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Hard Disk Failure: Causes, Symptoms & Solutions



Heloise Montini is a content writer whose background in journalism make her an asset when researching and writing tech content. Also, her personal aspirations in creative writing and PC gaming make her articles on data storage and data recovery accessible for a wide audience.

Recognizing the early signs of hard disk failure is critical, as it can help mitigate the risk of permanent data loss.


Heloise Montini is a content writer whose background in journalism make her an asset when researching and writing tech content. Also, her personal aspirations in creative writing and PC gaming make her articles on data storage and data recovery accessible for a wide audience.

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Hard drives are an essential part of most businesses’ operations. Even with modern devices being more resistant, hard drives can fail. Recognizing the early signs of hard disk failure is critical, as it can help mitigate the risk of permanent data loss. 

In this comprehensive guide, we look into the causes and symptoms of hard drive failure, providing insights into its multifaceted nature. Additionally, we offer actionable steps and solutions for diagnosing, preventing, and recovering failed hard drive, ensuring the safety and security of your valuable data.

What are the signs of hard disk failure

Detecting the first signs of a failing hard drive is crucial to prevent data loss and even salvage the HDD itself. 

Make sure you are always paying attention to the symptoms of imminent failure and that you regularly back up your files to ensure the most recent information is saved in case your hard drive dies.

Repeated system crashes 

Failing hard disks present frequent system crashes, where your computer suddenly shuts down or freezes unexpectedly. These system crashes can occur during normal use or when performing specific tasks, indicating underlying issues with the hard drive’s functionality.

This occurs because the hard drive is struggling to read or write data properly, leading to errors that cause the operating system to crash. 

Unresponsive or blank screens

 When the hard drive fails to initiate the boot process, you may be greeted with a black screen, a blinking cursor, or no display at all, indicating a potential hard drive problem.

This can occur due to corrupted system files or hardware issues preventing the operating system from loading properly.

Error messages

Hard drive failure often manifests in the form of error messages when attempting to access files or perform tasks on your computer. 

These messages indicate issues such as disk read/write errors, file system corruption, or hardware malfunctions. 

Common error messages include “disk not found,” “file not accessible,” or “disk I/O error,” signaling that the hard drive is encountering problems that require attention.

File corruption

As a hard drive begins to fail, you may notice instances of file corruption, where documents, photos, or other data become unreadable or inaccessible. This occurs when the hard drive is unable to store or retrieve data properly.

Slow CPU performance

A failing hard drive can significantly impact the overall performance of your computer, leading to sluggishness and delays when performing tasks. This slowdown occurs because the hard drive is struggling to retrieve and process data efficiently, causing delays in accessing files, opening applications, or performing system functions.

Irregular noises

One of the most recognizable signs of hard drive failure is the presence of irregular noises emanating from your computer, such as clicking, grinding, or whirring sounds. These noises indicate mechanical issues within the hard drive. 

How to fix hard disk failures

Before attempting any fixes, it’s crucial to identify the root cause of the hard disk failure. Assess the symptoms carefully, such as unusual noises, error messages, or system crashes, to determine the nature of the problem.

If you suspect a hard disk failure, it’s essential to back up your data as soon as possible. Use external storage devices or cloud-based services to create a backup of your important files and documents to prevent data loss.

Check cables and connections

Sometimes you can see one or more of the failure symptoms, but the problem is not with the HDD. It can be a loose or faulty cable that is preventing your computer from working properly.

Ensure all power and data cables are securely connected to the hard disk and motherboard. If you notice any issue with the cable or connectors, replace them and then test the hard drive again.

Run diagnostic tools

Most operating systems come with built-in diagnostic tools that can help identify hard disk issues. 

Use tools like CHKDSK (Windows) or Disk Utility (Mac) to scan the disk for errors and attempt repairs.

Run the Windows diagnostic tool: CHKDSK

  1. Type cmd at the search box on the taskbar and choose the Run as administrator option under Command Prompt 
  2. In the Command Prompt window, type chkdsk /r C: (replace “C” with the letter of the drive you want to check) and press Enter. This command will scan the entire disk and repair any error it finds.
  3. CHKDSK will begin scanning your disk for errors. Depending on the size of the disk and the extent of issues found, this process may take some time.
  4. Once CHKDSK completes, it will display a summary of the scan results. Pay attention to any errors or warnings reported.

If CHKDSK detects and repairs any errors, restart your computer and check if the issue persists. If problems persist, consider seeking professional help or using data recovery software.

Run Mac diagnostic tool: Disk Utility

  1. Go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.
  2. In Disk Utility, select the hard disk you want to check from the list on the left.
  3. Click on the First Aid tab, then click Run to start the disk verification process.
  4. Disk Utility will scan the disk for errors and report any issues found. Pay attention to any warnings or errors displayed.

