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Is Your Hard Drive failing? Here are some ways you can tell!

You may be thinking that your computer is running a bit slower, and that the performance of your laptop or desktop, is just not what it once was.  Sadly, this is the final step for a machine for most people, and usually one of the signs that the drive on your computer, is failing.  You may toss your computer on a shelf and think to yourself, “Well that was a good run, I guess I need to get a new computer…” or “Stupid piece of junk, I’m never buying a (whatever brand your computer is) again!”

Today I’m going to tell you something that may surprise you, it’s not the end of your laptop or desktop! There is still hope, and even a bright future for your computer!  Time and time again, I have had people bring me their computers, thinking that they were loaded down with viruses, and this is why things weren’t running well.  While this is sometimes the case, a lot of times you may also have drive issues.  One key way to tell a difference between a drive issue, and a virus, is to open up your task manager.  A lot of you may know how to access this, but if you don’t, all you need to do is hit “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” on your keyboard, and it will take you to the windows splash screen where you  can select the task manager.  By default I have my task manager setup to open up the “Processes” tab, but yours may just say “Task Manager” at the top, and show the apps you have running.  If you’re running Windows 10, you can simply click the little down arrow next to the text that says More details to expand your view.  When you do this, you will see something similar to what I’m showing below.

This is the expanded view of your task manager.

If you look closely at the percentages above each column, they can tell you a lot about your computer’s health.  Today however, we are going to focus on just one of those columns, and that is the column that says “Disk”.  The Disk column shows you how much of your drive is actually being utilized at once.  This can give you a pretty good picture of whether or not your drive is failing.  As you can see from my photo above, my Disk column is showing 0%.  The reason for this, is that I have my computer setup with two separate solid state drives.  The main drive houses my operating system, and that’s the percentage being read, while the other drive houses many of my installed programs.  Most people are only going to have one drive, and a lot of times when you purchase a computer, those drives will not be a solid state drive.  This may leave you asking “What’s a solid state drive?”  Simply put, a solid state drive is any sort of drive that plugs into a computer that doesn’t contain moving components.  Moving components in a drive, often lead to a higher rate of errors, or after a long period of time…failure.

Often times before a drive is about to fail there are a few telltale signs that you may begin to notice.

Sign #1. The first one that’s worth mentioning, is one I mentioned earlier; slowness.  If you notice your computer is beginning to take a long time booting up, you may have an issue.  Recently I had a customer bring me his laptop, and I was able to press the power button, go take a shower, make coffee, toast, and return to my desk, and it still hadn’t booted up.  This is sign number one that the drive is failing.

Sign #2. You may notice that when you go to open a program, it takes awhile.  If the program is something pretty basic like a web browser( Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Safari, etc.) you probably have a failing drive.  This one is a bit tricky, because I don’t want you to worry if you try to open a large program and it takes some time that is pretty normal.  Even on my PC when I go to open Adobe Photoshop, the program takes maybe 30-40 seconds give or take to load.  Be watchful.

Sign #3. Funny sounds.  If you notice that your hard drive is making some clicking sounds, or squealing, or whistling…you probably have a problem.  This is probably one of the more severe cases of a hard drive failure, and should be addressed immediately, because if you wait too long, you may not be able to save you data.

Sign #4. Disk is reading at 80-100% when you’re not doing anything or running one program.  There is no reason that your Disk column on your task manager should ever be running above 85% unless you have several programs running at once, and even then they would have to be some pretty resource intensive programs to max your drive out.  This is probably one of the easiest ways to check and see if your drive is failing.

Sign #5. Computer says no bootable media detected.  At this point you may be able to recover data, but your computer won’t be booting again.  This is a sign that your drive is done, and you need a new one.  You may be thinking, Wouldn’t it just be cheaper to buy a new computer than to try buying a new drive? The answer quite simply to that is no.  Depending upon the type of PC you have you may make the decision to purchase a new computer, and as your IT guy…I can respect that.

You may think the computer you’re using is possessed and you hate it, and you just want it out of your sight to purchase a new one. That’s fine, I’ll happily recycle it for you.  What I should tell you though, is that most mid range decent laptops these days run between 500 -700 dollars.  A new drive, plus an hour’s worth of labor for me to clone all of your old information on to the new drive, doesn’t even begin to approach this figure.  Below you can see some of the prices for a new standard laptop SSD, far less than the prices you’ll pay for a brand new machine.

If you start to notice any of these signs, give me a call, I’m happy to help consult you on the next steps you should take to either save your data, or make your computer work like it should, whichever you prefer. Below are some good tips to keeping up to date on your drive’s health as well as things you can do to keep your drive running well as long as possible.

1. Run a defragmentation: Every Windows PC has a defrag option. This reallocates some of the empty sectors of your drive, and improves overall performance, giving your drive a longer life.

2. Run a chkdisk every once in awhile.  A chkdsk is something a lot of Windows PCs will try to do when booting if the drive is having issues. So many people get annoyed because this can take some time. You can initiate a chkdsk by going to the command line and typing chkdsk /r.  This will attempt to repair any bad sectors on the drive, and make your drive perform better.  Usually a good idea to do before going off to bed, maybe once every few months.

3. Check your drive health by using a drive utility like CrystalDiskInfo, or use the SMART function in your BIOS menu on your computer when booting up.  This will just run a quick health check( not as thorough with details) to tell you if your computer is running well.  A program like CrystalDiskInfo will give you  detailed information on your drive health, and is a good idea when you think something isn’t right.

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