OK, you’ve determined that you have a hard drive problem, now you need to fix your hard drive. As long as it’s a software issue, you have a very good chance to fix a hard drive.
Nobody likes to have hard drive problems. Especially if you don’t have a current backup of your important data. Of course the best thing to do is backup data often, but we all are guilty of failing to do so as we should. So the first step when you do have a hard drive issue is to backup if at all possible. And if your hard drive is having software problems, that can certainly provide some challenges but many times it can be repaired. On the other hand, if there are damaged parts you may be looking at replacing the hard drive.
Most hard drive issues fall into three categories:
* Boot Problems – You turn on your computer and get some indecipherable error message, uh oh, here we go down some long and winding road. Many of the errors look like a bunch of 0’s and X’s that really don’t explain much. Or you get the dreaded “Operating System Not Found”. OK, we’ll get to those messages in a minute, just write down what the screen says for right now.
* Computer Stops/Freezes/Gives Error – This can happen when the computer tries to write data (or read data) to (from) a damaged area on the hard drive. This is not a good thing but you will be able to fix that and usually still have access to your data for a quick backup just in case. And sometimes these problems are not due to the hard drive but other elements like your RAM or power supply.
* You hear strange noises – This is probably the most serious error since it may mean there is a moving part that is damaged or no longer functioning correctly. If there is a clicking noise we have an article just about that problem, so click on this link to find out more: Hard Drive Clicking. But there are other possible sounds too, like rattling, whirling, and whining. These may or may not be from your hard drive, but if they are it is usually a part that is failing.
One of the most difficult issues is figuring out just what the hard drive problem is before you fix a hard drive. Troubleshooting is key to finding the best way to try and fix what’s wrong. Let me be upfront with you right now. If there is a physical problem, chances are you won’t be able to fix it.
Most users don’t have the skills or the tools to take apart a hard drive and replace parts. In fact it’s really not a good idea in most cases since the parts cost more than a new drive too. A new hard drive can be as low as $50. Of course if you lose data, the cost of a replacement hard drive is not the issue.
How To Repair Hard Drive
OK, so lets try and address each type of scenario mentioned above. If you get an error upon boot up, chances are there are boot files missing or damaged. Errors like missing or corrupted files indicates this is more of a operating system issue than a hard drive problem. You will still need to chase down what file is suspect and somehow replace or rebuild it. The easiest way to do this is to get your install CD and go into the Recovery Console. It has several possible ways to restore files or replace them if necessary. If you don’t have an install CD, you can often order one from the manufacturer or even borrow one form someone who has the exact OS as you do.
The worse case scenario on boot errors is something to the effect that your are missing the operating system or no device is found with boot files. This usually means that your hard drive has had a catastrophic failure and could be dead. You can pop open the case and check the connections to make sure nothing has vibrated or come loose. But if connections are good, and there is no sound coming from your hard drive (normal sound is a soft hum) and the light is not active it probably has died a natural death.
When you get errors while running and that mention read or writing, that is a sign that the surface area on your hard drive is damaged or worn out. Immediately backup if you don’t have a current back up and then go to your hard drive icon in Windows Explorer, right click on your hard drive (probably C), go into properties, click on Tools tab, and you will find a selection to find and fix errors. This will take awhile so be patient. There’s a good chance this find and either fix the area or mark it so it is no longer used. But this is normally a sign of wear and tear so I would replace the hard drive as soon as possible.
If you have files that are deleted or some how damaged and won’t run, it’s just an operating system issue. This can be addressed by going into the Recovery Console with your install CD. If you don’t have a install CD, then it gets a little more difficult but not impossible to replace damaged files. The easiest way to do this is to remove the hard drive and hook it up to another working windows computer via a USB connector. Once you have the drive connected via USB you can replace damaged files, do a backup of any important data, and if push comes to shove, reformat the drive and do a clean install. These USB connectors are cheap and very handy to have around. They cost under $10 and you can get one here for about $7.00: USB 2.0 to IDE SATA 2.5 3.5 Hard Drive Converter Cable.
Errors and freezing while running can also mean that you have a RAM issue or even a power supply is starting to fail. These usually occur without errors being displayed. If you open your case and remove and reseat the RAM, this may solve the problem. Push comes to shove you can take the RAM to your nearest computer store and they can test it for you. The power supply can slowly deteriorate and produce less power, so this too can cause freezes and intermittent problems. You can also take that in to have it checked.
Any strange noises coming from your computer is not a good thing. First suspect is usually the fan on the power supply. Next is the hard drive, the platters or stepper arms could be failing and that’s beyond the abilities of most to fix. You can open your case and try to determine exactly where the noise is coming from. You can also touch the hard drive and often feel the vibrations if it is the culprit. Immediately backup and buy a replacement hard drive. Many times these noises are a sign of imminent failure and should not be ignored.
These suggested fix hard drive methods can at least get you started in learning how to fix hard drive problems. Software issues can be addressed and most times fix common problems. But hardware failure is going to happen so the best advice I can give is to keep your data backed up on a regular basis. Better safe than sorry and some data is irreplaceable. Unfortunately, sometimes the best end solution is to replace the hard drive if physical damage is evident. You can get some tips on replacing your hard drive if necessary here: How to Buy Hard Drive.