If you have a computer, you’ve probably been here at one time or another. Your hard drive fails, taking it with it all of your most important data! It’s a nightmare that keeps many people who entrust their most important data to their computers up at night, especially those who haven’t been prudent enough to back up their data on a regular basis. There are many reasons why your drive could fail without warning, causing a data loss disaster, but many of these catastrophes are preventable.
Most failures can be grouped into two main categories: physical damage and logical corruption. Physical damage is injury to any of the hardware components of the drive, and logical corruption refers to the failure of the software associated with your drive. Here are the most common causes of data loss and what, if anything, you can do about them.
There are several types of physical damage that can occur, including:
- Moisture contact. Excessive humidity can permanently damage your hard drive. The best defence is to keep your computer in a cool, dry room – away from any heating or air conditioning vents. A dehumidifier can be a worthwhile investment if your computer room tends to be damp.
- Exposure to extreme heat or cold. This can cause the components of your drive to expand or contract due to the extreme temperatures and damage them.
- Physical impact. Your drive is relatively sturdy, but is not meant to withstand the significant impact that comes with being dropped or hit. The impact can damage the internal components of the drive, causing your data to become irretrievable.
- Defective components. There’s not much you can do about this one. If you suspect that your hard drive is defective in some way, take it to a data recovery specialist for evaluation. Identifying faulty components before the drive fails could save your data.
- Power Surges. Make sure you have proper surge protection in place to protect your computer and hard drive.
- Degrading read/write heads. Unfortunately, hard drives don’t last forever and components can wear out with time and usage. Over time the read/write heads can degrade to the point where they will no longer function properly. When this happens, it’s time to get a new hard drive.
Here are the most common logical corruption problems that you could experience:
- Formatting problems. Formatting your hard drive erases the data that was previously stored. If you don’t backup your files, or if the drive is incorrectly formatted, you can lose your data.
- Files accidentally deleted. In many cases, these files will be recoverable with the help of a professional technician or data recovery software.
- Computer viruses. Computer viruses can cause all sorts of problems. Make sure you have the latest anti-virus software installed and update it regularly to protect yourself as well as you possibly can. In addition, be careful about which sites you download information from and be careful about opening unsolicited emails.
- Damaged or corrupted RAID array configuration. RAID is an acronym for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. RAID arrays are used to store large amounts of data and provide backup in case one or more disks fail. If there is a configuration problem with your RAID array, it can lead to logical failures on your drive. A specialized data recovery firm can help you to correct the problem and retrieve your data.
- Firmware corruption. Firmware is the embedded code that controls the hard drive functions. A corruption of the firmware can lead to the hard drive not being recognized in BIOS and the system being unable to communicate with your hard drive. Fortunately the likelihood of recovering your data is very high with this type of problem, providing you can fix the original problem.
If you’re unlucky enough to be in the position of having to recover your data after a crash, the best advice we can give is to get your computer to a professional data recovery specialist. The more you use a hard drive after it has been corrupted, the more likely it is that your data will be overwritten and you will be unable to recover your precious information.
Data recovery can be seen as expensive, but it is unlikely that you will be able to repair most hard drive problems yourself and recover your data. The truth of the matter is that it’s more likely that your attempts will make things worse. The more important your data is, the more reason to go with a professional.