Computers have always had many parts, some more important than others. Throughout the evolution of computers these parts have either changed, upgraded or discarded completely.

There were vacuum tubes that gave way to the transistors and those in turn gave way to microchips. Display technology also evolved from simple print outs to monitors. Input evolved from punch cards and similar primitive methods to modern keyboards and touch interfaces.

However, through all of these transitions one of the most important parts of a computer was and continues being the “storage”.

At first computers had only a set number of programs “stored” in them, which they performed exclusively. However as years went by, the concept of software was developed, and this required computers to have some sort of way of storing a program until it was needed. This is when the first storage devices came into the picture.

Hard drives have thankfully transformed over the years into faster, more compact, more efficient, and cheaper models. With these changes the data that is stored in the drives has become more secure, because the drives don’t fail as often and don’t suffer from problems that were common years ago (fragmentation being one of those problems).

However, this does not mean that modern drives are fool-proof, which is why in this article we will be going over how to troubleshoot different hard drive errors.

Note: consider any and all signs of hard drive failure as a serious threat to the data that is stored in them.

  • be absolutely sure that the first thing you do is back up as much data as you can to a healthy hard drive

Don’t risk troubleshooting your drive or doing anything before taking the necessary steps to safeguard your data. Also,

  • be sure to do this without restarting the system

A faulty hard drive may not work at all if the system is restarted in any way.

Having said that, let’s go over the steps to take in order to troubleshoot your drive:

If you have the fortune of being able to boot to Windows, you can use the Check Disk (CHKDSK) utility to start the troubleshooting process. To do this simply:

  • Open up the file explorer
  • Look for “this pc” or similar wording
  • Right click on whichever drive is failing (computers with only one hard drive will generally have it named as the C: drive, though this may vary from PC to PC) and select “properties”.
  • Look for the “Tools” tab and click on it.
  • Select the option that says “check now” to perform the error check.

If this does not help, before declaring the drive lost, it is useful to try troubleshooting other items.

  • Physical connectivity. Is the drive in any way not connected properly to the PC? Check that the power and data cables are properly and firmly connected to the computer.
  • BIOS setup. The BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) is a type of firmware used to initialize hardware on a PC. Check to see if the BIOS is recognizing the hard drive in question. If it isn’t, then this might be the source of the problem.
  • Boot sector viruses are definitely something that could render a disk incapable of operating up to the point where it will not allow the computer to turn on at all. Running a scan on the affected drive (by connecting it to another PC, either through normal means or with the help of special tools) might just be the thing you need to do in order to get rid of the virus that is not allowing it to function correctly.
  • This is most likely not going to be your problem, since a drive formatted in a file system that is not recognized by your OS is not something that just happens completely out of the blue. However, there may have been an inadvertently performed formatting of the drive due to user error, so before completely declaring the drive to be dead, check to see if it has been formatted.
  • Driver Errors. The hardest errors to correct are those generated by the drive itself which don’t allow the computer’s OS to perform basic read/write tasks.

 

These errors can arise if the computer has suffered physical trauma (accidentally being dropped while running, for example). Running a physical and logical error check on the disk should reveal what the error is.

If none of these work and the drive is either:

-not recognized by Windows

-not able to boot Windows normally

-or it doesn’t turn on at all

Then it may be time to accept the fact that the drive is now dead and needs to be replaced by a new one with the proper precautions. (Don’t forget to backup up all of your important data on the drive).

If for some reason you were unable to get any data off of the drive before it went bust, you do have several options on how to recover it:

Note: It is very important that you disconnect the drive that is affected from your system until you run the recovery software. The affected parts of the drive will be recognized by the PC as free space and will be used for storing newer data, which most likely means that you will lose whatever data was there permanently.

  • Data Recovery Software: Exactly what it says on the can, data recovery software will comb over your faulty drive and recover whatever data it can find on it. Be aware that this will not always be a full recovery and certain files may effectively be lost forever; back up your files often.
  • Physical data recovery. If push comes to shove and you are fairly sure that you know exactly what part of the drive is the one that is affected or failing, you can try replacing these parts on your hard drive with identical parts taken from another drive or vice versa. You can find detailed instructions on how to do this with a quick Google search.