It would be great for computer users if hard drives started buzzing and frantically spitting out warnings when they’re about to fail, but in most cases, the signs of hard drive failure are far more subtle, if they even have the decency to manifest at all. Here’s a look at some of the typical symptoms of desktop hard drive failure.
1. Excessive clicking or spinning noises. Most hard drives, especially modern hard drives, are designed to run quietly. There’s even entire websites devoted to figuring out which hard drive is the world’s quietest, and since tech-heads value quiet, that’s what the hard drive companies tend to make. If you can hear your hard drive making unusual sounds when it spins up, or if you hear any audible clicking sound whatsoever, the read/write heads of the hard drive might be going bad. This condition will continue to worsen until the drive won’t spin up any more or the heads finally crash into the platters, occasionally permanently damaging that data that you’d stored on the hard drive. Any sounds from a hard drive are signs to back up your data immediately and get a replacement on hand.
2. Slow reading and writing. If you notice your hard drive pulling up and saving files a bit more slowly than it used to, it may not be a problem with the hard drive per se–you might have it near capacity, which makes the hard drive “work” a bit harder to find the specific bits of a certain file. Defragmenting your hard drive and clearing off some space can help. If you’ve tried this, and your hard drive is still reading and writing information at a slower-than average rate, you may be close to a hard drive failure. The heads of the hard drive, for whatever reason, aren’t functioning in the way they should–they’re moving too slowly, or not reading information correctly. Back up your data.
3. Difficulty booting up. If a hard drive won’t boot, make a backup of it as soon as possible, even if it boots after another two tries. There may be damage to the part of the hard drive that knows where everything’s located–the service track of a drive, which can be thought of as a sort of “table of contents,” only way, way more insanely complicated than that. This goes double for hard drives that are displaying their model incorrectly in a desktop computer’s BIOS. It’s a sign of electronic or service track failure. In general, always keep a backup, but pay attention for any odd symptoms, as they might indicate an issue that will make your hard drive unreadable.
Do you know of any other ways to tell when a hard drive is failing? Post your tips in our comments section below.