How to Test a Hard Drive for Problems

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The hard drive is an important component of any computer because it acts as the internal storage media. However, certain problems may occur, and when they do, you are likely at risk of losing all of your data. Also, when problems and errors occur on your hard disk, there is a high chance that you won’t be able to access any of your files.

In order to safeguard your precious data, it is crucial that you protect your drive. One of the ways to do so is to understand the various reasons that can cause hard disk failure and how to detect them. Below are some of the most common hard disk drive problems.


Symptoms of Hard Disk Error

It is difficult to diagnose an HDD error since the symptoms are slow. The slowing down of the symptoms may be caused by viruses, malware, or corrupted files. Besides, hard disk failure can take place gradually or disastrously. When there is an error, the hard disk normally stops working.

The following are the most common symptoms that something might be wrong with your hard disk:

  1. Smart error message

SMART, the monitoring system in your hard drive, will occasionally pop up an error message on your PC in the event of a problem. In most cases, this happens if your drive is physically damaged. This is a common symptom of error, and the best thing you can do is to replace the hard disk with a new one. You can also transfer your data to another hard disk to prevent data loss. 

  1. PC is unbootable

If your PC cannot boot normally, then something must be wrong with your hard disk. This problem can be caused by several issues including a virus infection and hardware/software failure. However, the most common reason for this problem is hard drive failure. When your hard drive starts to malfunction, the system will pop up a warning message.

In fact, you will see messages such as HDD Control Failure, Invalid partition failure, no ROM Basic, System Halted, Error loading operating system/ missing operating system, Device error, or disk error.


Causes of hard disk problems

It’s really helpful to identify the causes of hard disk problems so that you can find the appropriate solution. There are numerous reasons for hard disk problems that you should know. They are as follows: 

  1. Virus Infection

hard disk virus

One of the major problems of a hard disk is a virus attack. It’s when the hard disk is attacked by a malware program or virus, resulting in digital lags, strange pop-ups, or your internet tabs being randomly redirected. The virus can even spread to other networks and cause a total shut down of your device.

Your computer may get infected with the virus by opening links from other media, networks, or external drives. The same applies to backing up or downloading files that are infected.


In order to detect the viruses, it is highly recommended to frequently update your antivirus program. When you update the system with a reliable antivirus program, you will be able to identify files that contain the virus before they cause a hard disk failure. Use antivirus programs such as Hitman Pro, McAfee Antivirus, and many others.

You can also use ad blockers to get rid of popups and prevent infected sites from appearing in your search results. Also, avoid visiting sites that are likely to infect your system with a virus.

  1. Corrupted Files

file is corrupted

Sometimes, your files could be corrupted by shutting down your computer incorrectly, using programs that are infected, power failure, or accidentally closing a running program. When this occurs, the operating system will not boost up properly, and you may be unable to access your files.

Not only will corrupted files prevent you from accessing files and parts of your computer, it can also cause you to lose data. Apart from corrupted files, the file system is also prone to corruption. When this happens, all the data stored will be damaged. 


There are several methods you can use to deal with corrupted files on your computer, and each of them depends on the operating system you’re using.


For Windows 7

Windows 7

Type “cmd” in the search box. Afterward, right click it then choose Run as administrator. In the command prompt box, type “sfc/scannow” without the quotes. Press Enter then wait for the result. You will receive a message depending on your problem. It could be one of the following:

  • Windows Resource Protection could not perform the requested operation. This means you have to run the command in Safe mode and also make sure that both PendingRenames and PendingDeletes folders are in your temporary folder (this can be accessed by typing %WinDir%\WinSxS\Temp in the search box.
  • Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files and successfully repaired them. It means your corrupted files are successfully fixed.
  • Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations. This means that there are no corrupted files in your drives.
  • Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them. If you receive this message, you need to look for the corrupted files manually then replace them.


For Windows 8/10

windows 10 logo

The newer versions of Windows have the dism command. However, it’s best used when the SFC command didn’t work for you (the steps are similar to that of Windows 7). Also, it’s the next step you should do if you receive an error message such as “Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them”.

To do so, type dism in the search box then run it. This will open a command prompt where you have to type this line:

DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth

Make sure you leave spaces in between. Press Enter afterward. Wait for it to finish then restart your computer to apply the changes.



For MacOS


The MacOS has the Disk Utility feature which is capable of fixing a number of hard drive issues, one of which is a corrupted file. To start, go to your Apple menu > Restart. After restarting, press and hold Command + R until the Apple logo appears.

Choose Disk Utility > Continue. Afterward, click View > Show all Devices. Your drives will be displayed on the left sidebar. Choose which drive has the corrupted file then click the First Aid button.

In some cases, Disk Utility will prompt you that your drive is about to fail. It’s not possible to repair it, hence you have to back up your data and get a new replacement. Otherwise, click Run.

