This has to be every computer user’s worst nightmare, the dreaded hard drive crash can mean the loss of valuable data or hours of painstakingly trying to recover what you can from your crashed drive. Now there is no clear cut sign when your hard drive will fail, however there are some early warning signs that you can look out for that will give you enough time to back up your drive.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep you valuable documents and files safely backed up on an external hard drive. I can remember years ago keeping my files backed up on stacks of floppy disks, then CDs, then DVDs and now on a selection of external hard drives and on two Clouds. You might ask why I use more than one method to back up my data, well to be honest it is because I am overly cautious with my data. I have had a few hard drives fail since I started using PCs almost 25 years ago and this has made me a bit wary. However, a good external hard drive or cloud based solution will do just fine. Depending on the size of your data that you want to back up, you can look at Google Drive as they offer a decent 15GB of free storage space. If you need more than 15GB, you can easily upgrade your account to either a 100GB or a 1TB account. These are priced at a reasonable $1.99 per month for the 100GB account and $9.99 per month for the 1TB account. They also offer a 10TB option for $99.99 per month, however this is more for businesses and slightly too expensive for the home user.
The other option is to purchase a good external hard drive that will offer enough storage space for all of your data. I personally own a WD My Passport and a Verbatim Store ‘n Go that have both served me well over the years. You can also purchase an external hard drive case and fit it with a good reliable hard drive. I personally use a hybrid hard drive as my main external hard drive as it is slightly snappier than standard portable external hard drives.
Funny Noises, Corrupted Files And Performance Issues
If your hard drive is making any unusual noises then it is a good indicator that something is wrong. All mechanical hard drives rely on a simple principle of spinning disks which are housed on bearings that allow them to spin smoothly. However these bearings can fail over time as every hard drive has a maximum number of cycles. So when these bearings start to fail, you will hear a massive change in the operational noise of your hard drive and this is a dead giveaway of the pending doom of your beloved hard drive. Remember to back up you data at the first sign of trouble.
One of the biggest indicators that your hard drive is in trouble is a corrupted file. This might take the form of the annoying “Blue screen of death” that some Windows users have had the displeasure of experiencing over the years. It can also come in the form of documents failing to reopen after saving them as they have become corrupted. Remember, if you start experiencing this, then back up you data straight away.
If you happen to notice that your hard drive is running slightly slower when you are searching for files or launching applications then this might be an early sign that your hard drive is in trouble. Now this is not a fool proof method of checking if your hard drive is about to die, as it could be general sluggishness due to other factors too. However, you might want to problem shoot for a damaged hard drive while you are at it.
How To Check Your Disk:
Luckily Microsoft has included a built-in disk analyzing tool called Check Disk which will check your disk for bad sectors, errors and corrupted files. You can access this tool by opening File Explorer, then clicking on This PC, then you will want to select your hard drive and right click on it and select Properties. This will open a new window and under the Tools tab you will find the Check Disk utility (Error Checking). You can also hit the Windows key on your keyboard and type “chkdsk”, then you will have to right click and select “Run as administrator”, this will then open a command prompt window that will automatically start checking your disks.
There are also third party applications that can be used to check the health or the state of your hard drive. Some of the freeware diagnostic applications work great, however there are also a few good diagnostic applications that can be purchased fairly cheaply online.
One of the best choices when it comes to a paid for application has to be SpinRite. Their website looks like it is stuck in the 90s, however their diagnostic application works great and many swear by it. Now it costs $89, which is a bit steep when you can get freeware applications too, however SpinRite can also retrieve data from dying or nearly dead hard drives. This makes it a very useful tool for when you can’t back up your data or you have left it too late to do it the easy copy and paste way.
PassMark DiskCheckup is a free application that uses the SMART (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) of your hard drive to provide data on the reliability of your disk. However this only monitors elements of your drive and can only warn of possible drive failures and cannot pin point an exact time of failure.
I personally use CrystalDiskInfo and have for a number of years now. It too uses the SMART of your hard drive to inform you of impending doom and the health of your hard drive. However, much like the PassMark application it can only inform you about issues and not predict a date and time of death of your hard drive.
If your hard drive is acting up, make sure that the first thing that you do is to back up all of your important data ASAP. Personally I would back up regularly to avoid issues when it comes down to the crunch. If you are in the market to replace your aging PC with something new, then head over to our Best Budget PCs guide or our Best All-Purpose PCs guide where you might find your next upgrade.