Hard drive boot failure is something that happens quite often, mostly to unsuspecting users. One day your PC is running fine and the next morning, you might turn it on to see an error that says “disk boot failure”. Though in some cases, this error disappears if you power off the system and restart it, it might crop up again a few hours or days later. And hence, resolving it at its core is necessary.
In this article, we’ll be covering several aspects of hard drive failure – reasons behind it, common fixes and how to recover data.
Why do hard drives fail?
While most users keep external hard drives as handy backup drives, what they don’t realize it that hard drives, whether internal or external, are mechanical devices and hence are exposed to technical and other faults. The most common reasons for hard drive failure are listed below segregated into 2 broad categories:
- Problems with Hardware
- Problems with Software
Problems with Hardware
Hardware faults play a major role in messing up with the hard drive’s functionality. Physical damage to the drive, firmware problems, bad electrical connections, problems with the power supply and even overheating of the system comprise the hardware side of things that can go wrong. Let’s visit each of these reasons in detail.
- Hard drive physically breaking
A hard drive looks like a heavy rectangular flat box. It contains a lot of little and very delicate components that make it possible for you to write / read data to / from it. A typical hard disk drive contains metallic platters, read/write head, spindle motor, PCB, and other tiny parts. Any damage to any of these parts could spell doom for the drive. You’ll know the drive is broken if it makes a distinct clicking sound on power on.
Usual causes behind physical damage to the drive are wear and tear through years of usage, mishandling or dropping the drive leading to breakage of metallic platters, jamming of the spindle motor, damage to the PCB itself etc.
2. Firmware or Manufacturer faults
Rare and extremely unfortunate users may get a hard drive with some kind of manufacturing defect or firmware defect. This causes the system to not recognize or detect the hard drive at all or hang during boot-up. You’ll find this issue with the drive within a few days of purchasing the computer or drive. If you do, don’t ignore the issue and contact the manufacturer immediately to get the drive replaced.
3. Problematic Electrical Connection
You might want to laugh it off, but bad electrical connections and wiring issues are one of the major contributors to hard drive failure. And when we say electrical connections, we include the connection between the memory and motherboard too. A single improperly connected pin could cause boot failure (blank screen with only the CPU fan powering up). Other messed up electrical connections include loose cables as well as improperly connected battery (in the case of a laptop).
4. Power Supply Issues
A sudden system shutdown or frequent voltage fluctuations could result in permanent damage to the hard drive. This is why having a UPS is advised. It prevents the computer from shutting down unexpectedly and also keeps tabs on voltage. Also, the power plug point or power supply unit for your computer should be checked if your computer is dead on switch on.
This might be surprising but improperly ventilated hard drives are most prone to failures. If the laptop or CPU’s fans are not working properly, the machine is bound to get heated quickly and overheat can cause a sudden hard drive crash or irreversible hardware damage.
Problems with Software
If it’s not a hardware issue among the ones listed above, it would likely be a software problem. And there is only a handful of things that can go wrong on the software side.
1. Operating System Crash
Corrupt or missing OS boot-up files could be the reason your hard drive doesn’t come to life. This could happen when you interrupt a process on the machine by shutting down the PC through the hard boot, or use conflicting applications on the system, some drivers are not updated; there is a power surge while some critical application is running etc.
2. Virus / Malware Infection
Modern virus and malware are designed keeping the tactics of common anti-viruses in mind. Hence, if your hard drive becomes infected with one, getting rid of it could be very difficult. A hard drive infected with a virus or malware can become useless in a couple of hours or days. Plus, there is the risk of the virus spreading to other devices connecting to the machine. That’s the reason it is advised not to download suspicious free programs from the Internet and from illegal websites.
3. Human Errors
Though this is the least common cause behind it, human errors like messing around with registry entries, changing default locations of system files, incorrectly installing or updating drivers, faulty attempts at hard drive partitioning could contribute to hard drive failure.
Common fixes to repair the drive and recover data
While tackling other problems could be a little less tricky, a boot failure will likely make it impossible to access the data on the hard drive at all. So what do you do to prevent further damage and, if possible, salvage the data on it?
Step 1: Shut down the system to stop using the drive immediately. Then carefully remove or unplug the drive from the machine.
Step 2: Try to plug in the hard drive into a hard drive dock or into another computer to see if it powers up. In the case of the external drive, plug it into another USB port and check.
Step 3: Check all cable connections to the computer. Clean the hard drive and reattach it to the computer and restart. Now check if it boots up.
Step 4: Check the boot device order in BIOS settings. For this press ‘Del’ key or ‘F2’ key on power on and then go to BIOS settings. Arrange the order to reflect hard disk (if internal) and removable disk (if external) as the first device to boot. Save the settings and exit.
Step 5: Remove all power supply from the computer / laptop and remove the battery as well. Wait for a few seconds. Press and hold down the power button of your laptop or CPU for about 15 seconds. Then release the button, insert the battery, plug-in the power supply and restart the system.
Step 6: If none of the above steps work, get a hold of some screwdrivers and open up the computer. Unplug the RAM, clean it and plug it back in. Then restart the machine and check.
Step 7: As a last try, you could format the hard disk. However, you should remember that formatting erases all the data on the drive, so it would be easier to recover if you have a backup. If you, however, don’t have a backup, you can use 3rd party Windows Partition Recovery Software to reclaim all your lost files.
A failed hard drive can be a pain but not if you know how to keep calm and tackle the problem. Plus, with trusty data recovery software like Stellar Phoenix Partition Recovery at hand, you needn’t worry about data loss.