hard drive (HDD) on black table

How to Determine a Failing Hard Drive and How to Prevent it?

Hard Drives is the component in your computer used for storage. You can use a Solid-State Drive (SSD) or a Hard Disk Drive (HDD). This blog post discusses the signs of a failing drive and the preventative measures to avoid a failed drive.

What is a Hard Drive Failure? Why should someone avoid it?

A Hard Drive failure is when the computer can no longer read the information on the drive. A failed hard drive can cause you to lose thousands of hours of work, family photos, gaming progress, and more due to a failed hard drive.

What Are Some Symptoms of a Failing Drive?

HDDs have SMART data that monitors the internals of the drive. Data recorded includes hours on, uncorrectable errors, and other metrics. Fortunately, this data can show signs of a failing HDD. Specifically, you might see the uncorrectable error count climb. Moreover, if a drive is old with 25k+ hours on, you might hear some clicking inside it. Failed drives refuse to be powered on, make a constant clicking noise, and cannot be read by the OS. Finally, the computer can report the drive as a 4GB drive when it is a 4TB drive.

What Does a Hard Drive Failure Look Like?

First, we’ll look at Hard Disk Drives, the old spinning drives. HDDs fail over time due to the wear and tear of the physical disk platter inside the HDD. HDDs can spin at 5400rpm, 7200rpm, or 15000rpm, which is faster than the speed of tornadoes. With that said, the drive is bound to fail given time. Another point of failure is the small needle inside the HDD that is in charge of reading data. It hovers just above the disk platter, but over time, the platter can start to wobble, causing the needle to leave scratches on the disk. This situation resembles how CDs/DVDs get scratched and become unreadable.

SSDs are different in that they have no moving parts. Their failure depends on chips doing their job and slowly deteriorating due to heat. Writing to SSD causes an atomical change on the chip; the more you write, the less an SSD can be changed. That’s why SSDs have write levels. There could only be so much written to the SSD before no more data can be written. An SSD failure can occur by reaching the write level. Once the write level is at capacity, software on the SSD puts the drive into read-only mode, so you can only copy the data but not write to it, given that it still works.

Best Practices to Prevent a Hard Drive Failure

Having backups is the easiest and most reliable method to prevent hard drive failures. As a general rule of thumb, perform backups every week. If you are working with critical data, you may want to consider backups every 24 hours. You can manually perform backups or look for automatic backup software. All hard drive failures can be mitigated by having proper backups. 

Another preventative method is to monitor the health of the drive. Software such as CrystalDiskMark reports when the drive is nearing replacement. You can also check the status of your hard drive by typing CHKDSK into the command prompt app on Windows. 

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as no failure. Everything eventually fails. WD or Seagate makes all HDDs; both have different tier drives with additional durability. SSDs also have different durability and technology than HDDs. There are 3 SSD tiers, MLC, TLC and QLC. MLC is the most durable, and most SSD makers don’t use them as they are expensive to manufacture. TLC is the next tier, with QLC at the bottom. When buying SSDs, look at the manufacturer’s specs and TBW; the higher it is, the more durable it is.

Overview

Hard drives are going to fail eventually and the only way to ensure you have your data is to perform frequent backups. Some other preventative measures include monitoring your hard drive and buying one that is more durable.

Leave a comment if you have any questions and share it if you enjoyed. If you are a bit more technical and want to learn how to install an Ubuntu server, click here!

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