Seven Ways to Tell if Your Hard Drive is Failing: What Do Those Squeals, Clunks and Thuds Really Mean?

Exposure to water or fire, power surges, sharp impact or just plain everyday operation can all be factors when there is a hard disk drive malfunction and the stored information cannot be accessed. And just like in cars– or humans, for that matter – parts wear out and things break down.

It has been estimated that 44% of computer data loss is due to hard drive crashes and that 13% of hard drives fail in their first year. Pay close attention to the seven symptoms of an ailing hard drive, and you might save your data – and your sanity –before it’s too late.

Seven Signs of Hard Drive Failure

1. Noises variously described as “grinding”, “bouncing”, “clunking” or “whirring” can be harbingers of great trouble ahead. In the 1990s a term was coined appropriately describing “the click of death.” There are several places online where you can actually listen to the noises of a dying hard drive. And if you have a sense of humor, there is even a site where you can hear some of the more than 100 remix entries In the Hard Drive Dying Dance Track competition.

2. A computer frequently freezing up, where the cursor won’t move, you can’t use the keyboard, and you have to restart the computer is another bad sign. Computers do occasionally freeze up, but when it is more than infrequent, there may be a problem.

3. Beware the mysterious disappearance of files. It could be your error, an accidental deletion, or it could be more ominous. Another clear indication are missing dll files when starting programs.

4. Another indication might be how long it takes to open your files. Even a small document may take a painfully long time.

5. No good news is coming your way if there is a pattern of your computer locking up during booting. Again, this may occasionally happen, but it shouldn’t be often.

6. Perhaps most obvious would be a hard drive failure error message of a vital system malfunction. The so-called “Blue Screen of Death” is never reassuring.

7. This would be considered more of a test than a symptom, but if you suspect failure, remove the case from your computer. The drive should be warm but not running hot.

After the Hard Drive Fails

When the worst happens and your hard drive has crashed, there’s still a chance data recovery software or companies can retrieve your data from a damaged or inoperable disk drive. It is unfortunate, but there is no guarantee of success and the cost of retrieval can run as high as $300 to $400.

Since you know your computer is an electrical device with a limited life span and you have valuable information or even pictures you don’t want to lose, the best thing to do is take action if you observe one of the seven warning signs of impending hard drive failure. The hard drive is one of the most important parts of the computer because most people store their data there, after all.

If you’ve spent hours accumulating valuable data on your computer, don’t risk the failure of the hard drive. The very best thing you can do right away is back up your files!

Guest article written by: My name is Richard I am a 35 year old American male and father of two beautiful sons. I am also a programmer and owner of

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