Hard Drives & the Main Types of Failure
Hard disk drives were invented by IBM back in the 1950’s with the first commercial disk drive that could store 5 million characters, but it wasn’t until around 1980 that the world’s first gigabyte capacity hard drive was released weighing in at about 250kgs, was the size of a fridge and cost $40,000.
Also in 1980 Seagate Technology released the ST-506, a 5 ¼“ hard drive, it stored 5 megabytes and cost nearly $1500 but it was nearly 2 decades later that hard drives with a capacity of 37 Gigabytes were commercially available at a cost of over £240.
Today, hard drives with a capacity of 500 Gigabytes (Gb) – 1 Terabyte (Tb) tend to be fitted as standard to PCs, people now store much more personal data than ever (Photos, email, documents etc) sometimes running into hundreds of gigabytes, but few people think about what would happen if things go wrong until it is too late, unfortunately hard drives are mechanical and it is not a case of if they will fail, but when they will fail.
Hard drives can develop various types of faults rendering your data inaccessible, some of the causes are listed below..
Logical failures: This is usually the result of damage to file the system, this maybe caused by the file system getting corrupted by unexpected system shutdowns, power outages, computer viruses, registry corruption, accidentally formatting the hard drive etc.
With this type of failure it is likely that the hard drive would still be seen by the computers bios but would not boot or would reset or blue screen during the boot process.
Physical Failures: With modern hard drives spinning at 7200rpm & the read heads hovering nanometres from the disk platters, it only takes a laptop to get knocked/dropped while writing to the drive for a collision to occur causing catastrophic damage to the platters.
Physical failures can also manifest themselves by a drive just clicking (head failure), drive not spinning up (Motor failure) or not being detected by the computers bios. You may get some warning your hard drive is starting to fail if you get the odd clank or click whilst using your computer, it is imperative that you shutdown the computer and seek specialist advise, failure to do this could end up with data recovery costing several hundreds of pounds to get your precious family photos etc back.
Media Problems: Can occur when the hard drive has developed bad sectors (A bad sector is a sector on a hard drive that cannot be used due to some sort of damage), this can make it impossible to access via the operating system, normally the hard drive will still be seen by the computers bios but you will suffer lockups, temporary or permanent freezing of the operating system.
By far the best way to make sure that you don’t have to pay hundred of pounds for data recovery, is to make sure you have regular backups to an external medium such as an external hard drive or NAS drive (network attached storage).
Apple Macs & Windows PC’s both have backup programs built in the their operating systems, Apple’s backup is called Time Machine and will backup every hour or so, with Windows 7’s Backup & Restore you can select how often to backup, daily, hourly etc.
If you are unlucky enough to suffer from a hard drive failure & have a current backup then it is just a case of replacing the hard drive, reloading the operating system from the disc supplied by your manufacturer & restoring your data.
Replacing your hard drive should only be done if you are competent to do so, if not then contact your local repairer.