Almost everyone who has owned a computer has at some point been devastated by a complete hard disk failure. When your hard disk fails, your OS doesn’t load, you can’t access your files, programs and apps and basically everything comes to a grinding halt, with your computer being rendered useless.
While we won’t say that hard disk failure is completely preventable, you can reduce the probability of hard disk failure quite significantly, by taking some of the steps suggested below.
1. Defrag your hard disk
While hard disks wear and tear slowly, you can try extending its life. Defrag drives and keep the file structures more compact. Sadly, hard drives don’t follow any particular order to save files. Data that you save is distributed across the landscape making it harder to access stored data. Manual or automatic defrag (on a weekly basis) will enable your computer to run quickly. Besides letting you find data quicker, defrag also ensures that your hard disk works lesser, thereby prolonging its life.
2. Uninstall unnecessary software programs
The more software programs you install on your hard disk, the harder it will make your hard disk work. This is particularly true of programs that are always running in the background or right from the time your computer boots up.
Take an hour to find all the programs that are installed on your hard disk and uninstall the programs that you don’t need. Please make sure that you uninstall and not delete such programs. Let’s say you have a list of 100 programs on your computer.
When you run a check, you might find that there are about 30 programs that you don’t use anymore. Uninstalling these 30 programs can offer tremendous performance boosts, as your hard disk becomes lighter and more accessible.
3. Monitor the health of your drive
You don’t want to be caught napping when your hard disk seizes. Be proactive and monitor your hard drive periodically. Key parameters of your hard disk can be monitored through effective monitoring applications.
They offer (a) disk state background monitoring and control (b) history of temperature measures and trends (c) scans and displays bad sectors (d) self monitoring and reporting technology (e) visibility of critical conditions in advance through emails.
Reports on the status of these key parameters can help you avert any potential damage to your hard disk. The Acronis Drive Monitor is one such very good monitoring tool for your computer’s disk.
4. Stabilize your hard disk’s power supply
Power supply, spikes and troughs are not under your control. But you can prepare for them smartly.
Thunderstorm and climate driven vagaries of power supply are a common cause and one of the most common reasons for hard drive failure. Ensure you’ve plugged in an uninterrupted power supply that gives you an opportunity to shut down your system smoothly. UPS comes along with management software that turns off your computer safely during power outages.
Don’t cheap out on a UPS purchase. Invest in a high quality UPS from a trusted manufacture as it can essentially save your entire computer when there is an erratic power surge or fluctuation.
5. Pack it, don’t shock it!
Just like us, machines like computers are also sensitive to impact and shock! More reasons for us to treat a hard drive like a human heart. Users of laptops, notebooks and other portable smart devices should always handle them with care.
Hard drives are subject to impact while banging or dropping of these devices. Many of these instruments are shock rated. Make sure your drives have a robust casing that will prevent it from bumps. It’s recommended to check your luck on a lottery and not a hard drive’s shock rating!
6. Clean your hard disk, on the outside of course!
Sometimes we fail to give our computers the clean and uncluttered space and environment that it requires. Often, it might not be practically possible to use personal computers and laptops in a perfect air conditioned, clean environment. It’s important to clean the system once in a while.
Dust, debris, dirt and unclean surrounding might accumulate heavily on your computer’s air vent. Restricted air circulation can lead to over heating that can essentially lead to hard disk or any computer component failure. If you use a desktop computer, open up your CPU tower and use a low pressure vacuum to thoroughly remove remnants of dust from the insides.
7. Compartmentalize OS and user data differently
Dine on the dining table and live in a living room. Your operating system and personal/business data deserves the same principle. Installing OS on a separate drive enables less reading and writing on the drive thereby protecting key segments of your hard drive.
It is a good practice to place your personal/business data in a separate drive. The input and output operations on your data is unimaginable. You don’t want your OS to be exposed to this.
Segregating the two types of data will also mean that your OS always works pretty fluidly.
8. Spin down your hard disk
Give your hard disk a break when you’re not using them. Personal and business users can configure operating systems to spin down after a specific amount of time. Windows 7 gives you an option to “turn off hard disk after” after a specified time. You can access this option through: Start button >> Control Panel >> System and Security >> Power Options >> Advanced settings tab >> double-click Hard disk. Under the “Turn off hard disk after” setting, select “Never” to turn off disk idle sleep, or a value in minutes to enable.
This is a particularly useful setting to enable if you are the type that leaves your computer on all the time, even when you are not using it.
9. Careful about what you install from now on
We don’t take a product home just because it’s available free, do we? Computers like human beings act funny when external / toxic elements are injected. Downloading and installing software from internet or from your personal discs might prove detrimental if not checked.
Install software only when you know it’s absolutely critical. Multiple installations or incomplete or corrupt installations eventually slow down your hard drive and have a major impact on your computer’s performance. Avoid it and only install a program when you absolutely need it.
10. Free up disk space
It is good practice to keep about 40% of your hard disk space as free space. Not only does this help with your system’s performance, it will also mean that your hard disk will work optimally. When your hard disk is very full, any small search will trigger a lot of movement on your hard disk, increasing wear and tear, wear and tear that can eventually reduce the life of the disk.
Follow the above 10 tips and you might just be one of the lucky ones who ends up with a disk that outlasted the rest of their computer! Also, despite all precautions that you take, there is always a possibility that your hard disk fails for no apparent reason. This is why it is always prudent to constantly backup your hard disk. These good disk to disk cloning programs are highly recommended.