smashed hard drive

5 Reasons Hard Drives Fail

Similar to a vehicle, a hard disk, or a hard drive as it is called, is a mechanical device (not an SSD). Also referred to as a mechanical hard drive, like other parts of your computer, it (hard drives) can sustain damage in multiple ways.

That said, unlike other parts of the computer, a mechanical hard drive is mechanical and electronic, which means it deals with both types of stress. Thus, a problem on either the electrical or mechanical side can lead to issues.

Why Do Hard Drives Commonly Fail?

Since they are mechanical devices, the drives are subject to wear and tear, even if you treat them with care. It is estimated that 60% of hard drives fail because of mechanical failure, and 40% may fail because they are misused. Common reasons for failure include:

  • The hard drive is dropped or bumped.
  • The motor in the hard drive fails, which leads to the hard drive not spinning up.
  • High temperatures damage the electronic circuit board, causing it to fail.
  • A sudden and abrupt power failure when the disc is writing can also do damage.

Let’s dive into each one of the most common types of hard drive failures below and what can be done to prevent it, if possible.

Mechanical Hard Drive Failures

Mechanical hard drive failures are a common occurrence. Most times, these result from physical damage to the hard drive. Physical damage usually leads to the hard disk platters that store your data getting scratched, or the read-write head which accesses your data crashing into the platters, leading to what is commonly referred to as a head crash.

The hard drive’s operation relies on the precise rotation of the disk at high speeds, typically 5400 or 7200 revolutions per minute (depending on the one you own). Any issues with the motor that spins the disk can fail, with symptoms such as clicking or grinding noises indicating a potential problem.

Mechanical failure is mainly caused by extensive use. Like almost everything else, repeated use can lead to degradation over time. Even if a drive is treated carefully and kept in ideal conditions, wear and tear can eventually cause mechanical parts to fail. This means older hard drives will most likely fail compared to newer ones.

Electronic Hard Disk Failures

Power surges are notorious for causing severe damage to a drive’s electronic components. A sudden spike or drop in the voltage supplied to the drive can destroy these components, often rendering the hard drive irreparable.

The heart of these electronic parts is the drive’s printed circuit board (PCB), a thin plate on which chips and other electronic components are placed. PCBs control all interactions within the hard drive, and problems within this can lead to a hard drive failing. Thus, even something like a capacitor failing or burning out can mean the hard drive fails entirely. That said, replacing the capacitor or a resistor, in this case, does not necessarily mean that you should then use the operational hard drive for anything beyond copying data to a new drive.

However, in rare cases, compatibility issues with the system’s motherboard can also lead to an electronic failure. If the drive and motherboard do not interact correctly, it can result in problematic drive errors, which usually surface via warning messages or a drive not recognized by the system.

Corrupted Software

Software corruption can pose a significant problem, leading to hard drive failure. A common problem is file system corruption, which can lead to the hard drive failing. This can happen for various reasons, including faulty software, power failures, or abrupt system shutdowns.

Plus, the installation of malicious software can also trigger these issues. Certain types of malware are designed to specifically cause this problem, progressively damaging the hard drive’s file system.

Additionally, errors originating from improper system upgrades can also cause software corruption. Sometimes, an upgrade can go wrong, deleting or corrupting files needed for the hard drive to function correctly. However, most software-related hard drive problems are comparatively easier to address.

Excessive Heat

Excessive heat can also damage a hard drive. Constant high temperatures can degrade the physical and electronic components, especially if the drive is enclosed in a poorly ventilated case.

Modern computer systems use fans and heat sinks to cool down their components. When these components fail or do not perform effectively, the resulting heat can lead to drive malfunctions.

Heating-related issues are usually caused when the computer is placed in a location with high temperatures or if the hard drive is working beyond its capacity. Thus, as part of extending the longevity of your hard drive and computer system in general, it is essential that the system runs in a temperature-controlled environment where it does not get too hot.

Human Errors

Human errors can also lead to hard drive failures. Accidental deletion or formatting of the hard drive is not uncommon and can lead to immense data loss and potential drive failure.

Incorrect modifications of system settings can also result in challenging drive issues. Incorrect BIOS settings or system configuration can lead to conflicts that, if unresolved, can render a drive inoperable.

Physical mishandling or improper installation also falls under human errors. Sometimes, our unawareness or neglect while installing or handling a hard drive can have severe consequences.

Final Word

In essence, understanding these primary causes of failure can equip you with the knowledge needed to prevent hard drive failure. However, it is worth reiterating that you still can’t save a hard drive from mechanical wear and tear. If you’ve been using a mechanical hard drive for a few years, it would be worth ensuring your data is backed up onto another hard drive or the cloud.

If you hear strange clicking sounds or motor winding sounds that were not there prior, make sure that you replace the hard drive right away. If the hard drive failed and you had important data that was not backed up, then send the drive to us at Flashback Data, we are an experienced company specializing in data recovery, and that’s the only sure way to get your data back.