and firmware failures

Since they differ in approach to solving, it is important to recognize which one you’re dealing with, so that you can recover your data safely after a fault. 

Mechanical hard drive damage and failure

Hard drives represent complex devices that include many moving components. As soon as any of those important parts get damaged due to shock or control errors, the hard disk malfunctions, and failures occur.

  • Electricity 

Power surges can fry the electrical components in a computer. If one board gets damaged due to power spikes, you lose access to your data. 

Symptoms:

  • Drive is powered, yet doesn’t show any signs of function
  • You can hear disk knocking or clicking sounds (both mean the motor fails to spin).
  • Heat 

A malfunctioning fan or blocked vent could overheat your CPU. 

Symptoms:

  • Fans don’t move or move too slow
  • Desktop/laptop gets heated soon after starting
  • Clicking sounds.
  • Water 

Damage in the forms of spills, natural disasters, and humidity. 

  • Drop 

Dropping a hard drive, as well as vibration over time, can cause various parts to stop working.

  • Fire

If the fire alone didn’t damage the casing enough, most likely the heat generated will demagnetize the platter. You can also add the water damage as a result of firefighting.

Logical failure

Logical failure refers to any non-physical issue types, such as accidental deletion, unintentional formatting, software bugs, file corruption, system corruption, malware, etc.

  • Software 

Malware, spyware, ransomware, and other viruses can hold your files hostage.

  • User error

Editing settings of the operating system registry or improper installation or removal of applications can affect a hard drive reboot.

Firmware or manufacturer faults

Firmware failures are like logical failures. Your computer might recognize your drive, however, because of problems with its firmware, it won’t be able to access the data. In this event, the hard drive might have troubles during booting up (freezes), and to be recognized wrongly/not to be recognized by your computer at all.

Summary: Dust, water, or dropping are some reasons HDDs fail, shortening their lifespan. Avoid taking your device with you when it’s not needed and cleaning it helps you conserve the hard drive and the data on it.

How to fix a hard drive failure? 

There are effective ways to troubleshoot faulty hard drives and recover lost data from damaged disks. 

Hard Drive Failure Signs, How to Fix Failing Hard Drive, Failing HDD

Step1. Clean up

Start by cleaning out any computer vent from debris and dust. A clogged vent might be causing your failing hard drive to overheat. 

Step2. Check cables

Next, check all power and data cables for proper connection. If these are plugged in correctly and yet no sign of activity, try replacing the power cable.

Step 3. Run BIOS

In case your device can boot, you can run a BIOS or a S.M.A.R.T. check to identify the issue.

Important: Do NOT try and fix it yourself unless you truly are confident in the problem and solution. 

Don’t open a failed hard drive. You can cause the needle head to scratch the platter or a speck of dust can block its mechanism.  

Depending on the hard drive failure complexity, a professional data recovery service is best advised. SalvageData offers free evaluation and keeps an ISO-certified cleanroom for opening HDDs.  

Summary: Although you can perform some easy-fix on your own, most hard drive errors demand sterilized labs and technical knowledge. Therefore, we recommend that you always seek professional help in this case.

The best way to prevent data loss remains to do regular backups of your computer’s data. But, if any of these failures already happened, contact a SalvageData expert.

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