Why do hard Drives Fail?
Since hard drives are mechanical devices, they will all eventually fail. While some may not fail prematurely, many hard drives simply fail because of worn out parts.
Heat, Vibration, Static Electricity, Dust, Power Surges, Friction of Internal Parts, Dropping the PC/Laptop are all culprits behind hard drive failures.
How can you tell when a Hard Drive is Failing?
Here are a few reasons for a failing hard drive:
# You may start to notice intermittent read/write failures
# The hard drive LED light never goes off
# Unexplained crashes of your operating system
# Running CHKDSK shows bad sectors
# The hard drive takes a long time to come up
# Accessing, opening, or saving files are taking an awfully long time
At this point you will want to:
# Make sure you have a BACKUP of your data!
# Perform a test on your hard drive to check for possible failure
I talk about performing backups elsewhere in this website, so let’s look at checking your hard drive for errors….
Checking your Hard Drive
The first point to make here is that NOT ALL odd occurrences mean your hard drive is failing. It could be a virus, file corruption, damaged boot area, hardware conflict or even a power lead coming loose!
The second point is, unless you know what you are doing NEVER remove the hard drive from the computer…
What we are going to do is simply run a small utility to run a “diagnostic” on the physical drive so see if there are any issues you need to be warned about.
You can do this one of 2 ways:
#1 – Use the manufacturers hard drive diagnostic utility
I find these very useful if the hard drive is causing problems loading the operating system and/or keeps crashing after a few minutes of use, as they do not require Windows to be running. (They usually run in DOS and boot from a Floppy or CD Drive.)
You will need to know the manufacturer of your hard drive and download the files needed from their website.
Samsung Hard Drive Diagnostic Utility
#2 – Use a 3rd Party Diagnostic Utility
If you are only at the stage of suspecting that you have a possible issue with your hard drive, and windows is stable enough. Then I suggest using a 3rd party utility to inspect your hard drive. This is also the best option for the non-technical user.
There are a few applications on the market. My favourite is HD Tune
There are 2 versions available
HD Tune (The basic version free for personal use.)
HD Tune Pro (The fully featured version with a 15 day trial.)
They are available from:
I suggest you download the Pro version as it has more diagnostics and you get a full 15 days to trial the utility.
Don’t get bogged down in all the tests and results. There is an excellent manual that is in the folder where the utility gets installed (Program Files > HD Tune Pro > hdtunepro.pdf).
I suggest running the following:
Error Scan: scans the surface for physical errors, should be ALL green!
File Benchmark: measures the file performance on your hard drive.
In general the “write” values are going to be higher than the “read” times. If you see any widley varying results then this may be an indicator of potential problems.
Extra Tests: includes several quick tests to show the most important performance parameters (read/write).
The results I would pay attention to are: Sequential read outer / Sequential read middle / Sequential read inner
The “inner” time should be the higher figure. Again if the results vary widley then there may be a potential problem.
You do need to use your judgement when interpreting the results. However if there is any sign of odd results make sure your data is fully backed up and consult a professional PC repair person.
Marc Liron – Ex-Microsoft MVP (2004-2010)
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