Hard drive (HDD) failures are one of the most common reasons a computer
is taken in for repair. It amazes me how many people do not have a backup
procedure in place, however I'll talk some more about that shortly.

First, let's assume you're not very computer savvy and you don't know how a HDD works.
Basically, you computer stores all files and information on the HDD. It's like a huge
filing cabinet with files that can be accessed by the computer when required. Although there are different
types of drives nowadays, the most common is still a mechanical device with a set of platters and read heads.
Picture the old record player where the music was stored on the vinyl platter, and read by the stylus then
turned into sound and sent to the speakers. This is over simplifying it somewhat but you get the idea.

This type of HDD has been around since the 60's and is basically unchanged in it's operation. except that
modern HDD's can now have multiple platters and read heads. They are made up of 4 main components. The platters, read heads, PCB, and spool motors. A failure of any on these components will cause your drive to be come unreadable
and you will need to have the DATA recovered if you haven't done your backup recently.

OK, so, what normally causes a HDD to fail?

This can be caused by a number of reasons, however the most common is a "Power event" such as a surge, brownout, blackout etc. This usually causes the PCB to fail. Unfortunately the only way to safeguard against this properly is by using a device called an uninterruptible power supply. (UPS). Using a surge board like those commonly available at department stores can offer some limited protection, however they will not protect you against blackouts etc. The good news is that UPS devices have come down drastically in price over the last few yrs and can now be purchased for under $200.00. Ideally you should plug your computer, monitor and modem into the UPS, and don't forget to plug the phone cable into it as well as most surges actually come in through the phone line. The UPS will then take your computer off the grid altogether and supply clean power to your computer via an inbuilt battery that is constantly charged through the mains power.

The most common cause of USB or portable hard drive (PHDD) failure is impact, as in being dropped. This normally causes damage to the read heads and can be a costly exersize to recover.

So, what should I do if my HDD is not being recognised or is making a clicking sound.

Simple - Stop using it immediately, particularly if you need your data recovered. Once a drive becomes corrupt or gets damaged, it is vital that you shut it down and get it to a specialist data recovery agent. Most of these free programs that promise the world on the internet in fact usually end up doing more damage to the drive, and in some cases render them unrecoverable.

AND finally - BACK UP BACK UP BACK UP.....with the cheap price of PHDD's now days, there is no excuse for not having all your files backed up. Windows has a very good backup program, or most PHDD's have back up software pre-installed.
Once your HDD or SSD is damaged, data recovery can cost up to $2000.00, so it makes the relativly small cost of around $100.00 for a PHDD seem like cheap insurance.

See you next time - Pete - Precision..

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