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Indications of a Failing Hard Drive

Knowing when a hard drive is about to fail and what to do about it.

  1. Lord Chance
    Are you having trouble with your computer? Is it slow booting up or does your PC fail to boot? How about getting the dreaded Blue Screen of Death? They all may point to a dying hard drive. These problems can indicate other issues as well but it is unwise to rule out a failing hard drive.

    Hard drives are interesting devices. These small packages have two or three platters which hold your data. These platters spin at a high rate of speed and floating back and forth across these platters are the read/write heads. These heads are tiny and delicate and all of this reading and writing happens in milliseconds. Put all of this speed together with heat and vibration and you get a recipe for disaster. Now that I have given a bit of background, I can now move on to what the indicators are of a failing hard drive.

    First as I mentioned, Slow Booting, Failing to boot or BSODs may indicate hard drive problems. If the platters' media becomes weak or damaged it can result in increased read time or failure to read situations. The media is the coating on the platters that the data is imprinted on. If the damage is in the MBR(Master Boot Record) then your PC will fail to boot. Also if the read/write heads have to read the data multiple time, this will cause your PC to slow down. Below are some possible signs to look for.

    1. Clicking or grinding noises while running;
    2. Files mysteriously disappear. Usually more than once;
    3. Locking up during the boot process - hard disk problems are indicated if this happens frequently;
    4. The computer often freezes, and when it does you are left without mouse or keyboard input and have to do a hard reset;
    5. Standard file processes like saving and opening slow down interminably, even for small files;
    6. Increase in the number of bad sectors noted when running chkdsk;
    7. You can't speed up computer performance even by applying optimization tricks;
    8. You notice that your computer is unusually hot.

    What should I do now? How can I tell? In this case there is no real tried and true test but there are some things you can do to help diagnose a failing drive. Most hard drives have a feature called S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology). What this does is self test the hard drive and look for trouble. Not very accurate in my opinion but it is better than guess work. For more information on SMART Monitoring you can go to Wikipedia's Comparison of S.M.A.R.T. tools. Usually when you buy a new PC you will get a disk of utilities that will contain some kind of monitoring software. Companies like DELL, HP, Sony, Western Digital, Maxtor and Seagate, to name a few, will often supply this software and below are some third party Freeware Utilities to help monitor your hard Drives. A note about Maxtor hard drives. Support for Maxtor drive will be thru Seagate because they acquired the Maxtor Brand.

    o PassMark DiskCheckupā„¢(Free for personal use.)
    o Acronis Drive Monitor
    o HDDScan


    You can also run CHKDSK on your hard drive paying close attention to how many errors it finds. How many errors it fixed. Then run the utility again. If the number or errors continues to grow then it is time to backup your data and find another hard drive.

    Other signs of a failing hard drive is a noisy drive and the drive light stays on continually. If the hard drive makes a squealing noise or a grinding noise then the drive is on the way out. BACKUP YOUR DATA! If the drive light stays on then if possible back up your data. The light staying on may indicate a fault in the drive electronics. Whatever the fault. One of the best sources of information on your hard drive is the Manufacturer's Web Site. You can also find lots of info at DATACENT.COM.

    If you need information about what hard drive you have installed there are a few ways to find out. The easiest way is to open up your PC and have a look on the hard drive label. The label will give you all of the relevant information about your hard drive.

    HDlabel.jpg

    You can also use third party software like HWiNFO to access the information on the drive. This only works if the hard drive is still working. Finally you can use the System Information Tool in Windows 7 by clicking the Start button >All Programs >Accessories >System Tools >System Information. The information given by System information is basic but you will find the hard drives model number. The System Information tool will be found in a similar location in other versions of Windows.

    sysinfo.jpg

    This information can also be found in the Device Manager under Disk Drives.

    Since one aspect of iHelpForum.com's mission is to help members and guests become more knowledgeable, I have added links to some related Guides written by our awesome Advisors and Staff. I hope they will help enlighten you.

    Diagnostic Guides by MonkeyMagic
    How to use the VAIO Hardware Diagnostics utility to diagnose hardware issues using the VAIO Careā„¢ software
    How to create a set of Recovery discs for Sony computers
    How to test a Hard Drive using the Seagate Tool
    How to test a Hard Drive using the Western Digital tool

    Drive Backup Guides by Crush
    Creating An Image Of Your Hard Drive Using DriveImgXML
    Using HP Backup and Recovery Manager

    Failure of a hard drive can be devastating but with care and proper backups of your data this failure will turn into just an inconvenience. I hope this guide helps you be ready for such an event. If you find you need help, feel free to post your questions in the appropriate forum at iHelpForum.com. If you are not a member registration is free and you are never charged for the help you receive.

    For more interesting and helpful Tutorials and Guides, Please visit our iHelp Forum Tech Guides.

    Special thanks to MonkeyMagic, Crush and Belahzur for allowing me to use links to their Guides. Also a rousing "Thanks Mate!" to CD(Cameldung) and MonkeyMagic for their awesome comments and advice. :mrgreen: