Sunday, April 26, 2009

How to identify a drive is about to fail

As reliable as hard drives have become, they still have a finite lifespan. While regular backups can help you prevent data loss when a hard disk drive fails, it's better to catch the problem early and replace the hard disk drive, rather than when it decides to fail. Over the past few years, hard drives have gotten a lot faster and quieter. The downside is that their consistency is far from perfect and they are often burdened with mechanical defects and failures. Improvements in hard drive technology have caused some of the symptoms of impending failure to disappear. However, hard disk drives can still give off signs. So, How to identify a drive is about to fail? Check this out:
  1. Hard Drive LEDs never go off. Check the hard drive LED in front of your computer case if there’s a hard disk activity as indicated by the drive LED. But if the LED used to come on intermittently and now glows constantly, something is very wrong and is probably going to get worse.
  2. Hard Drive takes long time to boot up. A hard disk drive that takes a long time to boot up is working hard because a lot of stuff needs to be initialized. And it could also be trying to compensate for intermittent read/write failures.
  3. Disk cannot locate file table. If the disk can't find the Windows Master File Table (MFT), especially after an unexplained crash, the disk is almost certainly dying.
  4. CHKDSK shows bad sectors. If bad sectors showing up during CHKDSK or similar disk test utilities usually mean the disk is going to retire. This is doubly true if the number of bad sectors is increasing, even very slowly. (see How to used Scandisk)
  5. Running hot. All drives get warm, but if the hard disk drive itself is running unusually hot compared to others in the enclosure, it is probably nearly the end of its useful life.
  6. Know the drive's history. A hard disk drive that has been dropped onto a hard surface or else has overheated should be regarded with suspicion. It's a good candidate for failure. Overheating usually occurs when an enclosure's main fan or fans fail, allowing temperature to build up.