Introduction: Hard Drives: Diagnosing, Troubleshooting, and Maintenance

What is a Hard Drive?

- Put simply, the hard drive is what stores all your data. It houses the hard disk, where all your files and folders are physically located. The information is stored magnetically on the disk, so it stays on the drive even when the power supply is turned off. These disks are stacked on top of each other in a solid encasement as seen in the photo above, and spin at very high speeds of about 5400 RPM to 7200 RPM so that the data can be accessed immediately anywhere on the disk.

Christensson, Per. "Hard Drive Definition." TechTerms. Sharpened Productions, 2006. Web. 12 December 2017. .

Step 1: What Makes Up a Hard Drive?

Using the diagram above, the parts will be defined from top to bottom.

Cover Assembly: Provides structure for the rest of the parts as well as protection.

Gasket Cover: Used as an extra layer of protection because if there were any contaminants on disks, so much as just a dust particle, it could cause data loss and damage to the disks and the read/write head.

Disk Stack: The assembly of all the disks inside the hard drive.

Drive Platter : The circular disk where the magnetic data is stored.

Pivot Screw: The axis on which the read/write head turns on.

Voice coil Actuator Assembly: The direct drive, limited motion devices that utilize a permanent magnetic field and coil winding to produce a force that is proportional to the current applied to the coil.

DC Spindle Motor: A motor that is responsible for turning the disk platters, allowing the hard drive to operate. It is crucial for the motor to provide stable, reliable, and consistent turning power for thousands of hours.

Head Stack Assembly and Actuator Arm: The assembly is the mounting point for the read/write head.

Read/Write Pre-Amplifier: It is the first chip to receive data coming from the disk during read operations, and the last to transmit data to be stored during writes. When writing the pre-amplifiers condition the signal to maximize the quality of the data written to the disk.

Base Assembly/Housing: Protects the read/write heads and platters from outside contaminants, if it were to ever opened, it would become quickly contaminated.

Pad Insulator: Prevents the short circuit of electrical signals, which is caused by metal parts, and effectively cushions or absorbs the noise interference generated by the operation of the motor of the hard disk driver and magnetic head seeking data.

Printed Circuit Board: an electronic circuit consisting of thin strips of a conducting material such as copper, which have been etched from a layer fixed to a flat insulating sheet, and to which integrated circuits and other components are attached.

Step 2: Step 2: Proper Maintenance and Care

From a Physical standpoint, there is very little a consumer can do to perform maintenance on a hard drive. The second you open a hard drive, the platters and the read/write heads are instantly contaminated which can cause serious damage and possibly result in data loss. Always handle your hard drive with extreme care, placing a hard drive upside down will damage th e As pictured above, in order for physical maintenance to be performed, it must be done in a sanitized work area with full coverage of the body to prevent any contaminants coming into physical contact with the device.

However, there are some things a consumer can do to check the health of a hard drive. Windows has a built in feature called chkdsk that can be run from the command prompt. It can fix many common errors on FAT16, FAT32, and NTFS drives. One of the ways Check Disk locates errors is by comparing the vol¬ume bitmap with the disk sectors assigned to files in the file system. Check Disk can’t repair corrupted data within files that appear to be structurally intact, however. You can run Check Disk from the command line or through a graphical interface.

“Run Check Disk from a Command Line to Check for and Fix Disk Errors.” Microsoft TechNet,

Step 3: Troubleshooting

Undetectable Hard Drive: If your hard drive is failing to be recognized by your computer, you will be prompted with a command prompt error stating that a mass storage device has not been detected. Always check if the SATA connection is fully seated before assuming a hard drive has failed. If that doesn't fix the issue, you should check your boot order in BIOS, the computer could be trying to boot from somewhere else besides your hard drive. The last resort is always going to be replacing the hard drive, it most likely will have failed, but the data might be able to be recovered by a professional even if it still isn't functional.

Clicking Hard Drive: It could be a power issue, the disk could be struggling to fully spin up because of lack of power. Sometimes you can hear an audible click when the read/write head performs the park operation when it is powering off, this is completely normal. It can also be a sign that the data cable is faulty or incompatible. As always, it can point to a failure of the drive.