After three years, a hard drive has an annual 12% failure rate. This suggests that about half of all hard drives will be inoperable after five years. It could spell the unexpected end of precious, irreplaceable files, as well as your entire operating system.
Although you’re bound to experience drive failure eventually, preventative hard drive maintenance can help you prolong the life of your device and avoid some infuriating inconveniences like having to purchase and install an expensive new drive.
Don’t become a victim of data loss. Keeping your hard drive healthy is a simple task for computer users of all skill levels. Just follow these seven tips for avoiding hard drive failure.
1. Use the Defragment Tool
Hard drives have a peculiar way of saving data. The method is simple enough: when you download a program or save data, the hard drive stores this information in its first encounter with empty space.
Makes sense so far, right?
Well, when you delete files, this data still occupies space on your hard drive. New data has to be saved deeper on the drive and may become fragmented and divided into separated chunks.
In short, your hard drive becomes less efficient and must work harder to compensate. That’s not great for its lifespan.
Use the Defragment and Optimize Drives tool that comes with Windows to reorganize your files from time to time. By default, your computer should schedule this task automatically, but it’s a wise move to check yourself.
2. Clean Your Machine
The number one cause of hardware failure is poor heat management. This is very rarely the fault of your computer case.
With both intake and outtake fans, a computer circulates air like an air filter. And just like a filter, it can pick up anything that comes along for the ride. Dust, hair, and everything else is liable to coat your internal hardware after a few months.
And all this extra mass retains heat and reduces the power of your circulation system. To keep things running at their optimum temperature, open your computer case at least once a year and remove the build-up with a can of compressed air.
3. Rely on a Surge Protector
Another cause of hardware complications? An unexpected power surge. If your computer is running during a storm, an electrical fluctuation is a real possibility.
And that could spell the end for your hard drive, as well as your entire computer. Computer instruments are so sensitive that a small static shock can render them inoperable. Just imagine what a jolt of excess electricity can do.
Protect your investment by always plugging your computer into a surge protector. If your socket experiences a fluctuation while in use, the protector will take the brunt of it.
4. Monitor With Check Disk
Recent versions of the Windows operating system come with a hard drive examination tool. Known as chkdsk, this utility can repair errors accumulating on your drive before it experiences a full-fledged hard drive crash.
To run chkdsk, open the command prompt with Windows key + X and run it as administrator. Now, simply type chkdsk in the prompt followed by the letter of your drive and press enter.
The tool may take about half an hour to finish examining your drive. Once concluded, chkdsk will alert you of any errors and inform you if it was able to repair them without your assistance.
5. Configure Power Saving
For thrifty computer users, Microsoft added power save configurations. These customizable features give you better control of your PC’s performance as well as how fast and frequently your hardware operates. By using a power-saving mode with reduced performance, your hard drive will spin down while not in use.
This can significantly reduce the wear and tear of your hard drive over the years. To configure your power saving mode, type Power and Sleep Settings into the start menu. In this panel, click Additional Power Settings and choose the Power Saver option.
6. Check the Hard Drive Mount
A collection of mounting screws pins your hard drive to the drive bay, ensuring it doesn’t bounce around your case and damage other components. These screws serve a dual purpose, however. Since a hard drive contains moving parts, it can shake and vibrate as well as the computer case itself.
These vibrations aren’t benign. They could destroy your drive’s sensitive platters if left unchecked for too long.
From time to time, it’s a good idea to pop your case open and search for loose screws. You can sometimes hear or feel the vibrations by holding a hand to your computer, too.
7. Create a Backup Drive
There’s no avoiding a drive failure. It’s an inevitability, even if your excellent maintenance squeezes a few more years out of the component.
Even with a new hard drive, it’s paramount that you create regular backups. If you have a small number of essential files, you may be able to get by with the help of a cloud-based system or USB. For much larger backups, connect an external hard drive to safely store this information.
Most hard drive cloning tools come with an automatic data backup feature which can streamline the process if you keep your backup disk physically installed at all times.
Keep a Hard Drive Failure at Bay
Ignoring the health and expected lifespan of your hard drive is a surefire way to encounter a major headache down the road. Following a drive failure, you’ll lose access to all the data on the drive. And getting it back isn’t always a cheap, fast, or easy endeavor.
But you know what is easy? Following these tips to maintain the health of your hard drive — and create a few backups just in case.
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