While you may be able to repair software errors caused by bad sectors, and in some cases you may be able to repair the bad sectors themselves, if your drive has begun to fail mechanically nothing will stop the process.
The catch then is to detect the imminent failure of your drives before they give out on you and data is lost. Let's look at some common warning signs of impending hard drive failure:
- Frequent but irregular crashes, especially while
booting up Windows.
- Frequent and cryptic error messages while performing
typical activities like moving files.
- Folder and file names that have been scrambled and
- Disappearing files and folders.
- Really loo....ong waits to access folders and files.
- Hard disk is silent for a long period after you
request data by opening a file or folder.
- Garbled output from open files or printing.
- Hard drive grinds away constantly because of noisy
Any of the above signs mean you
should check your drive using one of the utilities we detail below as soon as
Sound can be an
excellent indicator of disk trouble. If you previously didn't hear a peep from your hard drive, but
now you do... Check it. If it seems much louder than usual, or makes occasional
clicks or grinding sounds... Check it ASAP and be prepared to backup your data and
replace the drive.
If your drive is making regular clicking or grinding sounds, chances are you have a mechanical failure within the drive. Turn off your PC as soon as possible, as this kind of problem can quickly snowball into a huge headache that is way beyond the scope of a pair of Aspirin. The longer the drive is powered on, the more damage you may be doing to your data.
SMART: What it is and
what it does
stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology. This capability is standard on
all modern hard drives, and provides each device with a degree of
internal status monitoring. Used in conjunction with software, this can alert users
to the impending failure of the disk.
The BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) of most
computer motherboards contain SMART monitoring software which can interpret the
information from drives attached to the system and warn of potential trouble.
However, this function is generally disabled by default since it slightly adds
to the boot up time of the system.
The SMART monitoring system
built into your computer's BIOS is rudimentary, usually only capable of telling
you whether or not the drive is 'OK' based on the conclusion of its internal
SMART diagnostics. The more advanced analysis features of this monitoring system
can be accessed by using a drive analysis program that can fully query the
SMART works by comparing a hard
drives current performance in a number of areas to its ideal parameters. For
example, the time it takes a drive to spin up to speed in order for data to be
read from it is recorded by the SMART monitor and compared to the factory rated
time. A discrepancy here could indicate problems with the motor or the bearings.
SMART monitors up to 30 separate attributes of the disk (the actual number
varies depending on how the manufacturers of both the drive and the motherboard
have implemented the system).
advisable to turn on your computer's SMART monitoring
option if you are worried about the status of your hard disks. This
feature can be accessed though the system's BIOS settings page. To access
this, press DEL repeatedly immediately upon powering up your system. Some manufacturers
use other keys (like F2, or F6) or key combinations to access the
BIOS. This information should be presented in the manual or on the POST screen
of the system. SMART options are generally found within the 'advanced BIOS
options' section of the BIOS.
Note that SMART is by no means
reliable when it comes to predicting drive faults. First of all, it analyzes the
physical attributes of the disk only, nothing else. SMART's effectiveness also
depends on the way monitoring in implemented on your motherboard. There is no
real standard for which SMART attributes should be monitored, or even what
acceptable thresholds are. These variables are up to the manufacturer to
provide, so there in no universal standard set of values. SMART should always be
used in conjunction with a more in-depth disk monitoring tool like the ones we
detail later in the article.