The specter of hard drive failure hangs over every aging PC system. From the moment that you purchase a new PC, you must strive to protect your data by protecting your drive. This goes beyond data backups and disaster recovery plans. The first step to protecting PC data is recognizing the dangers that plague a hard drive and lead to its failure.
There are four types of hard drive failure: software, hardware, mechanical, and logical. The first, software, also includes firmware. This failure deals with damage to the code that operates the drive and can render it unreadable. The next, hardware, deals with the systems that interact with the drive. If the controller that operates the drive fails, the drive will become unusable until that controller is repaired or the drive is moved to another system or interface type. Mechanical drive failure is exactly as it sounds; a part of the drive has broken or shorted out and made its operation impossible. Lastly, logical failure appears when the systems that store data on the drive become corrupted rendering the stored data inaccessible.
Each of these four drive failure types has generally simple inceptions. Here is a list of the six most common causes of drive failure.
One of the most significant causes of damage to a hard drive comes from heat. The causes of excessive heat are numerous. Heat may build up due to inadequate ventilation. Improper cooling or inadequate cooling can lead to excessive heat buildup in a drive. External factors can also affect the buildup of heat in a drive, like proximity to space heaters or fire damage.
A power surge is an event that interrupts the flow of power to your PC and then quickly returns it. This burst of power may cause a failure in the read/write heads of a mechanical drive and may cause the corruption of data stored on the device.
Physical damage can be anything that bumps, drops, knocks, or otherwise affects the PC. In the case of these jarring actions, a mechanical drive may, if it is operating, be made to gouge the platter causing significant damage to the drive and data storage capabilities. The chances of drive damage are high for even powered-down systems.
Water and electricity do not mix. Any situation that causes water to be spilled or to be exposed to a PC will be cause for alarm. Hard drive cases are not made to be watertight and the introduction of water to the system can cause unwanted electrical connection that will, more than likely, damage the drive.
Humans interaction will also cause hard drive failures. Improperly deleting files, moving files, installation of corrupted or improper software, and the incorrect installation of the hard drive are all possible causes of hard drive failure.