I have bad news. Your hard drive will fail. The question is not if it will fail, but when it will fail. As a responsible PC user, the only thing you can do is take the proper steps to limit your risk. The first step is always to make sure there is a backup plan in place and that recovery steps are quick and relatively painless. However, backups may not cover all of the data that is lost. There may be important files or updates made between scheduled backup points. How can you limit your risk?
Play Doctor: Check The Health Of Your Drive
Consider the health of your hard drive. You do not have to wait until there is an obvious issue before taking steps to save your drive. Before you lose your data, plan for regularly scheduled "checkups."
Every drive manufacture provides utilities that will check the health of your drive and offer differing levels of repair options. Most of these programs are capable or returning an early warning notice about the health of your drive, but are much more involved than a simple checkup needs.
Consider using a drive diagnostic utility instead. There are many diagnostic utilities out there and when it comes down to it, the choice is up to your preference as to which one is best for you. In this instance, I will recommend a free diagnostics tool which I believe will provide the right balance of ease of use and functionality.
HD Tune is a free Windows utility that will check your hard drive’s health and provide scans for errors and bad sectors. The free version of HD Tune supports all internal and external drive formats including Solid State Drives, USB memory sticks, and card readers as well as supports most Windows operating systems up to Windows 7. Currently, Windows 8 is only supported by the pay version of HD Tune, HD Tune Pro.
Key features of HD Tune are:
- Detailed Drive Information
- Error Scan Functionality
- Read/Write Benchmarking
- Detailed drive health status ( named S.M.A.R.T.)
The Pro version of HD Tune contains many more advanced features, but for our purposes the free version is more than enough.
After The Scan
If you have no indication of errors or bad sectors on your HD Tune report, congratulations, your drive is functioning normally and, hopefully, will last until your next scheduled checkup. However, if you have found issues with your drive, you need to move forward and attempt to repair what you can.
Now is the time to use the diagnostics tools provided by your hard drive manufacturer. Rescan the damaged drive and use the repair functions to restore damaged drive function.
If everything went well with the last diagnostics utility, your drive is now repaired and operating as it should. Now, backup everything on your drive, change your backup schedule to a daily cycle, save important files to a cloud storage file while in between backup cycles, and plan to buy a new hard drive to replace the repaired on. The drive you have now is a ticking time bomb and has to be replaced as soon as possible or you rick losing important data. Sure, the drive could last months before the next issue arises, but why take that chance?