Imagine the horrors that could result from your hard drive dying all of a sudden! The bad news is, sudden, unexpected failure of hard drive is a very real possibility. You can forget about recovering any important data, unless of course, you had the foresight of making a reliable backup of your hard drive beforehand. Importance of backing up critical data can thus, not be overstated. The good news is, in most cases, your computer (laptop or PC) will give you signs to warn of an impending failure.

Stationary hard drives typically last between 5 and 10 years – the actual life depending upon several factors like the type of drive, manufacturer and maintenance by the user. The keyword here is stationary. In the case of laptops and external hard drives, which are subject to motion and strong vibrations, life expectancy drops to 3 to 5 years.

Suspect your computer may be troubled by a dying hard drive? Immediately back your data up, check for the following signs and keeping in mind the number of years you’ve had the hard drive, decide whether you should have it repaired or replaced.

How you can tell if your computer hard drive is dying

Would you believe that advancements in computer technology have in fact, made it more difficult to detect a dying hard drive? Several tells of an impending hard drive death such as sporadic read and write failures, which were used in the past to foretell hard drive mishaps, have been eliminated now.

In computers of the present day, there exist two classes of indicators – 1) performance-related and, 2) sound-related. Here are five of such indications your computer will give you:

1. The blue screen of death

If your computer crashes frequently or you are shown the blue screen of death on a regular basis, your hard drive is possibly dying. Increased crashes and screen freezes are often the earliest signs of a drive going bad. This happens usually when you try to access a file stored on the problematic area of the hard drive.

A good idea is to restart the computer and try accessing those files again. If the computer freezes again, or crashes, or experiences a fatal system error such that the blue screen of death comes up, it’s time to get a quick and reliable backup.

2. The click of death

It is normal for your computer to make some noises. However, repeated popping, clunking, clicking and clanging sounds, mechanical scrapes, grinding, screeching or any other funny noises are symptoms of a failing hard drive.

3. Slow start-up and/or processing speeds

A slowing computer can indicate a legion of problems and not just an impending drive failure. However, if your hard drive takes unusually long to boot or disk takes long time to come up, it is a sure-fire indication that the drive is overworked. The overworking can be either because your computer has a lot of applications that need to be initialized during start-up, or because intermittent read/write failures have occurred and the drive is trying to compensate for them.

A more specific symptom is when slow start-up is combined with slow processing. If it takes very long to save files or move files suddenly from one location to another, your drive is dying.

4. Arbitrary, unexplained errors

Random errors are more often than not, signs of a failing hard drive. If your hard disk is unable to locate the master file tables, your drive LEDs keep glowing continuously, data gets corrupted and some files are lost arbitrarily, you can expect a fatal drive failure anytime soon. Similarly, an accumulation of bad sectors in your disk report, say when you run the check disk command (chkdsk) or any other full format function, is a sure tell of a dying disk.

5. Unusually high temperature

Just like your body warns you of a problem by raising its temperature, your computer runs hot when there is a problem. It is common for specific parts that are experiencing difficult to run at higher temperatures. It is also possible that the entire computer heats up and runs at an usually high temperature. Therefore, if you find the hard disk drive to be hotter than others in the same enclosure, you can be sure it is only a matter of time before the drive dies.

When you see one or more of these symptoms, back critical data up on CDs, DVDs, external hard drives or internet-based storage media to prevent the catastrophe that can occur with sudden hard drive failure.

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