Avoiding External Hard Drive Failure
We’ve all experienced external hard drive failure at some point. And if you are one of the few who haven’t, rest assured that you eventually will.
Hard drives can last for years, but just like everything else they are subject to sudden damage or to simple wear and tear from normal use.
Hard drive failures generally fall into one of three categories:
- Mechanical – For example, failure of the arm that positions the read/write heads
- Electronic – Like damage to the circuit board
- Logical – Poorly organized data resulting in inability to retrieve files
Because all these integrated components must work together in perfect harmony in order to have a properly functioning drive, a failure in one area can often cause a failure in another. Thus all hard drives are doomed to die eventually.
Fortunately, there are often warning signs. If you pay attention to the signs, hopefully you will be able to recover some or all of your data before it’s too late.
Back it up, baby
But before we talk about those warning signs, let’s talk about the easiest and smartest way to keep your data safe…
It’s true what they say – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to ensure that you don’t lose data is to make frequent backups of your files. That way when your drive eventually fails, your data is already secured on another device.
Fortunately, some drives come with automated continuous backup so you don’t even have to think about it. But if your drive doesn’t have that feature or you’ve chosen not to use it, the best way to ensure that you don’t lose precious data is to take manual backups.
If you are lucky enough to see a hard drive failure coming, you may be able to get some or all of your data off of the drive before it goes. However if the failure is instant and catastrophic, you have few options but to pay big bucks to a data recovery service. Having been down that road, I can tell you that it’s a hard pill to swallow. Data recovery by a reputable company costs several hundred dollars at the cheap end and can run into the thousands.
Really, you don’t want to go there unless you have to and it’s easily avoidable if you just discipline yourself to ensure your data is backed up properly.
Top Five Signs That Your Hard Drive is Gasping Its Last Breaths
So, how can you tell that your hard drive is about to give up the ghost? Sometimes it’s hard to tell because some of the problems described below can have other causes aside from eminent hard disk failure. You may need to do some basic troubleshooting to rule them out.
1. Unusual Noises
If your drive starts making noises that you haven’t heard before, know that something bad will happen shortly. Clicking, grinding, or scraping noises instead of the usual gentle hum means that something is mechanically going awry. It’s best to stop using the drive immediately in this case because the more you use it, the more damage you’re likely to do.
2. Who are you?
If your computer stops recognizing your hard drive, it may be a sign that the hard drive is about to go on the fritz. If you have access to another computer, try attaching the drive to see if it.
3. Where’s Waldo?
If a file or part of a file disappears and you can’t find it, it’s likely a bad sector on your drive.
4. Disk Errors
It’s not a good sign if you try to access your drive and get an error. Sometimes these can be resolved, so it’s good to consult your manual or the Internet to see if you can find a solution.
5. Slow Access
If the data transfer rate has slowed from what it once was, it could be that your drive is starting on a downward spiral. Sometimes however, this can be caused by a virus or malware, so be sure to run the appropriate scans to rule this out. Another possibility is that your drive has become defragmented, so you may want to run a utility to re-organize your data.
External hard drive failure is never fun, so please take our advice and keep your data backed up.