How to Know If Your Hard Disk Is Failing

As most of us know, hard disks, just like any other electronic devices, have a limited lifespan and could break down after five to ten years of usage. There are a lot of factors that can affect the lifespan of a hard disk like the mechanical stress, temperatures, humidity, working conditions, physical trauma, finite number of write cycles (in case of SSD’s), etc. Luckily, most hard drives do show some symptoms before they die on you. Here are a few common wear and tear signs which can help you back up your precious data when you still have time to do so.

If your files are frequently corrupted, it could be a signal to inform you that your hard disk lifespan is coming to an end soon. Of course, these corrupted files may occur due to several other reasons like overclocking SATA bus, driver issues, sudden power failure, etc., but whenever you encounter this frequently, it is always a good idea to back up your data and diagnose your computer for problem.

Whenever the hard disk is at its limit, its performance also reduces significantly which in turn causes slow response times and transfer rates. The performance drop is so significant that your hard disk may take several minutes to transfer even a small audio file, or it takes too much time to even open a simple program like Windows Explorer. Even though detecting this symptom is kind of easy, deducing it may be a little tricky as the reasons may include several other factors like system load, fragmentation, infections, etc. Slow performance may not indicate immediate failure, but backing up your data as a precaution is never a bad thing.


Accumulated bad sectors and frequent freezing are also a bad sign that your hard disk is at its end. For those of you who don’t know, hard disks store data in tiny clusters. Whenever these clusters got corrupted or damaged, that part of the hard disk is no longer functional and thus called bad sectors. These bad sectors can cause some serious irrecoverable damage to your data. Generally, bad sectors may occur due to logical errors (software) which can be repaired using a specialized software or could be due to physical damage like mishandling of the hard disk. Simply put, accumulated bad sectors are a strong reminder to have a good back up of your data.

Odd noises and extreme heat are yet more major indicators that your hard disk is going to die soon. Mechanical hard drives tend to make some noise while functioning due to several moving parts inside it. But in the event of physical damage or deterioration, your hard disk may produce some odd clicking and grinding noises. There are quite a few reasons for these strange noises like the damaged header, failed motor, etc. No matter what the reason is, if you are hearing strange noises from your hard drive then it just indicates that you don’t have much time to back up your data.

Learning signs to know when your hard disk is going to fail is all good as it allows you to make quick backups to avoid any data loss. However, most modern hard disks support S.M.A.R.T  (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) technology which helps in analyzing the current hard disk state. In fact, most third party hard disk monitoring tools use S.M.A.R.T to predict hard disk failures. So always keep an eye on your hard disk and don’t make excuses to back up your data no matter how good your hard disk is.

Hopefully that helps, and do comment below sharing your thoughts and experiences.

Image Credit: Hard Disk Drive – Wikipedia