All hard drives fail
Hard drives, like most things, have a lifespan, and like many things, you may not be able to know when a hard drive is about to fail. This is why it is imperative to keep your data backed up. Even though a hard drive life expectancy can vary greatly, there are generally two points in time when a hard drive will fail:
At the very beginning
Hard disk failures occur within a short period after installation if there has been a defect in manufacturing. This is usually a catastrophic failure in which the device is not instantly recognised by the computer.
Other types of mechanical failures, such as bearing issues or the dreaded ‘head crash’ are a risk with early failures. While many of these issues have been reduced by strict quality control and testing methods, from time to time a large number of users may experience manufacturing defect issues.
Late in life
The most common type of hard disk failure happens when the hard disk drive is nearing its end of life, usually after 3-4 years of usage.
When a hard disk drive gradually starts to fail, you will notice intermittent errors or failures that may appear to be due to programs or the operating system software. The frequency of the failures is a clue that a hard disk drive failure is imminent.
Failing hard disk symptoms
A failing hard disk may start to exhibit these symptoms. The quicker you respond to the symptoms and protect your data the less likely you are to go through a data loss incident.
|Symptom||Possible cause||Data protection steps|
Computer crashes frequently or when under heavy use
Computer start-up takes an excessively long time
Data files are missing
File explorer takes a long time to display the contents of a folder
Hard disk drive diagnostic shows many SMART errors
Important: Contact Ontrack as soon as possible if you have experienced a storage media failure. Attempts to extract the data without professional data recovery services may lead to irretrievable data.
Is my hard drive operational?
During the start-up phase of a computer, the hard disk drive may be listed as it becomes identified. This is one way of determining operation. In some more modern systems, however, the hard disk drive may not be listed. Therefore, the only way to identify it would be to go into the computer BIOS setup and find the serial number or hard drive model. If the hard drive is not listed in the BIOS, then the hard drive may be faulty.
Mechanical hard disk drives operate with spinning platters. Depending upon where the hard disk drive is located within the computer, it may be possible to hear the hard disk drive start up. It must be acknowledged that most of today's high-performance computers have multiple fans inside that may make an audible test impossible.
If you notice any loud mechanical noises from the computer and it will not start, it is a strong indication that the hard disk drive has failed. In a case like this, cease all diagnostics and contact Ontrack directly.
Assess your data loss yourself
Ontrack have developed a self-assessment tool for data loss and recovery, which can help you get some quick and easy answers to what is wrong with your device. Just answer a few questions about your device and what symptoms it is presenting, and you'll receive an explanation as to what is likely wrong with the device and what you can do about it.Data loss self-assessment tool