There’s an old adage among computer geeks that goes something like this: “It’s not a question of IF your hard disk will fail, but WHEN.” Usually, the failure will not be a sudden; drives normally fail gradually over time. If you know the warning signs of impending disk failure, you’ll save yourself from losing your files. In order of least important to most important, here are the four early warning signs of hard disk drive failure:
1. Your computer slows to a crawl while loading or saving files. The hourglass just sits there and spins. The file may or may not load or you get an error.
2. Your computer frequently hangs up and you lose all control. The keyboard and mouse don’t work and you are forced to use the power button to shut down. The keyword here is frequently. Don’t fret over the occasional, and inevitable, software lockup.
3. File loss or corruption. You know the file was there the last time you looked. Now it’s gone. Or, you open the file and there is gibberish interspered with readable text. Multimedia files may begin to skip or look garbled.
4. Your computer frequently hangs up while booting or you get a message saying “One of your disks needs to be checked for consistency…” All computers get this occasionally, but if it’s happening all the time it means your drive is in imminent danger of failure.
What do you do if you notice any of the early warning signs? First, immediately back up all of your files by copying them to whatever backup media you normally use (you ARE backing up, aren’t you?). Then get yourself a copy of Steve Gibson’s Spinrite — the best hard drive repair and recovery software available, bar none. Run Spinrite on the failing drive. I’ve seen “failed” hard drives run for years after having been repaired with Spinrite.
But if you have a complete hard drive failure, don’t panic, click on the Seagate Recovery Services banner above.
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