It’s that heart-stopping moment when your computer has a hard disk problem. In an instant, all your photos, videos, music, files, unfinished novels, and almost anything else can disappear in an instant. So how can you protect yourself from this worst-case scenario? We’ve put together a guide to the signs you can look out for and the steps you can take: here’s how to check if your hard drive is dying.
Before we look at ways to detect any problems with your hard drive, the first thing you need to do is back up your precious data. If you’re already in the habit of backing up regularly that’s great, but if it’s been a while, we recommend doing it now. It may run in the background while you read the rest of this article.
Take a quick look at our How to Back Up Windows 10 if you’re not sure what to do, and also our Best Backup Software of 2017 if you want more options.
What are the symptoms of hard disk failure?
It is difficult to predict exactly when a disk will fail, but there are some common signals that can indicate that your memory is running low.
If you notice your system starting to slow down it could be an early warning. Malicious behavior will often occur when you are accessing the disk, such as launching programs, searching for files, and saving documents, but it can also be general sluggishness. This can also be caused by other factors now, so check out our How to Speed Up Windows guide to narrow down the culprit.
Once you’ve used your computer for a while, you’ll know the sound it makes. There aren’t many these days, but new ones like clicking or grinding or even ‘beep’ need to be taken very seriously. If you hear these noises when using the machine then there is a good chance that something is wrong with your hard drive and continued use will only cause your hard drive to crash.
File is corrupted
Another error you may see is an increasing number of corrupted files or ‘blue screens of death’. So if you find yourself saving documents or similar items but when you reload them they get corrupted, a faulty disk could also be the cause.
How to use the Check Disk feature in Windows
Windows has long had a built-in drive analysis feature called Check Disk (or chkdsk). This looks for errors, corruption, and bad sectors on the drive that could be causing the problem. It won’t tell you that a disk needs replacing, but if you run it regularly you’ll see if the number of errors is growing. It’s also just a useful tool to keep your drive in a healthy state.
To run Check Disk, you need to open File Explorer, select This PC, and then right-click on the drive you want to check. A pop-up menu will appear at the bottom which is Properties.
Click here, then select the Tools tab at the top of the new window that appears.
Here you will see an area called Error Checking. Click the Check option and Windows will check the drive. This can take a long time, so make sure to run this when you don’t need to use your computer.
How do I check the health of my hard drive?
One of the best free third-party options for monitoring your drives is the DiskCheckup by Passmark software. This uses the SMART features found on most drives and allows it to detect when problems may arise. SMART (Self-Monitoring Analytics and Reporting Technology) looks at various properties on the disk to see if performance has degraded, and programs like DiskCheckup allow users to view reports based on information. believe that.
It is not a summary information, as SMART cannot tell whether a drive is dying or just naturally failing, but it does give the user a complete view of the current state of the drive. and suggest when it should be replaced.
DiskCheckup is compatible with Windows 7, 8 and 10, plus the personal version is completely free.
It’s also important to note that many hard disk manufacturers have their own diagnostic software for free on their websites. If you know what makes up your drive then downloading the corresponding program would be a logical move.
Paid diagnostic software
If you’re willing to spend a bit of money on your diagnostic software, the first place you should go is the Gibson Research Corporation website. When you first arrive you may find yourself quite skeptical about the aesthetics – the site looks like something out of Geocities in the 1990s – but don’t let this discourage you. This is the home of SpinRite, a legendary drive monitoring and data recovery application loved by many users.
The software has five levels of activity, from simple scans to sector recovery, and is generally assumed to be dead drives when rerun. It’s not cheap, but quality software is rarely available. You can currently buy the SpinRite V6 for around £70, and we think it’s a purchase definitely worth considering.
That’s it, some tips and tools can hopefully help you avoid any data tragedies. If you find that your drive needs replacing or you just want to give your system a performance boost, then check out our guide on How to Install an SSD in Your PC.
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