Hard Drive: Maintenance and Care Plus Troubleshooting

Introduction: Hard Drive: Maintenance and Care Plus Troubleshooting

The picture above is a traditional Hard Drive. These are the most common drive used today, but not necessarily the fastest. People use this drive for its lower cost per gigabyte and longer life span. This Instructable will teach you about the different types of hard Drives, how they work, how to properly maintain and care for them, and how to troubleshoot some commonly know issues. By the end of this you will have the basic knowledge in Hard Drives, so you can fix it yourself and not have to pay for people to fix it for you.

Step 1: What Is a Hard Drive and the Parts That Go Into It.

What is a Hard Drive? A Hard Drive is a device that sores your digital information from your computer. A Hard Drive holds your your music, games, applications, photos, operating system and so much more. The Hard Drive is critical for your computer to work. As I said before the hard drive houses the operating system and all files and drivers your computer needs to operate. So maintaining your Hard Drive or knowing how to prevent some common errors can save you from a critical setback in your work.

Lets now go over the parts of a Hard Drive and how it works. In the picture above is a Hard Drive and the labeled parts. I will now go over the labeled parts and what they do.

Spindle: The central axis that the platters are attached to. The motor that drives the platters is also connected to the spindle.

Platters: The Platters in a Hard Drive can be made up usually of either aluminum or glass. The amount of platters in a hard drive can range from 1-5 depending on the amount of space in your Hard Drive. The platters are coated with a magnetic coating. The platter is responsible for storing data, This is done my magnetizing and demagnetizing bits.

Read and Write Head: A electromagnetic coil of wires that use an electrical current in order to generate a magnetic field, which changes the magnetization of the bits on the platter. Therefore storing data on the platter.

Head Actuator Arm: The structure that holds the read and write head above the platters as well as houses the wires leading to and from the head.

Voice Coil Actuator: The voice coil actuator moves the read and write head across the platter. This device uses electromagnetic attraction and repulsion in order to quickly and precisely move the actuator arm to the desired location.

Actuator Axis and Pivot Screw: This screw is what secures the actuator assembly to the rest of the frame of the Hard Drive.

Power Connector: this is where the drive receives power from a power cable.

IDE connector also know as SATA: The interface of the drive that allows it to send and receive information to and from the motherboard and to rest of the system. Usually where you SATA cable will connect to.

Jumper Block:A series of pins, that when activated by a jumper, changes the operation and status of the drive. The drive can be set to become a master drive, slave drive, cable select, master with non-sata slave drive, or to limit the available capacity of the drive.

Now lets put all this knowledge together on a Hard Drive works. The drive is first powered. Then information gets transferred trough the SATA cable and is written on the platters by the read and write heads. It is written on the platters by magnetizing and demagnetizing bits. The data is stored on the platters in binary where a magnetized bit is a 1 and a demagnetized bit. A motor spins the drive at high speeds while a read/write head positioned several nano meters above the platter uses magnetic fields in order to determine the magnetization of the bits below. In order for the disk to write data, the read/write head applies a magnetic field to the bits, which reverses the bits’ magnetization.

Step 2: Different Types of Hard Drives

Hard Drive: Stated in previous steps was what a standard Hard Drive was.

M.2: M.2 ports use a special port called a M.2 port. The drive itself is Similar to and SDD, but is more compact. The drive itself is a high performance. They are generally smaller SDD and HDD, so they are commonly used as an alternative.

SSD (Solid State Drive): A solid state drive is a non volatile drive (keeps data without the need of power. A SSD is like a Hard Drive it can store data and critical files and even the operating system, but the SSD has no moving parts. It loads data faster than a normal Hard Drive.

Step 3: Maintenance and Caring for You Hard Drive

With Hard Drives there are not a lot physical work you can do to maintain it. There are however some things that will make you drive last longer.

Do not shake the drive while it is running. Shaking the drive can cause the read and write head to hit the platters causing scratches. These scratches will cause missing and corrupt information on the platters. If you need to move the Hard Drive, Turn off your computer first.

To prevent access vibration for your drive you can buy a anti vibration mount. This will reduce the chance of excess vibrations causing the read and write heads to scrape against the platters making corruptions in the data on the drive.

Covering the air holes on a drive can also cause damage to a drive. Covering the holes can make the pressure in the drive build up causing the read and write heads to not be positioned correctly over the platters which can cause damage to the platters.

