first step looks for major physical problems with the drive. The problems
identified during this step typically involve the major physical components
of the hard drive: electronics, motors, bearings, platters and heads.
step should be performed without the hard drive connected to a computer
to reduce the likelihood of damaging the test equipment. Power-down the
drive immediately if you hear any unusual noises.
- Power up the drive and
- Does the drive “spin up?”
This will usually sound something like a jet
- Does the drive “un-park” the heads?
This will usually sound like a small single click after the
platters reach full speed.
- Does the drive make any repeated “clicking” sounds or any
“grinding, scraping or whining” noises?
The drive usually has a major physical
problem if it does not spin up, does not un-park the heads or if it makes
any strange or unusual noises.
The second step looks for additional physical problems with the
drive. The problems identified during this step typically involve the
hard drive’s internal operating software: firmware, unique drive parameters
and operating electronics.
This step is performed with the drive connected
to a computer. Ensure that the drive is safe to connect to a computer
prior to making the connection and powering the drive and computer.
the drive to a computer.
- Power the drive and the computer.
- Listen for the drive to settle and operate
normally. You will hear the drive come up to full rotational speed.
Then the head will “un-park” with a single click. You may then hear
a few sweeps of the head as it moves over the platters. Most hard drives
will “settle” within 3 seconds of the motor reaching operating speed.
- Open the “Device
Manager” in Windows or “System Profiler” on a Mac with OS X.
- Does the hard
drive appear under the “Disk Drives” heading?
The hard drive performs “self-tests”
once it is running. If the drive passes the tests, it presents itself
to the computer as available for use. If the drive does not appear, it
most likely has not passed its self-tests. This indicates a physical problem
with the drive itself.
The third step looks for problems with the data itself. These problems
can be either physical or non-physical in nature. Physical problems are
often issues involving damage to areas of the platters or the heads that
read the platters. Non-physical problems include data corruption, deletion,
formatting or overwriting.
- Open the “Disk Manager” in Windows or “Disk
Utility” on a Mac with OS X.
- Does the hard drive appear?
- Does the hard drive have a valid partition
- Does the partition or volume “mount” and
appear on the Desktop or in the file explorer?
of the previous issues could be at fault if the partition or volume does
not mount. Computers that have experienced extended wait times or have
seemed to bog-down with the drive attached usually indicate physical problems
with the hard drive. Non-physical issues may be able to be solved with
data recovery software. However, any hard drive that does not respond
quickly or stops reading for periods of time almost always have a physical
problem. These drives should be powered down immediately to avoid causing
additional more damage.
The fourth step looks for transitory problems with the
drive or problems that are in their beginning stages. Usually these drives
can simply have the data copied off of them to a reliable drive. The original
drive should then be retired because failure may be imminent.
- Use a SMART
status tool to read the SMART parameters on the drive.
- Have any parameters
moved from their optimal values?
- Have any parameters exceeded the manufacturer’s
SMART status may-or-may not indicate a pending failure, however,
with the relatively low cost of hard drives, it is probably prudent to
move your data to another drive and retiring the drive in question. If
your data is important, this may be a simple step to avoid data recovery.
At the very least, you may want to start or continue an aggressive data