Backing Up Data
The contents of a hard drive that is showing signs of failure should be backed up immediately to prevent data loss. Simple backups can include copying important files to a USB flash drive or network storage location or burning files to a blank optical disk. Advanced backup methods may include a full system backup or the creation of system image disks that will allow a system to be completely restored to the state it was in when the disks were created.
When a system cannot boot due to a problem with the hard drive or the operating system files, a USB hard drive adapter can be installed on a working computer to access the failing drive. Connect the hard drive adapter to the failing hard drive and connect a power lead in order to access the information on the drive from a different computer. Run backup utilities, hard drive diagnostics, or data recovery software on the drive to protect or recover files or to test the functionality of the drive.
If important or critical files exist on the hard drive that is failing and they cannot be easily backed up, a professional data recovery service may be the best approach. Call one of the experts prior to attempting to perform advanced system diagnostics in order to ensure the best chance of success from data recovery methods.
Operating System Utilities
Microsoft Windows features a disk scanning utility that provides comprehensive testing of the hard drive as well as the ability to solve general operating system errors that frequently occur. Click the Start button in Windows 7 (Windows Orb) and then click "Computer." (On older operating systems, double-click on "My Computer.") Right click on the drive that is to be tested and choose "Properties" from the context menu. Click on the "Tools" tab and click "Check Now" under the Disk Error Checking section. Make sure both check boxes are checked in order to automatically fix file system errors and to scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors. Click "Start" and allow the computer to restart now to run the full surface scan.
Typical hard drive in a Gateway system
Hard Drive Manufacturer Utilities
Hard drive manufacturers often bundle hard drive utilities and testing software with new drives or make these tools available on their website. Utilities such as the Seagate SeaTools software can be used on any brand of internal or external hard drive to perform complete diagnostics and non-destructive testing of the surface area of the drive.
Download the Seagate SeaTools software and install it on the system. Run the software and check the check boxes for the detected drive that is to be tested. Click on the "Basic Tests" button to see the list of available tests for the drive and choose one test to run. The results will display when the test has completed, and more tests can be run at that time. The long tests can take several hours to run. Multiple tests can be performed on separate drives at the same time.
Photo by Norm Dickinson