Hard drives, like all electronic devices have a limited working life. At some point, they will stop working and take all of your precious data down with it. Occasionally hard drives will fail without warning, but often there are clear signs the drive is about to crash. Knowing these signs and acting on them is the best way to preserve your data and avoid a costly and frustrating loss of data.
With that fact in mind, here are a few of the most common signs of impending hard drive failure and what you can do to save your most critical files and information.
Hard Drive Warning Signs
1. Unusual noises. This is the most common sign of impending hard drive failure. Normally, your hard drive should be virtually silent. If you begin to hear strange clicking, whirring or grinding noises, you should immediately turn off your computer and assess whether you have a viable back up on another media. At this point attempting to back up your data from the failing drive can result in further deterioration of the hard drive and possibly make data recovery impossible.
2. Trouble initializing your drive. This problem can take a number of forms. You may get an error message saying "Device not found" or "Hard drive not formatted". First of all, whatever you do, don't try to reformat your drive – this will surely result in data loss. You can try rebooting your system, this does work occasionally. If you can get it to reboot, you should back up any critical files as soon as possible. If not, you'll need to get in touch with a data recovery specialist to help you retrieve your files.
3. Frequent hang-ups. Drives that are getting close to the end of their working life become more and more difficult to work with. You'll see increasingly frequent freezes and hang-ups. This is usually caused from bad sectors that can multiply at a rapid rate. Sometimes you can get away with this for a while, but the safest way to deal with it is to back up your data and replace the drive.
4. Blue Screen Errors. The "Blue Screen of Death", otherwise known as a stop error, is one of the most feared things a computer user can see. It's most often a sign of impending hard drive failure, though it can sometimes be fixed by running the "Repair Install" of your Windows operating system. If this doesn't work, it's time for a new hard drive.
5. Operating System not Found Error. If you get this error message when you try to boot your system, it's a clear sign that your hard drive has failed or the operating system files have become corrupt. At this point, the best thing you can do is to get your drive to a qualified data recovery specialist who can attempt to recover your lost files.
When you run into a possible hard drive failure, it's best not to try to fix it yourself. The more you run your computer, the more you risk losing data. Hard drive problems do not get better with time, they tend to deteriorate at a fairly rapid rate. Also, whatever you do, don't try to pull the drive apart yourself and repair it, this can damage the drive beyond repair. Hard drive must be opened in a dust-free clean room environment, otherwise the normal dust in the air can render the drive unreadable.
If your hard drive has completely failed, the only way to recover your data is to get in touch with a data recovery specialist. These service providers have the necessary tools and facilities to repair your hard drive to the point that it can be imaged long enough to preserve your data. Most reputable data recovery companies have a fairly high success rate in retrieving data, but there are no guarantees.
The best way to avoid a data recovery emergency is back up your files on another hard drive or other digital media. You even may want to consider investing in a RAID (redundant array of inexpensive disks)