Hard Drive Health

Published 29 April 2019

Hard Drive Disks (HDDs), while being one of the most vital components of your computer, are finite in their lifespan and prone to failure after a few years of use.

Since the HDD houses all the vital information your computer needs to run (OS software, program files, hardware divers), as well as your valuable files (photos, documents etc), it’s logical that one would do what they can to keep it healthy, and be ready to act should HDD failure be eminent*. So here are some tips to keep your HDD healthy:

  1. Make sure your computer/laptop’s cooling fans are running optimally, and that its kept in a well-ventilated area away from potential overheating/dust/spillage hazards.

  2. Open your machine to thoroughly clean out the accumulation of dust at least once a year (CAUTION: Make sure your machine is turned off and disconnected from its power source while doing this. At no point should you remove your HDD from its protective case either).

  3. Handle your computer/laptop gently, as bumping or dropping it can cause damage to the mechanical parts of your HDD.

  4. For computers running on an older OS, using the de-fragmenting tool when the HDD has reached about 15% fragmentation can help prolong its lifespan as well as slightly increase your machine’s operating speed.

Even after the best care, your HDD/ SSD will eventually reach its end-of-life. Sometimes it gives off warning signs at this stage, such as a mechanical clicking or grinding noise, frequent boot-up problems, or missing/corrupted files. When it reaches this point, its high time to back up your files onto a new drive and/or a cloud service#, as well as clone your drive.

There are a few tools you can use to monitor the health of your HDD. If you’re using a Windows OS, then the CHKDSK and S.M.A.R.T (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) tools are helpful. Most manufacturers also provide their own HDD monitoring software which your can download off their website, such as Seagate's SeaTools app. There are also third-party programs one can use, like HDDScan or CrystalDiskInfo. By using any one of these, you can take preemptive action to protect your data, and avoid nasty (expensive) surprises.

* In this article we spoke about the benefits of having a Solid State Drive (SSD) over an HDD. Just don’t forget that while an SSD lacks the mechanical components that make platter-based HDD’s so fallible, they too will wear out with time and likewise need to be monitored for health.

# We also mentioned in a previous article the importance of backing up your data, which you’ll be immensely grateful for if your HDD/SSD suddenly packs up without warning (especially considering that data-recovery services can cost you thousands)

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