By Karim Salmi / Data Recovery / 0 Comments

The Basics of Modern Hard Drive Disk Failures

Article 2: The Basics of Modern Hard Drive Disk Failures

In this second article of the VitalTech hard drive and data recovery blog series, we’re going to look at hard drive disks (HDD) along with how and why they tend to fail.

Other Articles in This Hard Drive and Data Recovery Series

Note: You can click any of the titles below to jump right into the specific information and move around through the series.

Article 1: Your Hard Drive (How It Works and What Causes It to Crash)

Article 2: The Basics of Modern Hard Drive Disk Failures

Article 3: Hard Drive Mechanical Arm Failures 101

Article 4: How Hard Drives Save and Retrieve Your Files

Article 5: Hard Drive Printed Circuit Boards and Data Recovery Explained

Article 6: An Intro to Internal Hard Drive to PC Connections

Article 7: External Hard Drives and Data Recovery

And when has an HDD failed? When damage or a malfunction has made it impossible or much harder than it should be for your hard drive to properly access stored data magnetically imprinted on the disk platter.

backside of a 3.5inch hard drive

Commonly a hard disk failure will make it impossible for you to boot up from your computer because the needed data to perform this action cannot be properly retrieved. If you don’t need the data on the drive then you can get by with simply replacing the drive and reloading the operating system.

On the other hand, if you need the data then you’ve run into a problem. That said, let’s take a look at the typical reasons your HDD will fail or cause serious problems.

The 3 Common Reasons Hard Drive Disks Fail

  1. Physical Contamination: Despite the fact HDDs are encased in the hard drive housing, over time or for other potential reasons dust and particles of debris can collect. If they land on the platters, they can cause the read/write head to degrade or scratch the data platter.
  2. Mechanical Arm Issues: If the mechanical arm fails, or you drop your external drive, or you experience the ever-common “head crash” where the read-write arm clashes into the platter and scratches it causing bumps upon a flat surface. As the new heads are installed, they will grind down against the bumps and deteriorate. Some repairs call for multiple head swaps for this reason.
  3. Motor Seizures: Sometimes the motor that spins the disk weakens, breaks down, or gets damaged. This is the most difficult hard drive repair to perform because it often requires a full platter transplant to a new drive with a healthy motor. Not only do the platters need to be moved very carefully but they must stay in PERFECT alignment. How do you keep them aligned if so much as touching them can destroy them?

Common signs to look for are strange mechanical sounds or sounds that tell you a motor is whirring down. There’s also a common clicking sound which is caused by the read-write head at the end of the mechanical arm continuously experiencing and recovering from an error, perhaps caused by debris.

A computer guru with ten years of professional experience. From corporate IT to forensic data recovery, he has seen it all and has the stories to prove it. His hobbies include programming and ice hockey.