Ways to Prevent Hard Drive Failure (And How to Recover If It Happens)

The worst thing that can happen to any Mac – and PC – user is turning on their computer on one sunny day only to find it completely inoperable (disclaimer: this actually happened to me on a sunny New Years Day a few years ago – it was a great way to start the year with a bang). Apparently, it was due to a hard drive failure.

If you have not experienced this, consider yourself rather fortunate: having your hard disk fail is devastating, especially if you have been using your computer for quite a while and it contains all of your important files. Luckily, there are warning signs that tell if it’s about to crash, giving you a chance to somehow prolong its life and more importantly, create backups of all your files before it’s too late.

Here are the signs that your hard drive is on the verge of collapse

Like a sickness, a failing hard drive show the symptoms before it croaks. And no, these are not subtle signs: they are prominent and are likely to cause a major disturbance.

  • Data corruption. If your files are always corrupted and refuse to be opened, it’s a sign your hard drive is malfunctioning and incapable of storing files.
  • Noise. The hard drive is a machine and if it’s making unusually loud noises, then there could be a mechanical issue hounding it.

Take note though, this is pretty unpredictable: these signs may appear any time and before you know it, a hard drive failure is already imminent. SSD hard drives rarely display warning signs, so be wary.

If your hard drive is dead, it’s hard to recover the data. But here’s some things you can try

Let’s say the worst-case scenario happens and your hard drive is now a dead duck. Here are some easy steps you can take to try to recover your files:

  • First off, check if it’s really dead. Your first deed should be to transfer the hard disk into another computer. If it’s fine after doing so, it’s likely your computer that has a problem, not the hard disk.
  • If the computer is ok and is somehow operable, copy your files to the cloud or to an external hard disk. Be wary of your computer crashing while transferring files though.
  • Check the warranty. If your hard drive is still under warranty, you can still have it fixed or replaced by the manufacturer. They will also try to recover your data.
  • Data recovery software. Although majority of them are paid software, there are free ones. For Windows computers, Recuva is the best option, while for Mac users, Disk Drill is good enough.
  • If all else fails, hire an expert to do it for you. Sure, it may cost you extra, but doing so will likely give you your money’s worth.

If you are reading this, hopefully you can take some precautionary measures for your hard drive before it crashes

As they say, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

The steps in preventing hard drive failure are simple and trivial, we daresay. Regardless if it’s showing signs of wear and tear or if it’s completely healthy, here are some tips which will help prolong its life and keep it functional:

  • First off, ensure that your computer’s ventilation system is operating properly. If not, either have it replaced or cleaned: dust on the cooling fans can cause any computer to overheat. It’s best to have a small electric fan cool it down from the outside. Also, be sure to clear dust and debris from the interior of your CPU – and yes, you can use a vacuum (as long as your computer is off).
  • Regular defragment. Doing so will not only prevent hard drive failure, but also keep in efficient and up for the strenuous demands of everyday work. Plus, it’ll also speed up the performance of your computer and make it work more efficiently. Try to perform this on a weekly basis.
  • Have a stable power source. Use a surge protector or a UPS  (by a trusted manufacturer) to prevent shield your hard disk from damaging power surges. Black outs can also take a toll on your hard disk as well.
  • Delete and uninstall unneeded software. Basically, the more files you have installed, the harder your hard disk works. If there are programs you installed three years ago but have since them remained unused, uninstall them. Remember, merely deleting them won’t work: you need to uninstall them to get rid of the associated files as well.
  • Be informed. Do not listen to hearsay from alleged techies – take advice from people who have worked with computers. Read tips and guides from well-known and reputable tech sites. Also, before you start fiddling with your PC’s interior, be sure that you know what you’re doing.


Overall, a hard drive failure can easily be prevented, but it pays to NOT be complacent. Take the above mentioned tips into consideration and before to perform them to keep your computer functioning like a tireless workhorse!

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