Hard drives usually last for a couple of years and is quite sturdy. But sometimes, especially old hard drives, there may come to a point that problems will arise. Here are some symptoms where you may consider a problem with your hard drive. Please take note that this may differ from PC to PC and is not an assurance that you have the same problem. However, you can try some of the steps if you’re having similar symptoms.
If you notice that your operating system (i.e. Windows XP) is starting to load very slowly even if you don’t have programs that run on startup, a defective or worn-out hard drive may cause it. The chances that it really is the hard drive that’s failing is when you try and reinstall your operating system and it still starts up longer than expected. Let’s say you usually wait for 3 minutes for everything to load up until you reach the desktop and suddenly it takes more than 5 minutes to load up a fresh install of your operating system, it could be your hard drive that’s causing it.
Another important symptom that you could observe is when you boot up your PC. For example, if you have a Windows XP PC, before you reach the loading screen it will go through a Power On Self Test (POST) where you can see your processor, memory, and the drives that your system detected. If your pc is having a hard time locating your hard drive (if you reset your PC and it appears than when you reset it again, the hard drive isn’t detected), it could be a tell tale sign that you have a failing hard drive. You would often encounter the error message, “Disk Boot Failure”. This is because your hard drive wasn’t detected and if your operating system is in that hard drive, your system won’t be able to start up.
Another symptom is when you try to load files; small applications take minutes to load if you have a failing hard drive. This could be the case if you have a powerful processor and a large amount of memory (say, 2GB). There are also some disk drive checkers out there that you could use to check the performance of your hard drives. If the results you encountered are nowhere near what your hard drive is supposed to have, your hard drive may be failing or it already needs maintenance.
Here are some tips to at least eliminate possibilities. Try your hard drive on another computer. If the other PC can’t detect it, there’s a high probability that it’s already failing. Try to change your IDE or SATA cables (the cables that connect your hard drives to the mother board) and if the symptoms are still the same, it’s a possible hard drive failure. You can also remove all disk drives (CD, DVD, and hard drives) except the one that you want to check. If there is still a problem, it could be the hard drive especially if you put back all the drives and they’re working fine.
Nothing is more depressing than losing all the data in your hard drive. I would suggest that if you suspect that your hard drive is failing, back up your files immediately. Record all your data in a DVD or on another hard drive to make sure. Prevention and maintenance would also help to at least lengthen the life of your hard drive and maintain efficiency. Defrag your hard drive often so your hard drive will take less effort to look for your files thus lessen the time you’d need to wait. Check your hard drive’s physical status. Type “cmd” in the run button in the Start menu and type “chkdsk x:” where x is the drive letter that you want to check. It should at say if there are any bad sectors which could be physical damage to your hard drive.
Hard drive problems are usually one of the hardest PC parts to diagnose since a lot of other factors come into play that could emulate a failing hard drive (motherboard, processor, memory problems, etc) and you won’t know immediately that it is the one causing the problems. A 5 year old hard drive may still work fine but there is a chance that it may already fail. Try all options and ask around if you are unsure.