If Disk Utility detects and repairs any errors, restart your Mac and check if the issue persists. If problems persist, consider seeking professional help or using data recovery software.

Update drivers and firmware

Outdated drivers or firmware can sometimes cause hard disk failures. Check for updates for your hard disk drivers and firmware from the manufacturer’s website and install them accordingly.

For Windows, run the downloaded driver or firmware files and follow the on-screen instructions to install the updated drivers. For Mac, firmware updates may be included in macOS updates, so ensure your system is up-to-date.

After installing drivers and firmware updates, restart your computer to apply the changes. Once your computer restarts, ensure that the drivers and firmware updates are successfully installed. Check for any improvements in hard disk performance or stability.

Attempt data recovery

If your hard disk is still accessible, you can attempt to recover data from it using data recovery software. 

There are many reputable programs available that can help retrieve lost or corrupted files from a failing hard disk.

SalvageData data recovery software solutions are secure and free. As long as you lose your data due to logical issues, you can use our data recovery software free of charge to retrieve your hard disk files using either Windows or Mac computers.

  1. To use the SalvageData macOS data recovery free tool, first, you must download and install the software.
  2. Agree with the terms and conditions and then click on the DATA RECOVERY button. data recovery software
  3. After that, select the drive you wish to retrieve your files from. Then, click on RECOVER.Select your drive, click "RECOVER," choose the file system, and proceed with "SCAN."  
  4. Choose the file system and click on SCAN.
  5. Once the scanning process is complete, you can choose from the list which files you want to recover.

Contact professional help

If you cannot fix the hard disk failure on your own or if the data is critical, consider seeking professional help from a data recovery service. These experts have specialized tools and techniques to recover data from severely damaged hard disks.

SalvageData recovery experts are experienced in retrieving hard disk lost, deleted and corrupted files. You can contact us 24/7 for emergency service, ensuring a secure and confidential data recovery service.

Causes of hard drive failure

Understanding the causes of hard disk failure helps users take preventive measures to protect their data and prolong the lifespan of their hard drives.

Physical damage

Hard disk physical damage refers to any harm caused to the hard drive’s components due to external factors such as impact, drops, or mishandling.

Physical damage can occur when a hard drive is dropped, subjected to extreme shock, or exposed to excessive heat or moisture. This damage can result in malfunctioning components, such as the read/write head or platters, leading to data loss or complete drive failure.

Electrical damage

Power surges or fluctuations in electrical supply can cause damage to the sensitive electronic components of a hard drive, including the control board or motor. This damage may result in the hard drive becoming unresponsive or failing to function properly.

Logical failure

Logical failures can occur due to file system corruption, accidental deletion of files, formatting errors, or malware infections. These issues can disrupt the normal operation of the hard drive and lead to data loss or inaccessibility of files.

Firmware or manufacturer faults

Firmware faults can occur due to bugs or errors in the programming of the hard drive’s firmware, leading to performance issues or instability. 

Manufacturer faults may include defects in the design or assembly of the hard drive, resulting in premature failure or malfunction.


Can hard drive failure be prevented?

While it’s not always possible to prevent hard drive failure entirely, there are steps users can take to minimize the risk. 

Regularly backing up important data, keeping the hard drive cool and dust-free, avoiding physical shocks or drops, and using surge protectors can help prolong the lifespan of a hard drive.

What are the most common symptoms of hard drive failure?

Common symptoms of hard drive failure include repeated system crashes, unresponsive or blank screens, error messages when accessing files, file corruption, slow CPU performance, and irregular noises such as clicking or grinding sounds.

Is it safe to attempt DIY repairs on a failing hard drive?

No, DIY repairs on a failing hard drive are not recommended and can lead to complete data loss. Opening a hard drive without proper tools and expertise can further damage the drive and make data recovery more difficult. It’s best to consult a professional data recovery service for assistance.

Are solid-state drives (SSDs) less prone to failure than traditional hard disk drives (HDDs)?

Solid-state drives (SSDs) are less susceptible to physical damage from drops or shocks compared to HDDs.

However, they can still fail due to factors such as electrical damage, firmware issues, or wear and tear on the memory cells. 

What should I do if I suspect my hard drive is failing?

If you suspect your hard drive is failing, it’s essential to act quickly to prevent data loss. Back up important files immediately, and then run diagnostic tools such as CHKDSK (Windows) or Disk Utility (Mac) to check for errors. If the hard drive continues to exhibit symptoms of failure, consider contacting a professional data recovery service for assistance.