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The computer hard drive stores the files and all kinds of information and applications in the computer system. Other parts of your computer work together to show you the applications and files stored on your hard drive.
Hard drives (aka HDD or hard disk drives) are made of spinning disks, or platters, that store the data in digital form. It reads and writes data on these disks as they spin. It’s one of the storage devices in your computer and can or not be the main storage technology on your device.
Since the first EBM hard drive in 1957, much has changed in hard drive disk technology. The size, the storage capability, and the writing speed are a few things that improved in the last 65 years of HDD history.
Top Summary: To know more about hard drives, we have to understand how this technology works, why computers need it, and what to do if they fail. Learn how to take care and use the most of your hard drive.
A bit of hard drive history
IBM was the first manufacturer to build computers with HDDs. The IBM 350 Disk File was launched in 1957 with the code-name RAMAC. It had fifty 24-inch platters and a total capacity of 3.75 megabytes.
Although very present on computers and still being the first choice for external storage, HDD are experiencing a low on the market. That’s because new technology, such as SSD and Hybrids drivers, is faster.
HDD remains a storage solution thanks to its large data capacity at lower costs.
How does a hard drive work?
The hard disk inside your computer is very similar to the ones you use at home to store music, movies, and pictures (such as CD-ROM and DVDs). It comprises one or more spinning disks (called platters) that are coated with magnetic material. The hard disk also has an arm with a read/write head on it that moves across the platters as they spin.
When you want to save a file on your hard drive, the read/write head writes the file onto the platter in a series of tiny magnetic pulses. To read a file, the head reads the magnetic pulses off of the platter.
HDD does not store the data sequentially. The platter spins fast (up to 15,000 rotations per minute) while the arm moves across it. The read and write head record and read magnetically the information on each platter.
Why do computers need hard drives?
A hard disk is essential for a computer because it stores all the files and programs that the computer needs to use, such as the operating system. The hard disk is also where the computer stores any data that you create, such as documents, pictures, and music.
HDDs can retain the data after you turn off your computer. So they are great as a storage device for PCs, laptops, and even arrays (RAID is made of several HDDs).
Do all computers have a hard disk?
No, not all computers have a hard drive. Some devices, such as laptops and tablets, use solid-state drives (SSDs) instead of hard drives.
SSDs are similar to hard drives in that they store data digitally and allow you to access that data randomly. However, SSDs typically have faster data transfer speeds and are more durable than hard drives.
If a computer does not have a hard drive, it will probably have an SSD. Your computer can’t function without the main data storage on it, since it needs the operating system and all the other essential applications. Some computers even have slots for both HDD and SSD.
If you’re not sure whether your computer has an SSD or hard drive, you can usually check the specifications or ask the manufacturer.
Do HDDs ever fail?
Yes, hard drives can fail. There are many reasons why hard drives fail, but the most common one is simply that they are mechanical devices with moving parts, and those parts can wear out or break.
When a hard drive fails, you will usually lose the data that was stored on it. That’s why it’s important to have regular backups of your hard drive data. Yet, you can prevent your hard disk from failing before its natural lifespan by learning the best practices to use it. For example, don’t let it overheat, avoid dust getting in touch with the HDD, and pay attention to any failing signs (noises and corrupted files).
What should you do if your hard drive fails?
If your hard drive fails, the first thing you should do is try to back up your data. In case you have a backup, you will only lose the data that was stored on the hard drive since your last backup. However, if you don’t have a backup, you may use data recovery software to recover some or all of your data.
But, if you can’t recover your data, or if your hard drive is completely damaged, you will need to buy a new hard drive and restore your data from a backup. Hard drives are relatively inexpensive, so this is not usually a major problem. However, if you don’t have a backup, it can be very difficult to recover the lost data, since you’ll need a data recovery service.
Do hard disks need regular maintenance?
Hard drives do not require regular maintenance, but there are a few things you can do to extend their lifespan and prevent problems.
- Keep your hard drive clean. Dust and other particles can build up inside the hard drive and cause problems.
- Avoid dropping the device. Any fall can damage your hard drive. Even a small drop can damage the delicate internal components.
- Don’t let it overheat. Store your hard drive in a cool, dry place. Extreme temperatures can damage hard drives.
What are some of the most common hard drive problems?
The most common hard drive problems include:
- Physical damage (such as a dropped or damaged hard drive).
- Logical damage (such as corrupt files).
- Firmware errors.
A qualified data recovery specialist can often restore your data from any damage. But, sometimes, you’ll still need a new HDD.
What are some advantages and disadvantages of hard disks?
Advantages of hard drives:
- They are relatively inexpensive.
- They can store large amounts of data.
- They are fast.
- They are easy to use (you can start using them without having to install any software).
Disadvantages of hard drives:
- They are mechanical devices with moving parts (meaning HDDs are susceptible to failure if dropped).
- They are larger and heavier than other types of storage devices.
- They will not work if there is a power outage.
Learn if an SSD is a better option for you in our Hard Disk Drive vs. Solid State Drive breakdown.
What are the different types of hard drives?
The most common type of hard drive is the spinning hard drive, which features one or more spinning platters and uses magnetic storage to store data.
Solid-state hard drives (SSDs) are another type of hard drive that uses flash memory instead of spinning platters. SSDs typically have faster data transfer speeds than spinning hard drives, but they also are more expensive.
|Brands and Models||Seagate BarraCuda
WD Blue Desktop
Seagate Firecuda Desktop
Seagate IronWolf NAS
Seagate FireCuda Mobile
WD My Book
|WD Elements Portable Drive
Seagate Portable Drive
Maxone 500GB Ultra Slim Drive
Toshiba Canvio Basics Portable Drive
Silicon Power Portable External Hard Drive
LaCie Rugged Mini Drive
SanDisk Extreme Portable External SSD
Seagate Game Drive Portable HDD
WD Portable Gaming Drive
Samsung T5 Portable SSD
Toshiba Canvio Gaming Portable Drive
|Costs*||Between $100 and $200||Depends on the storage capacity. From $50 to up to $300|
|Capacities||From 120 GB to up to 20 TB||From 500 GB to up to 16TB|
|Form factors||2.5-inch (SFF) and 3.5-inch (LFF)||3.5-inch (Desktop Drives) and 2.5-inch (portable hard drives)|
|RPM||Between 5400 and 7200 RPM||5200 RPM|