Beneath the interface and applications that make up your everyday computer usage, there lies an assortment of mechanical organs that ensure the ongoing functionality of your system. There’s the motherboard, which manages and coordinates all of the computer’s functions. There’s the CPU, which records processes, and executes actions, and there’s the PSU supplying vital electric fuel to power all of these connected components.
But perhaps the most important element of your computer is the hard drive. This data storage device functions as the permanent memory of your system. Whether you’re working on a project, playing a game, or just booting up your computer, the hard drive holds all the information you need to access. Unfortunately, because these devices are constantly working away in the background they can be prone to unexpected failures.
What to Do If Your Hard Drive Fails
Around 140,000 hard drives crash every week, leaving computer users scrambling to recover sensitive data. While a schedule of routine data backups can help you avoid much of this alarm, sometimes you just don’t get the time to take preventative measures. If you’re one of the thousands of people facing up to a suddenly non-functional hard drive, then don’t panic! We’ve compiled this handy guide to help you recover that lost data.
Is it a Software or Hardware Issue?
Hard drive failures fall into two categories, physical or logical. A logical crash refers to software-related issues that stop your computer from accessing the hard drive. This could be caused by a virus, a corrupted OS, an improper shutdown, or the deletion of an important folder. On the other hand, physical crashes are caused by physical damage to the actual components of the hard drive. Likely causes could be accidental spills, drops, power surges, or plain old wear and tear.
While physical crashes will require equipment and expert know-how to repair, a logical crash can usually be resolved with a simpler fix. To determine which issue you’re facing, there are a few troubleshooting steps that you can attempt.
If you’re able to open up your computer case, then it always pays to check whether you have any loose connections. Unplug all cables from your hard drive and plug them back in to ensure a solid connection.
Confirm Hard Drive Status
If your hard drive crashed without warning, then a loose cable likely isn’t the issue. In this case, your next step should be to access the computer’s BIOS to test whether it detects your hard disk. Depending on the make and model of your computer, you can usually access the BIOS menu by pressing a trigger key right after you boot up your system. Once you reach the menu find the section where it lists connected drives and see if the hard drive shows up.
If the drive shows up on the list, but your system still can’t read it then you might well be facing a software issue, if nothing shows up at all then you’re likely dealing with a dead hard drive.
Run a Virus Scan
For software problems, your first step should be to check the disk for viruses or malware. If your computer has been extremely sluggish lately, or if you’ve been dealing with randomly corrupted data, then this is a likely concern. Ideally, you want to do this without downloading any further data onto your hard drive as this will only make the eventual recovery process more difficult.
Your best bet is to burn the antivirus software onto a separate USB device or disc, there are several free tools that offer this feature. You can then run a complete virus scan from outside the Windows environment.
As a final precaution, you might want to check your hard disk for bad sectors with the Windows ChkDsk tool. This application is used to identify and resolve any file system errors on your hard disk. These errors can be caused by either physical damage (hard bad sectors) or logical issues (soft bad sectors). The tool will generally attempt to repair soft bad sectors, and mark out hard bad sectors to prevent further use.
When scanning through your hard disk the ChkDsk tool will repair although a complete scan can take some time to complete it may prevent any further loss of data in the long run.
Here’s what you need to do to run ChkDsk:
- Right-click the hard drive you want to check.
- Click Properties
- Switch to the Tools tab
- Click the Check or Check Now button
- On Windows 8 and Windows 10 PCs, you may get a message telling you that there are no errors on the hard drive. Click the Scan drive button to scan your drive manually.
- On Windows 7 computers you get a couple of options for your scan. You can choose to simply scan and recover bad sector files, or you can ask Windows to automatically fix the file system errors as well. Be warned, if you choose both options you might have to wait a couple of hours before you can use your computer again.
A Failing Hard Drive
If none of these steps fixes your concern, then you may well be facing a hardware issue. This will be especially apparent if you’re suddenly hearing loud clicking or whirring noises from your hard drive. At this point, the data on the hard drive may still be recoverable if you act quickly enough. Try to avoid common data recovery myths that your friends tell you about.
If you have a second computer lying around, you should ideally look to remove the hard drive and hook it up to your other computer as a secondary hard drive. Once you’re set up you can then use effective data recovery software such as EaseUS, Stellar Phoenix or Recuva to create a clone of the hard drive and recover vital information from it.
Be warned, powering on your device at this point may cause it to fail faster, so if you have files on your hard drive that are absolutely essential, you’re better off packing it away and taking it to a professional instead.
Did Someone Say, Professional?
At Computer Fixperts, our data recovery specialists offer the expertise and equipment you need to get those vital files off your failing hard drive. If you live in and around Brisbane or Sydney, get in touch with us today.