In this session you will learn about some of the hard disk failure symptoms in depth. They are categorized on the basis of failure types. Mechanical breakdown is one of the major causes which show its own set of unique symptoms. Mechanical breakdown can develop gradually over a period of time or they can be swift in nature. Many of the rapid types of failure may result from electrical circuit faults or accidental fall. Gradual development of errors shows symptoms during their stages of growth. For example you could consider bad sectors.
Development of bad sectors
Bad sectors are essentially physical damages to the clusters and sectors in HDD. They may develop as a result of spikes in power supply, failure of transistors attached to the HDD circuit, or damages due to surge in voltage.
- Operating system: – It takes several minutes for the OS to load before you can start using the system. Initially you may think of it as a result of overloaded software applications. You may try to increase the RAM capacity, size of virtual memory, disk clean up or adopt many other similar measures. But you still end up with same problem which worsens with time.
- File I/O operations: – The system will allow you to create and save files. But you will not be able to open them as the system shows a message “File is corrupt and cannot be opened”.
- Strange noises: – Every File I/O operation may result in strange noises from your HDD. They start as slow clicking sound and they may soon develop into rattling types of noise. It is because of the read write hand moving over the bad sectors.
- Auto disk scan: – The system initiates the disk-scan and defragment utilities whenever you boot the system.
Now you can run the SANDISK utility and defragment your primary partition. This utility will be able to mark most of the bad sectors. But you need to be careful before you run this utility as it may mark some of them as permanently “NON RECOVERABLE”.
Software for Data recovery from bad sectors
You may need external software for recovering data from bad sectors. You could download them from online resources or opt for licensed professional and enterprise level software. You need to identify the type of your HDD and the loaded OS before downloading the software.
- Support for drive: – Search for software which can support IDE, SATA, USB, SCSCI, Flash memory and other types. Most of the licensed software supports these drives by default.
- Support for OS: – Check out for multiple OS support software if your HDD has multiple OS loaded. Otherwise you can download OS specific software.
- Support for recovery: – Many of the software just mark the bad sectors and try to move the data onto good sectors within the same drive. This may not be an effective solution, especially when the number of bad sectors is large in size. So you need software which can effectively extract the data from bad sectors, link it with the associated file name and restore the complete file to a back up medium. Once the data is recovered from bad sector, it can be marked as unusable and access denied to those sectors.
Hard disk failure in laptop systems
Many of the hard disk failures in laptop systems are similar to those of desktop systems. However there are many other types of failures that are unique to them. For example you can consider the hard disk failure due to usage patterns, collision of laptop with other objects, accidental drops etc.
- Recovery Software: – using recovery software applications if the first method you can try out. Most of the times it is possible to restore data up to 85%-90% (provided the HDD has not suffered any critical damages). Software applications can restore data in cases of accidental file deletion, corrupt file system, partition collapse and RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks used in NTFS file format) failure. You need to install the software and scan the affected disk or partition. The process may reboot the system several times after each stage of rectification. Finally you get a status report. If the operation has failed, you may need to go for hardware tools for recovering data from the damaged portions of the disk.
- Hardware Tools: – Platter exchange, head exchange, magnet fixing, motor fixing, and HDD component alignment tools are some of the portable Kits you can buy from online shops. Platter exchange tools can work with most of the HDD brands. The tool has a donor drive and target drive. Place the failed disk platters into the target drive of the tool, by carefully taking them out of the HDD drive cover. Before that you need to disconnect the magnet, actuator and the actuator arm from the platters. Make use of the appropriate tools for doing it. Clean the platter by using dust removal tools. Now you need to set the new donor drives (with same number of platters as in your failed disk). Now you can set the tool in operation from the control panel after closing the case covers. This is a generic procedure for working with platter exchange tools. If you wish to read about product specific procedures, you need to read through the product manual and follow the procedures.
Reasons for selecting hardware tools
Hardware tools are selected for data recovery when other options fail to produce desired results. Some of the most common reasons are
- Irreparable damage to read-write head.
- Seizure of HDD motors or short circuit within the internal parts.
- Bent read-write head; burnt out parts or chip level damages.
Apart from platter exchange, other listed methods can also be used for recovering data from critically damaged drives.
NOTE: – If you don’t have the skills to operate the hardware tools, please do not try to experiment! You may end up losing the probability of recovering data if the platters, magnet, actuator or other delicate parts are damaged or misaligned. It is better to take the help of a professional in such cases.