Hard Drive Diagnosis – START HERE

Ok, if you’re reading this I think it’s safe to assume you’ve got some sort of hard drive problem or data recovery issue. So without further ado…

Let’s Diagnose Your Hard Disk Problem…

There are various ways hard drives can develop problems. I’ve split them into 4 main areas…

1. Common Problems
Severity Rating: LowHigh
Often the most common form of data loss involves human error – a file is accidentally deleted or an operating system reinstalled before all the user’s data was transferred off. In cases like these, where the cause of the data loss has nothing to do with the health of the hard drive (which is working perfectly), a software approach to recovering the data can be used – Click here to read Recovery Software & When To Use It. Now, there are many pieces of data recovery software you can download from the internet. You get what you pay for – so don’t expect a free piece of software to be any good at all.

Hard Disk Diagnosis | Data Recovery TipsAnother common problem found on hard disks is degraded media – this is where areas of the hard disk become progressively more difficult to read and write to. This is an actual problem with the hard disk & results in the machine appearing to run slowly, and files and folders taking a long time to open and use, you may even see error messages such as ‘Delayed Write Failure’ or checksum (CRC) related messages.

Degraded media is a degenerative problem – it gets worse the longer it continues. If your hard drive has degraded media, it’s important to establish where the bad areas of the hard drive are located – are they in areas of the drive where there is no data or data of little importance? or are they in areas occupied by important data that you need to recover ?

The data recovery process to be used is determined by the severity of bad media on the hard drive. In cases of small amounts of bad media, it should be possible to recover the data using a software approach. If this approach fails, your drive has degraded too far and it becomes necessary & important to use a hardware based approach to recover your data (a software approach talks to your faulty hard disk through the operating system, a hardware approach works at a much lower level and will interact with the disk directly). Hardware based data recovery is a specialist area and the equipment costs a significant amount of money. Forget taking your faulty drive to a PC shop on the high street – with the best of intentions, a high street shop will make matters far worse. Instead find a decent data recovery company.

Note: If your hard drive has a bad case of degraded media, one of the worst things you can do is to run chkdsk on it.

2. Mechanical Problems

Severity Rating: High
Damaged r/w head on Samsung hard disk | Data Recovery TipsFor those of you who have dropped or bashed their hard drives, if your drive makes a ticking noise when it’s powered on there’s a high percentage chance that it has a mechanical fault. These are severe problems because in order to recover the data it’s necessary to open up the hard disk and exchange damaged components. Successfully recovering data from hard disks with mechanical problems is a specialist job that requires a good data recovery company. Do your research as there are good data recovery companies and bad ones. Read more about mechanical hard disk drive faults.


3. Electronic Problems
Severity Rating: LowMedium
Faulty Controller Board on Hard Disk DriveThese faults are nearly caused by the controller board on the hard drive developing a problem. Often it’s a power spike, or action like plugging in the wrong type of power supply that will blow the controller board. In years gone by a simple board swap often fixed the problem. Swapping the boards on modern drives doesn’t work these days due to adaptive data. Read more about electrical fault on hard disk drives.


4. Firmware Problems
Severity Rating: LowMedium
Seagate 7200.11 Firmware Fault | Data Recovery TipsYou’re wondering what firmware is? Firmware is the computer program that runs the hard drive. It can sometimes get corrupted or in the case of several series of Seagate Barracuda hard drives (& Fujitsu MPG models for those of you with very long memories) the hard disks can leave the factory with buggy firmware that later corrupts and causes the drives to crash. Firmware faults are comparatively rare and it’s nearly always possible to recover data from drives that have failed this way, the only time it isn’t is if specific data unique to the drive has become corrupted or is unreadable – but that’s quite rare. Click here for more information about firmware failures on hard disk drives.