Learn how to replace, upgrade, and repair hard drives in this comprehensive guide to computer storage.
The hard drive is where all the data is stored inside your computer. If it goes out, so does the system. Although computer systems are slowly adopting the more expensive SSD (solid state drive) option, there are still plenty using the standard mechanical drive. The problem with these types of drives is that they have more moving parts than any other component of the computer, and as such they tend to wear out more quickly and have more problems. Unless you've made an effort to back up your files and keep recovery options on hand, it could spell disaster if you turn on your PC one day and hear a clicking sound accompanied by a message on screen about your hard drive not being readable or the operating system not being found.
New Hard Drives
Whether you are replacing the hard drive in your system or adding a secondary one for data storage, there are some things you need to know. For example, some sites like Newegg.com sell OEM hard drives that are unformatted, and Windows won't know what to do with them until they have been initialized and then formatted. Another thing to consider is when you need to replace a laptop hard drive because those types of machines only support one internal drive at a time. With computers, thankfully there is usually more than one way to approach some issues, but not without a little technical know-how or spending some money.
Maintenance and Troubleshooting
You can't run a car constantly without eventually changing the oil, nor can you expect your PC to run indefinitely without doing a tune-up from time to time. Other than the occasional bit of dusting, most computer maintenance is really hard drive maintenance. For example, defragging the hard drive will optimize free space and reduce file corruption and can prolong the life of the drive. A little bit of time spent keeping your drive fresh can also make for increased performance, and who wouldn't want their computer running as fast as possible?
Recovery Software and Techniques
Hard drives are sensitive devices that can be irreparably damaged with the slightest bump or electrical interference. If your laptop won't boot up after you've dropped it, then chances are you did something to damage the hard drive. Because they have motors and moving parts inside, hard drives also wear out over time and that's when they start having trouble reading and writing files. Thankfully, a variety of utilities are available for recovering data from damaged or corrupted hard drives. You can even get back files that have been deleted.
Not all drives are the same, and sometimes special utilities are needed to help with the configuration and file recovery for certain brands. If you have a specific model hard disk that is having trouble, you may need less generalized help information. Sometimes, a simple download from the manufacturer will contain the diagnosis tools you need. If you're in the market for a new drive, perhaps you could use a little help in figuring out which brand is best and you would like to read some comparisons.
Dealing with hard drives can be a hassle although sometimes 'plug and play' actually works. If you need more advice or help, or if you have any comments about these articles, please use the feedback section below.