Step 4: How to Use Software to Service You Hard Drive

Windows has a built in service called disk defrag. Disk defrag takes information on your drives and moves it closer to similar information on the drive. It moves it into same sectors. This makes it so the drives does not have to jump around to search for information. By running Disk defrag you drive will have faster boot time with the information inside and also have less wear and tear on the drive.

Another way of making you drive last long is by turning your drive to a sleep mode while you are not using it. To do this go into control panel, system and security, and then power options. From here select your current power plan, and then click on advanced settings at the bottom. A new window should appear with the option to turn off the hard drive after a set time of inactivity. Set the timer to an appropriate time for you This extends the lifespan of your drive by reducing the time it's spinning; the less active time a drive has, the longer the lifespan.

If you do have a bad sector in your drive you do not want to write data to it. To avoid this go into CMD (Command prompt) and type in chkdsk. This utility checks the disk for errors and corruptions and marks bad sectors such that the drive won’t write to them again. In addition, this utility automatically recovers data that has been written to a bad sector. Therefore you can recover corrupted files. This will certainly help ensure that your computer is running as smoothly as it possibly can - no corrupt files means no slowdowns, crashes, or frozen applications.

To how much life you have left on your Hard Drive you can download a program called HDD scan. This program will give you Hard Drive a score. The lower the score the more likely your Hard Drive is failing. Later in this page there will be a video in how to use this software.

Step 5: Hard Drive Critical Fail

If your Hard Drive were to entirely fail, your computer may not be able to boot at all. You may not be able to access critical data or any of your files ,such as failing to open an application. A failure of the Hard Drive can cause infinite reboot loops, crashing, and loss of data.

Step 6: Symptoms of Hard Drive Failure

Symptoms of failing Hard Drives can be many things. These include crashing, freezing, slowing when opening applications, clicking noises and scratching noises and the inability to perform tasks.

Frequent freezing/crashing/inability to perform a task are caused by loss of data in a disk or corrupted data on a disk. This means when the read/write head tries to read the data it cant cause all the symptoms. Crashing, Freezing, and inability to perform a task.

Slow response time can cause by mainly two things. One, your files are spread out between all your sectors which means you just need to run a disk defrag. Two, your drive is riddled with bad sectors so the read/write heads takes a lot long to read the data.

Loud clicking noises are caused when the read/write heads are colliding with the platters. They can also be caused This can be cause by the drive being shaken or the drive not sitting on a even platform. To fix this Make sure the drive is on level area to prevent any more damage to the disk. Scraping sounds can also be caused by the same thing. When the read/wrote head makes contact with the platters it can cause scratches to the disk causing corruptions to the data.

Step 7: How to Troubleshoot a Hard Drive

If you are experiencing crashing, freezing, and slow application opening. Your Hard Drive is probably nearing its end. In this case If you have figured out your Hard Drive is going bad. You wan to immediately copy over all your data from your drive on to an external drive. This way your data will be safe.

Restart your computer just to see if a fresh restart helps.

If not run chkdsk - this windows utility will flag the failing sectors and attempt to recover data that has been written to a bad sector. In order to run chkdsk, go to my computer, and then right click on the C: drive. Click on the tools tab near the top of the screen, and then click on error checking. Click on scan and chkdsk will begin checking your drive for bad sectors and errors.

If nothing has fixed the system thus fax backup your drive immediately so you do not lose your data.

You can also bring it to a computer shop and get a second opinion,but at this point if chkdsk is telling you sectors are bad then you drive is bad.

Another common issue with hard drives is a message pops on the screen saying Boot Device not found. This problem is commonly fixed my replacing you SATA cable or sometimes you SATA cable is lose and needs to be adjusted.

Step 8: Conclusion

If you are experiencing symptoms of drive failure. Dont wait to back up your drive. Back up your drive immediately.

Step 9: How to Run HDD Scan to Check Your Hard Drive

First download HDD Scan. Then Run the exe file. Once you are in the program press the first test on the right. Then scroll through the list. IF the left side is green that part of your drive is good. Then you want to click the middle button and hit read. Then follow the video below. This will run a test on your sectors and test how fast they respond. If they show up red or orange that means the sector is slow to respond you want very few of these. If by the end of your scan your drive has little to no red and orange sectors. Your drive is in healthy condition. The number of sectors scanned will show up on the right side of your screen.

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    • Anything Goes Contest

      Anything Goes Contest



    4 years ago

    Are hard drives and optical drives the same?