Hard drive problems are among the most common, yet most annoying issues we deal with on a daily basis. This article will explain what a hard drive is, why they fail frequently, and what you can do about it.
What does it mean if I have a Hard Drive problem?
First, let’s find out what a hard drive is. The hard drive is the physical place in your computer, where all your important files live. It is where the pictures, documents, music, videos, and everything that you save on your computer go. That means if your hard drive fails, you may face the possibility of losing all of these files! – Now, don’t let me scare you with these “what if” scenarios. You’re reading this article after all, and you’ll soon learn how to prevent that from happening. In Windows (7), if you open ‘Computer’, you’ll see how much storage space your hard drive has, and how much free space you have:
- GB means Gigabyte, and that’s about 1000 Megabytes (Mb).
- The average picture is 2Mb, and the average music file 4Mb.
- Videos can take up much more space, and text documents hardly take up any space at all.
- If you examine the contents of your computer’s hard drive, you’ll also find many Windows files, Program files, and other system related files that are probably needed.
If you were to open up your laptop’s bottom compartment, you’d find a 2.5 inch wide removable piece that looks like one of these:
OK, so the hard drive is the storage place for the files on your computer. Got it. But how can such an important piece of the computer be such a problem? It’s simply because hard drives are mechanical nightmares. They are the equivalent of a record player, spinning at thousands of rounds per minute, squished down to a really tiny area inside your laptop. Oh yeah, and you’re probably carrying your laptop around a lot, right? Well that’s why they are a common failure point inside a computer system. They contain the most intense moving parts in your computer. On the surface of the platter (which would be the record in our analogy), billions of bits of information are written and rewritten magnetically all the time. With one single platter now capable of storing over a thousand DVDs, it’s amazing to me that they are able to work like this at all. That’s why your mindset should be that these hard drives are consumables, and you should basically EXPECT that the drive will die in a couple of years. If your hard drive is a good quality brand, and lives inside a safely stored and nicely cooled desktop computer, then it can last for decades – but if you plan for the worst, and have a good backup plan in effect, then you won’t be unpleasantly surprised if it does fail. Plan for the worst, and hope for the best.
The perfect backup plan is one that ensures that you have all of your critical files saved in at least two separate places. Well the good news is that for laptops, the solution to all this is a new technology called “Solid State Drives” (SSD). These take the idea behind thumb-drives, tiny flash memory devices that you stick into a USB port, and super-sizes it to make it fast, reliable, and usable as a hard-drive. This means that since there are no more moving parts, you can now use your laptop as a frisbee, and while the rest of it won’t be so healthy, the hard drive will still be OK! (Unless you threw it out of an airplane?) ((Don’t throw laptops out of airplanes.)) SSD’s are much better than conventional Hard Disk Drives (HDD). BUT… they are also much more expensive. And while that may change in the future, right now the best approach is to either bite the bullet, and pay more for less (but more reliable) storage space, or take a hybrid approach to your storage needs that accommodates both technologies. For example, in a desktop computer, you can usually install multiple hard drives. It would benefit your computer’s speed and reliability, if you used an SSD for your system and your programs, along with perhaps your most important files that you’re working with on a daily basis. Then you might have a conventional HDD for saving things like Music, Videos, Pictures, stuff that takes up too much space to fit on a smaller SSD.