Hard drive failures can happen anytime, often without warning, and can cause loss of everything on your computer if it hasn’t been backed up. Sometimes you’ll get a few warning signs if a computer is displaying strange behavior, but many times it comes out of the blue, catching the user by surprise.
How long a hard drive lasts varies according to manufacturer. According to annual and quarterly studies by Backblaze, hard drives fail at a rate of 5.1% per year in the first 1.5 years of life. After 3 years of life, the failure rate more than doubles to 11.8% per year.
If you’ve ever had a hard drive crash, then you know how important it is to have a backup of your data or it may be lost forever. While some data can be resurrected through expert data recovery, sometimes the nature of the crash makes it impossible to recover it.
Why do hard drives crash and are there any warning signs you can watch out for? We’ll go through the main causes of crashes and discuss how to anticipate one might be coming.
What Causes Hard Drive Crashes?
There are several reasons that hard drives can crash, and no manufacturer is immune, but some drives are more susceptible to crashes than others.
The Backblaze report offers annual failure rates (AFR) for active drives through 2018, and found the following:
Toshiba models ranged from 0% to 3.03% AFR
Seagate models ranged from 0.33% to 2.13% AFR
HGST models ranged from 0.36% t0 1.58% AFR
Drive crashes are caused by these main reasons.
If the fan isn’t running properly, it can cause excess heat buildup inside a desktop or laptop. Improper ventilation also contributes this issue. That’s why many laptop manufacturers will state not to place the device on a soft surface (that could potentially block ventilation).
Heat buildup inside the case causes the components to overheat and can result in failures and shutdowns. This is a reason why data center temperature control is of vital importance in that industry.
Firmware or Manufacturer Problems
If a crash happens shortly after getting a new computer, then there is a good chance it’s a manufacturer fault due to not properly testing the drive and firmware before releasing it for sale. In most cases, you can fall back on the manufacturer warranty for a resolution.
The moving parts of a hard drive can wear out over time and cause failures. Mechanical failures can also be caused due to bad sectors and blocks in a hard disk or a virus attack designed to alter hard disk operation.
Keeping your system updated with patches regularly and ensuring you have a strong antivirus program can help ward off some of these mechanical failures.
It’s also important to remember that computers are typically designed to last 3-4 years, so if yours is older than that, you may want to consider upgrading because the longer its in service, the bigger chance of a hard drive crash.
If a computer has been dropped, has gotten wet, or had an electrical surge during a power outage, these can all cause catastrophic failure of the hard drive. The electrical parts inside aren’t designed to withstand water and aren’t shock resistant.
When dropped, a read-write head inside the drive can touch the magnetic platter, causing scratches on the platter surface, which can result in data loss that’s not recoverable.
Hard Drive Warning Signs that Signal a Potential Crash
In some cases, there are warning signs that you can watch for that might indicate an impending hard drive crash. Being aware of these will give you time to take action before your drive fails.
Strange Clicking Sounds
If the fan is slowing down or making strange sounds, that can indicate it has an obstruction (like dust bunnies) or the motor is wearing out. You’ll want to replace this before the PC ends up overheating.
System Freezes or Black Screen After Booting
If you’re experiencing strange behavior like a black screen after booting or unexplained system freezes, there is a chance that there is some type of internal mechanical failure.
Files & Folders Disappearing or Becoming Corrupt
A symptom of a possible virus intrusion is if your files are suddenly not opening due to a corruption error or files and folders are becoming invisible. If you see this type of behavior, you’ll want to do a virus scan as soon as possible.
New Computer that Hangs During Boot Process
If you have a newer computer or laptop that is having problems with the boot process or you get errors that the hard disk is undetectable, that’s a red flag that you may have bought a lemon and it’s a manufacturer problem.
Get a PC Checkup Today from Pro Tech Guy!
If you’re seeing any of the signs above of a potential hard drive failure, take action before it’s too late and contact Pro Tech Guy. We can quickly diagnose and repair issues for both Windows and Mac devices.
We’re here for you at 508-364-8189 and online.