Introduction: How to Diagnose, Troubleshoot, and Maintain a Hard Disc Drive

A hard drive is a component in a computer used for storage of information. A hard drive is made with a plate full of millions of individual cells which can each be magnetized or demagnetized independently. These cells store information in Binary, or 1's and 0's, as a magnetized cell stands for one, while an unmagnetized cell stands for zero. These values are then written or read by a computer to produce the information we see on the monitor. A HDD is generally slightly slower to load information than a SSD, however, presently HDD's have higher capacities of storage than do SSD's, and they do not wear down from being written to. Storage is typically measured in Gigabytes or Terabytes.

Step 1: Components of a Hard Disc Drive

Platter: Stores the data

spindle motor: Spins the platter

Head:Reads or writes data from or to the platter

Actuator: Causes the arm to move

Arm: Moves across the disk, positioning the head

Spindle: The motor that spins the disc in order for the head to write to other parts of the disk.

Ports: Ports include the Jumper, the Power and the Sata cables.

Step 2: Properly Maintaining a HDD

Hard Drives typically can survive long as long as they do not fail. However, most causes of failure can be prevented, or at least be kept at bay. The most important thing to not do to a hard drive is to move it abruptly while the computer is on. This can cause a head crash. Another important thing is to prevent your drive from overheating. This can be accomplished by adding cooling to the case, or upgrading ventilation with more fans. Excessive heat can damage a drive. Another thing that can happen is data fragmentation, which is when similar data is stored randomly throughout the drive, making it harder for the drive to find them and access them. This can be helped or prevented with defragmentation software, as well as partitioning the HDD. Another thing to consider is not turning your computer on and off frequently, as the spinning up or spinning down of a disk too frequently can lead to damages. And finally, always have some sort of surge protection to protect your drive from electrical power surges or brownouts.

Step 3: Common Problems and How to Troubleshoot Them

There is some type of electrical connection problem:

The most common issue with hard drives is simply that the cabling inside the case is not correct.

The hard drive controller has failed:

Usually indicated by an error at startup. If the hard drive controller has failed, you may just have to replace the hard drive.

The hard drive has failed physically

A head crash is a scary concept, but if it has happened, you may hear a clicking or scraping sound. You may be able to salvage information, but need to replace the hard drive.

The hard drive has failed electronically

An error message in the boot cycle will usually indicate this. You may need to replace the Hard drive

There is a problem with the recording on the hard drive

If this is an issue, simply scan the disc and repair it. If some files are lost, you may need to re-download them to the drive.

The CMOS settings are not correctly set

Typically seen on older computers, as new ones tend to detect hard drives automatically. You may need to input settings manually

There is a conflict with the jumper settings

Sometimes the jumper settings are incorrect, so changing the HDD to the master settings in the bios and rebooting can fix that issue.

Step 4: Common Problems and How to Troubleshoot Them Part 2