We all generate a lot of data in our day to day use of a computer, either in the form of documents as well as photos, videos and even audio files. Most of these files wind up being stored on the hard-drive in the computer, and despite improvements in the longevity of drives, they can and will fail eventually. Luckily, hard-drives will usually give a couple of warning signs before failing, which should give you ample time to back up your data and prepare for the worst. However, these signs can sometimes be confusing and an indicator of other problems in the computer, so try and make sure that you have up-to-date backups of all your important files that you can easily recover even in the event of a hard-drive failure.
Manufacturers have long ago realized that there should be a warning system in place that can tell the user if the hard-drive is about to fail. Most hard-drives generate S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) data that can tell you if the hard-drive is healthy or not. While some users report that the report doesn’t warn of an upcoming failure, the data is useful in checking up on the overall health of your drive, so ensure that part your monthly maintenance routine is to check the S.M.A.R.T report to check the health of your hard-drive and to ensure that it’s in good shape.
The problem with detecting imminent hard-drive failure is that many of the symptoms are similar to that of other parts of the computer failing. Data corruption, however, can usually be attributed to hard-drive failure, especially if you know the file saved correctly and without any errors. If you start seeing files getting corrupted or disappearing, it may be a sign to start shopping for a new hard-drive.
Slow-down, Freezing and BSOD
These are all symptoms that are associated with a number of hardware or software issues, but if they start happening in conjunction with other symptoms listed here, it may be due to your hard-drive failing. If your system experiences issues such as slow-down, blue screens of death or regular freezes or crashes, start backing up your data and re-install your operating system. If the symptoms persist, start checking your hardware systematically.
Running the Windows error-checking software should be done monthly as part of a general maintenance plan on your PC. This tends to identify any bad sectors that have developed on your hard-drive and will automatically try to repair them. If you start constantly getting bad sectors, it’s a sure sign that there is something going wrong with your hard-drive and you should seriously consider backing up your data as soon as possible.
Most PCs these days run quite silently, so if you’re experiencing other symptoms of hard-drive failure, take a listen your system. Usually, by the time you hear screeching or grinding noises, it’s too late to salvage much, but a clicking noise from the hard-drive means that some data can still be saved before the hard-drive fails.
What to Do?
The thought of losing data fills most of us with horror, and having a regular backup is the best way to prevent data loss. Consider saving your most important files to the cloud, using programs such as Dropbox or Google Drive, as well as backing up most of your data to an external hard-drive. If you’re worried about multiple drives being lost at the same time, cloud-saving is most likely your safest bet, as any data you lose can easily be recovered from any location.