How To Know if Your Hard Drive is Fried

Nothing is worse than waking up one Monday morning before your work presentation is due only to discover that your hard drive is fried.

Despite all the advances in modern computer technology, hard drives remain one of the most vulnerable components in a PC.  A hard drive, the place where all your files and software are stored, is made up of very high-speed platters spinning around with one or more read heads moving across the top of each platter in order to read and write information.  Imagine something like a record player, except that the platters are much smaller than a record and move at about 7,200 RPM instead of 45!

Due to the physical nature of a hard drive, high speed platters, reading and writing of magnetically stored data from delicate hard drive heads, heat buildup, etc. it is no wonder why hard drives can fail.  Sometimes they fail immediately (i.e., in the case of a defective hard drive or the user dropping it off a desk) but sometimes they fail gradually (i.e., the bearings upon which the platters spin gradually wear out).  In either case, there are a few easy ways to figure out if your hard drive is fried.

  • If your hard drive never made any serious noises in the past but suddenly becomes vocal, it is time to worry.  If you hear clicking, clunking, buzzing, or other noises that sound like an alien beamed down to probe you with extra-terrestrial medical equipment, it's probably time to get a new hard drive.  These strange sounds more than likely indicate that your hard disk is about ready to take a dump.


  • If your computer starts to crash frequently but in a haphazard way (especially during booting), that probably means numerous sectors on the platters are starting to go bad.  This is just another example of your hard drive getting fried.


  • If you get strange error messages that you never saw before (dialog boxes, blue screens of death, etc.) your hard drive is soon to be toast.  This especially happens while moving files.  While booting you may get the dreaded "Missing Operating System" error.  Be prepared to shell out cash for a new drive.


  • Extremely long wait times while accessing folders and files is another tell-tale sign of hard drive failure.

If you start to see any of these symptoms, try to run some tests before your drive completely poops out on you.  Most hard drives today come with embedded software called "SMART", or "Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology".  This software constantly monitors the hard drive and can report its condition to you.  This software can easily let you know if your hard drive is fried.  If you check this often, you stand a good chance of having enough time to back up all your data and transfer it to a new hard drive before it is too late.


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