If you have had your PC for several years there is a risk that your computers hard drive might start to develop a few serious problems and finally fail. This is hardly surprising because any piece of hardware that has moving parts and is a precision instrument is likely to fail if it is used often and for a long time.
So what are some of the warning signs that point to a hard drives ultimate demise?
There are certainly a few warning signs that should encourage you to back up all your important files before it's to late.
Watch out for any disappearing files, long waits while trying to access files or folders, folders whose files are suddenly corrupt or damaged, recurring error messages that pop up as you attempt to create, move, copy or delete files and frequent unexplained crashes of your operating system.
To check whether the drive is failing you can make use of the Windows chkdsk program.
To access chkdsk's quick scan, with no drive corrections being made, click Start and then Run. Type in the Run box cmd and press Enter and type chkdsk 'X' ('X' being the drive you want to check. So if your boot drive is C you should type chkdsk C: ).
If you want to access chkdsk's full scan with attempts to correct bad drive sectors type chkdsk C: /R at the cmd prompt.
If you want to access chkdsk's full scan with attempts to correct file system errors type chkdsk C: /F at the cmd prompt.
A sure sign that hard drive failure is imminent is any loud, irregular clicking or grinding noise made by the drive itself.
At this stage if your drive is very important to you, and you haven't got a full back up of all your files, you should turn off your computer immediately. With the drive turned off the chance of doing any additional damage is greatly reduced. Now you can decide what to do next.
If the hard drives contents are vitally important you should try and copy the data to another storage medium that is attached to the PC. Another internal hard drive would be ideal but there are alternative options that can be used to store all your important files. For example, an external hard drive, a Network Attached Storage Device (NAT device) or a set of DVD's. You could also send the files over a network to another PC. If the drive is about to fail it's best to transfer your most important files first, followed by the rest of the files.
If the whole drive is truly important to you it may just be better to turn off your PC, disconnect your drive and contact a specialist company like our partner Kroll Ontrack® Data Recovery who will be able recover your data in a prompt and professional way.
A clicking or grinding noise from a hard drive can indicate a head crash, corrupt firmware on the drive's ROM chip, an electrical problem like a burned chip, blown heads, a bad pcb controller, overwritten servo's, damage to the hard drive's platters and alignment issues from being dropped, jarred or a power surge.
If your system blue screens whenever you try to boot or during the middle of an operation, it can mean that the operating system has been damaged, there may be bad sectors on your hard drive that the system is unable to read, your hard drive could be failing, you might have a virus or trojan, someone may have deleted critical dll's or system files, the partition or file structure may have become corrupted or damaged.
A drive not formatted error usually indicates the hard drive's partition has been damaged, deleted or corrupted. It can be caused by a virus, a hard re-boot, a power outage or surge, disc partitioning utilities and sometimes updating software, anti-virus programs or simply installing new software can damage a partition.
The most common reason a computer keeps re-booting over and over is because the boot sector has been hijacked by a virus that creates a continuous loop. It keeps telling the system to go back to the boot sector and re-boot.
If your system freezes or hangs while you are trying to boot into Windows or while accessing a file or program, it usually indicates that there are bad sectors on the hard drive and the system is unable to access the information it needs to open the file or load the program. It can be caused by a corrupt file or shared program files that have conflicting call procedures or too many system resources are being used (the system memory gets full or overloaded).
If you ever get a message telling you the drive is not ready - 'hard drive or device not found' - it could mean the hard drive is bad, the boot priority in bios has been changed, the partition structure is damaged, or a virus has infected your system.
An 'operating system not found' message typically means that the operating system files are damaged, the boot device priority has been changed, the partition table is damaged or the hard drive has been formatted.
Beware - you can also get this warning if you leave a flash drive connected to a USB port when you start up your PC.
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