How to recognize a broken HDD

Clacking, clicking noises, a slow PC, files and folders opening sluggishly - these can be signs that the hard drive is defective.

How to recognize a broken HDDHow to recognize a broken HDD

Clacking, clicking noises, a slow PC, files and folders opening sluggishly - these can be signs that the hard drive is defective. Wear and tear sets in over time and if it breaks completely, the worst-case scenario is that the files are gone. But don't panic, there are ways to save the data.

The hard drive: physical and digital storage media

A hard drive is not equal to a hard drive. The causes of defects can be different.

First, you should determine whether the problem is with the physical hard drive or the file system.

When it comes to physical hard drives, a distinction is made between HDD (Hard Disk Drives) and SSD (Solid State Drive).

The former is the legacy, large physical storage media with tens of terabytes of space.

Inside is a magnetic disk on which the data is written. There are many mechanical parts in play that can suffer from wear and tear over time.

The solid state drives, on the other hand, are more like a large USB stick. They offer less space but are significantly faster.

Error sources and causes differ depending on the type of hard disk.

Then there is the file system. Windows usually use NTFS, and mobile devices tend to use FAT32 or EXFAT.

In some cases, the problem is not the result of physical defects but is based on a corrupt file system.

hard drive clicks

Hard drives that are not SSDs have mechanical components. These can wear out over time and break down, which can be noticeable acoustically.

Not always, but it can be worth paying attention to. Clicks and rattles when switching on can occur without there having to be a defect.

However, if the hard drive clicks, rattles and clatters in the middle of use, then a total failure could be imminent. It might be the read or write head.

The best thing to do then is to switch off the computer or start saving the most important data immediately.

Grinding and scratching

Hard drive defective

Grinding and scratching noises indicate serious damage to the surface of the magnetic discs.

This will scratch the magnetic discs. Certain areas of the hard drive are then no longer accessible since tiny particles are formed that settle on the surface and thus make it unreadable.

If you hear scratching and grinding noises, you should switch the computer off and not on again, and preferably take the hard drive to a laboratory.

Beeping hard drive

Beeping and beeping from the HDD is often a symptom of a defective VCM driver. This is a component connected to the coil, which is important for engine and sensor control.

As soon as the writing or reading unit of the hard disk no longer works properly, the electrical voltage of the VCM increases and the hard disk makes a beeping noise.

Under no circumstances should you ignore beeping noises. The best thing to do is to start backing up your data immediately, then switch off the PC and take the hard drive to a laboratory.

If it is an external hard drive, make sure that the device has also been properly deregistered.

Avoid all forms of bumps and shocks with internal and external hard drives while taking them to a lab.

Error with an SSD hard drive

SSDs are usually very robust, and defects are rare. The fault then usually lies in poor workmanship, which is noticeable shortly after installation.

A relatively common defect is overvoltage damage to the SSD controllers. The result is then the total failure of the hardware. Apart from the failure of the hard disk, such a defect is also noticeable as a high-temperature development.

High heat development

A high-temperature development can also have other causes, which usually have something to do with the power supply of the device.

If you're lucky, the data is still accessible. Only the hard disk reacts much more slowly.

In this case, first, check whether the ventilation of the PC is working properly. Under certain circumstances, the high heat development is only due to a lack of ventilation.

Alternatively, tools can be downloaded that display the temperatures of SSDs. Temperatures of 60 degrees are still acceptable, but anything above that is questionable.

What can be done now?

Hard drive defective

Whether HDD or SSD, if the hard drive has a serious physical error, then there are only two things you can do.

Rescue the most important data as quickly as possible and then send the hard drive to a laboratory.

Not every IT specialist is cut out to fix a hard drive, so going to a lab is a better bet.

Windows checks for bad sectors

If the hard drive fails, it can lead to frequent crashes and blue screens. Hardware or bad sectors can be to blame.

If Windows frequently checks the hard disk for bad sectors when booting, then caution is advised. Every now and then, bad sectors can appear and Windows can repair them as well.

If not, then it uses spare sectors. If this happens too often, Windows will eventually run out of sectors.

A hard drive is not recognized

Windows may no longer recognize the hard drive. This can be caused by incorrect boot sectors or the wrong partition style.

You may be prompted to format the disk. Then it's best to follow the instructions.

Check partitions for errors

Windows has its own tool to check disk for errors: Chdsk. This can be used to identify bad sectors, lost allocation units and directory errors.

Start Chdsk by right-clicking on a hard drive and then clicking Properties.

Then go to Tools and click Check under Error Checking. Then select "Scan Drive". The process can take a few minutes.

Save data

Even if the hard drive is defective, you may still be able to recover your data. If Windows is also installed on the hard disk, it is advisable to remove the hard disk and connect it to another PC.

If you are asked whether you want to format the data carrier when you connect it, say no. The data, individual sectors or partitions can then be restored with a data recovery tool such as Recuva, PC Inspector File Recovery or TestDisk & PhotoRec. If that doesn't work, then only a professional company remains.

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How to recognize a broken HDD
Clacking, clicking noises, a slow PC, files and folders opening sluggishly - these can be signs that the hard drive is defective.
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