Hard Drive Failure: How to Troubleshoot Hard Disk Problems

Losing even a fraction of your data can be devastating. While things like games can be re-downloaded, other files such as family photos are often irreplaceable. 

Very often, losing files happens due to hard drive failure. Sometimes, it seems like problems can come out of nowhere, apropos of nothing you’ve used your computer for lately! Many common computer issues, such as crashing and slowdowns, often have their roots in the malfunction or failure of hard disk drives.

You don’t need to be a computer technician to spot the warning signs or even address hard disk issues. Many typical hard disk problems can even be fixed without needing more than a little bit of time. Read on to learn how to identify and troubleshoot a few common hard disk issues. 

Have You Checked For Malware?

Aside from “have you tried turning it off and on again,” this is probably the second most common troubleshooting tip you’ve heard, and for a good reason. Malware can be devastating to your hard disks. It can cause file corruption, performance slowdowns, crashing, and even have physical effects in some cases!

The most crucial step is to, of course, install antivirus software and immediately scan your computer. If you can’t install third-party software for some reason or would rather not, try using your OS’ built-in software. Xprotect for iMac and Windows Defender for PCs.

Of course, the best way to protect against hard disk failure from viruses is to be proactive and take steps to protect yourself from malware

De-Congesting A Stuffed Disk

You’d be surprised how easy it is for your hard disk to become congested with continual use. Slowdowns are a telltale sign your disk is more than a little congested. Start by uninstalling unwanted programs, clearing out old files, and running your OS’ disk cleanup utility. 

Yet, you may find that your hard drive disk failure has come as a result of disk fragmentation, a side effect of the data storage process. Fragmentation is when your files are broken into pieces and spread across your drive, which increases load times.

Fragmentation can be fixed by using a defragmenting program; in Windows, this can be found by searching “defrag” and selecting “Defragment and Optimize Drives.” If you’re a Mac user, you’ll need to download third-party software. 

Navigating Error Messages

Sometimes, it’s not file corruption, slowdowns, or crashing that indicates hard drive failure. You might attempt to load a file or access the drive and receive an error message with a strange string of letters and numbers. These messages can mean a wide variety of things, so you should always start by putting this error into a search engine and attempting to identify the problem.

If you don’t find the answers you’re looking for, you can try troubleshooting it manually. Common problems include bad sectors, issues with physical connections, or potential drives issues. 

Start by running a diagnostic on your drives to check for anything that might be software-related. Windows users may use “error checking” in the properties menu of your drive (under tools), while Mac users may use First Aid in their Disk Utility App. If this doesn’t work, try updating your hard disk’s drivers. This can be done by updating your Mac’s software or using the properties menu of your Windows drive. 

Looking For Physical Problems

Sometimes, error messages and common issues may be indicative of something physically wrong with your hard drive. Other times, you may find symptoms directly indicating something physically amiss, such as your hard drive making noise. If you believe that you have some sort of physical hard drive failure and would like to investigate, you can do so safely and methodically.

Before you do, though, consider a few things.

  1. How old is your drive?
  2. Is this a one-off issue, or have you been having repeat problems?
  3. Are your files backed up?

Unfortunately, hard disks have a lifespan and will go bad with time. If you’ve found that you’re having repeat issues that seemingly resolve themselves, and your problems only seem to be multiplying, your drive might be near the end of its life! Ensure your files are backed up and replace your drive as soon as possible; you cannot save a dying drive. 

If you believe it to be something other than age and wish to proceed with a physical inspection (recommended for towers only, laptops are NOT made in the same modular fashion), start with powering down your computer and unplugging the power supply. Once inside, first, check your drive connections to make sure they’re plugged in and secure. If your computer is excessively hot, this can affect your performance and damage your drives; ensure your cooling fan is installed and working correctly and that your case is cleared of dust using canned air. 

Because of how intricate and fragile hard drives are if you can’t immediately identify a problem upon inspection, it’s best that you leave it alone. Improper hard drive handling can cause data loss and make your issues far worse than they already are. If your drive is physically damaged or suffering from age, you can take it to a repair expert to have your data recovered as a last-ditch measure. 

Need Help With Hard Drive Failure?

Suddenly losing access to your files due to hard drive failure can be a painful experience. If it’s not the lengthy delays until you have your computer running again, it’s the possibility of losing photos, music, game saves, and much more!

If you’ve found yourself against the wall with hard drive failure in the Tuscon area, the expert staff of Computer Revival has you covered. Our team has spent over 22 years servicing, building, and upgrading computers. Get in touch with us today!