Hard Drive Failure Issues and How to Solve Them
Your computer is comprised of many components. One of those is a familiar one on which you are able to store your data – the hard disk drive (HDD or just hard drive).
The operating system, applications, and your personal files all must have a non-volatile space to reside, or persistence when the power is shut off. When this storage container is working as intended, your machine will boot properly, and your data will be readily available.
It’s probably easy to take your computer’s hard drive for granted – that is, until something goes wrong.
Common Hard Drive Problems
Because this storage unit is one of the most vital components on the machine, you may be asking, “how do I stop my hard drive from failing?”
The necessary actions will vary, depending on what is causing the issues to occur. Some are easy fixes, while others can be a nuisance to address.
Viruses and Other Malware
While viruses typically do not cause physical damage to hard drives–though it is within the realm of possibility–they and other forms of malware are well known to cause plenty of data corruption.
Any malicious code needs to load into memory and find its way throughout various (and hard to find) places on your hard drive. Viruses usually mask themselves as something else, in an attempt to stay hidden.
If you suspect your computer has a virus, you can immediately run antivirus software to locate and clean the hard drive, unless the situation has gotten so bad that you are unable to do much on your system at all.
Please keep in mind that this article isn’t meant to be a comprehensive step-by-step procedure on the subject of cleaning up malware intrusions. Instead, the focus here is on possible causes to hard drive failures, and some general remedies.
You can start with the built-in antivirus protection in Windows 10, though there are plenty of solutions on the market. From the search box on the taskbar, type in Windows Defender and select the app.
From there, choose Virus & threat protection and click on the Scan now button.
Beyond going to war with uninvited malware on your machine, a better course is to avoid such code in the first place. You can minimize the chances by a combination of antivirus software, an active firewall, and good practices.
Data and Sector Corruption
Files can become corrupted in a variety of ways. Applications that create files/data can run into some problem while saving, power surges or Windows shutting down abruptly/improperly, and, of course, the aforementioned virus issue.
Another reason can be the physical hardware itself. If a sector on the hard drive goes bad, the data stored on it becomes corrupted. You can scan for such defects and, if one or more bad sectors exist, Windows can flag them, and the system will avoid writing to them in the future.
Windows 10 does automatically check for physical hard drive problems, but you can manually scan any drive as well.
From the taskbar, search for This PC and select the app, right-click on the desired drive and choose properties. From there, select the Tools menu and then the Check button.
The hard drive saves files on a series of spinning magnetic disks. It uses an actuator arm that moves heads for reading and writing. In short, there are plenty of moving parts. This can equate to multiple points of failure.
Sometimes hardware will come defective from the factory or just wear out over time. In either case, you’ll likely need to contact the manufacturer or simply replace the hard drive.
You can help extend the life of your computer’s storage by doing such things as closing the Windows operating system down properly, using a surge protector, and ensuring there’s plenty of ventilation in your computer to avoid overheating.
Corrupt or Outdated Drivers
Every device on a Windows computer, including hard drives, requires software–known as device drivers–to communicate with the operating system. These drivers need to be kept current or the device may experience erratic behavior or fail to function altogether.
Avoid Device Driver-related Issues
Over time, you will update Windows and add/remove various hardware. As variables change on your computer, so may the types of device drivers needed.
Let Windows Find the Drivers for You
Windows can try to search for the correct drivers. To do this, go into the Device Manager by way of searching for it in the taskbar’s search box.
Right-click the device you seek and select Update driver.
From here, you’ll see two choices. Select the first one: “Search automatically for updated driver software.”
Search For and Install Drivers Yourself
Windows doesn’t always find the correct driver, so the next option would be for you to try and locate one yourself.
To find the right driver, you’ll first need the exact model of the device (and perhaps other details such as a serial number). Once you do locate the driver, download and unzip it to a location easily found later.
You can then follow the steps from before, but this time, select the second option: “Browse my computer for driver software.” This will allow you to drill down to the location of the recent driver you obtained.
Automate the Task of Updating Drivers
Still, you can choose an easier path going forward. There is software, such as Driver Support, that can automate the task of keeping drivers up to date. Not only will this remove the burden for finding the current driver you seek, but can also keep all your other devices current as well.
Some Final Thoughts on Hard Drive Issues
While you can’t necessarily predict when any particular hardware will fail, there are things you can do to help minimize it, or at least recover from it.
As with anything, regular maintenance of your hard drive can prolong its life and avoid data loss. Consider the following list, though not exhaustive.
- Keep antivirus software running and up to date.
- Ensure Windows is current on critical updates.
- Defragment the hard drive as needed.
- Avoid static electricity and power surges.
- Keep hard drive and other hardware drivers current.
- Back up your data regularly.
Even with the suggestions in this article, your (traditional) hard drive, with all its moving parts, may still be getting overworked. You can relieve some of the workload by investing in an external USB hard drive or even (cheaper) thumb drives.
Both are based on SSD (solid-state drive) technology. They’re basically memory chips and have no moving parts. SSD storage is also much faster than its hard drive (HDD) counterparts.
Driver Support Can Optimize Your Device Drivers
There is no need to do it alone. Once installed and fully registered, Driver Support will inventory your computer for all supported devices, updating any hardware with missing or outdated drivers.
Instead of spending your efforts on keeping drivers updated, use that time saved for backing up your data.