If you recognize the potential for computer hard drive failure, you give yourself a chance to pull essential data off the machine before the device gives out entirely. While you should always back up your software and data files, you should also know the warning signs of hard drive failure.

Strange Sounds

Many modern hard drives operate with whisper-quiet efficiency, so take notice if your hard drive gets louder or makes unfamiliar noises. An intense whirring sound or intermittent beeps could signal impending problems. You might notice the sounds when you boot up your system, launch a software program, or wake up the monitor after a long period of disuse.

Reluctant Response

When you double-click the mouse or type a letter on the keyboard, does your computer take several seconds, or even longer, to respond? A slow computer could suffer from a bloated hard drive or a viral infection, but lagging also represents one of the most common signs of hard drive failure.

Crashing Computer

Computer crashes take many forms. Sometimes, the computer freezes, refusing to respond to your commands. In other cases, the computer shuts down entirely. Whatever the circumstances, a computer crash suggests a serious problem with the machine's hardware or software. To protect yourself against data loss, back up your files for when the hard drive gives out.

Deleted Data

You know you saved a file to your desktop, but when you start your computer, you can't find the file. First, make sure you didn't move the file somewhere else and forget about it before you jump to conclusions. However, files that seemingly delete themselves rarely signify hard drive health. Watch out for corrupted data as well. If you open a picture file only to find half of it missing or distorted, consider a failing hard drive as a possible culprit.

Faulty File Names

When file names change themselves, you should suspect hard drive failure. You might see a nonsensical string of alphanumeric characters instead of the file name you chose. In some cases, software issues can also cause this phenomenon to occur. Back up your files and run a data recovery tool to find any lost data.

Drive Damage

If your hard drive suffers any physical trauma, such as drops to the floor, assume that the data might not survive. Avoid putting the drive back into the computer or attempting to access the data electronically. Instead, wrap the drive in an antistatic bag and take it to a professional for evaluation.

Malignant Messages

Warning messages on your computer could signal hard drive failure. For example, when your computer urges you to run the CHKDSK utility, the device might indicate corrupted sectors on your hard drive. You might also see messages such as "operating system not found" or "system has recovered from a serious error."

If your hard drive fails, data recovery programs can often rescue lost files. You might have to replace the hard drive itself, but you won't have to live without precious photos, important documents or saved software settings. Heed the hard drive failure symptoms described above to protect your data.

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