There are several results to this, and they are as follows:

  • If it says that disk has been repaired, then everything’s successfully completed. You can also click Show Details so you can know more about the repairs.
  • If it says “overlapped extent allocation”, it means that several files occupy the same space on your drive and one of them is corrupted. You have to check each of the files in the list given. If it’s possible to replace a corrupted file or recreate it, then simply delete it. However, if it has important information, you need to check its data so you can confirm if it’s corrupted or not.
  • If it says “The underlying task reported failure”, you have to repair your disk. If it still won’t give you the result you want, make sure you back up your data then reformat the disk.



  1. Computer Overheating

Computer Overheating

Poor ventilation of your computer and excess usage can cause overheating. Additionally, a faulty or slow moving fan can cause this problem. If your computer overheats, it can cause damage to the hard drive and other internal mechanisms. If you sometimes hear an internal clicking noise from your computer, it might be a sign of overheating. 


A great technology for checking the condition of your hard drive is the SMART tool (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology). SMART tools normally perform important tests and notify you when the hard disk is at risk. If there is physical damage to your hard disk, you will get a SMART error message.

Besides that, you should make sure that the CPU fans are in the right condition and the processor gets adequate cooling. If the fan is non-functional, repair it with a new one. A thermal paste can help seal any gaps around the fan to ensure its functionality. 


  1. Bad Sectors

bad sectors


Another hard disk problem is bad sectors. The hard disk is divided into multiple sectors which are responsible for storing data. The bad sectors are those that have become invalid or have addressed information error. As a result, the data on these bad sectors will be unavailable.

Bad sectors are in two forms: soft bad sectors and hard bad sectors. Soft bad sectors are a result of incorrectly written data. The hard bad sectors are the result when your disk is physically damaged.


Like dealing with corrupted files, the methods for fixing bad sectors also vary from one operating system to another.

For Windows 8/10

windows 10 logo

  1. Go to “This PC” by typing the words on your search box. Right-click the drive you want to repair then click Properties.
  2. A new window will open. Click Tools, and in the Error-checking section, click Check.
  3. Click Scan drive then wait for the result.
  4. Review the report afterward.



For MacOS


Bad sectors are known as bad blocks in Mac. To fix them, simply follow these steps:

  1. Launch Disk Utility then choose which drive you want to fix.
  2. Click the Erase tab.
  3. Afterward, choose “Mac OS X Extended (Journaled) from the Format dropdown You can choose to rename the drive or leave it as default (Untitled).
  4. Click Security Options then choose the option to overwrite your drive with zeros. In Snow Leopard and earlier versions, you can just choose the option for a list. Meanwhile, in Lion, you can achieve this by moving the slider from Fastest to the next indent located on the right. Click OK and the Erase button.
  5. The process may take time depending on your drive’s size. In most cases, it may take around 5 hours, but sometimes it may take up to 12-24 hours.
  6. Once everything is done successfully and there are no errors from your Disk Utility report, you may start using your drive again. If errors still occur, you may run the process again. However, it will take a lot of time and the success rate is significantly reduced as well.



  1. Computer Crash

computer crash

An unexpected crash can happen when the hard disk has multiple blocks and bad sectors. When the spindle motor becomes non-functional or stops rotating, the hard disk is likely to crash. As a result, your HDD usually makes clicking sounds.

Aside from that, there are also several reasons why a computer crashes. These include not enough memory, malware, an overheating computer, or a failing hard drive. 


In most cases, a hard drive failure will require you to buy a new drive for your system. However, if it still hasn’t failed completely, you have to make sure to create a backup of your important data as soon as possible. If you can’t recover them manually, you can use a recovery software like Recuva by Piriform to hopefully recover some, if not all, of them.


  1. Human Error

human error

In some cases, a faulty hard drive might be caused by human error. This may include altering the system’s registry settings and installing the wrong OS. Sometimes, the error can be brought about by moving important file locations.


Fixing this problem can be challenging and may require the help of professionals. They will restore your hard disk and any data that has been lost, although there’s no guarantee that they can recover all of your data completely.


  1. Computer Failure to Detect Hard Disk

Sometimes, your computer may not recognize your hard disk. This problem occurs when the UPS does not give adequate power supply which, in turn, makes the BIOS unable to detect the drive.


You must ensure that your system has the appropriate power supply. Avoid getting a UPS from non-reputable brands as it’s highly unlikely to deliver enough power. There are a number of reliable UPS brands out there like CyberPower, APC, and Tripp Lite. It is recommended to replace the SCSI, ATA, or IDE cable; or better yet, use another power plug.


  1. Deleted Files

Accidentally deleting files is a major and frustrating problem on HHDs. At worse, it can lead to data loss which can sometimes be unavoidable. In such cases, it may cause troubles to the hard disk.


Always double check before deleting any files in order to prevent crucial data loss.


Software You Can Use for Repairing your Drives

There are several hard drive repair tools that can help you detect any issues on your hard drive and even help you fix them. They are as follows:

  • Manufacturer’s Tools

There are software solutions that are designed by most hard drive manufacturers. The manufacturer’s tools tend to monitor the health and performance of your hard drive. 

First, you have to know the model of your hard drive. If you have no idea, simply press the “Win” key and then type “Device manager.” Click on the “disk drives” option to get the model number which you can key into Google to know your drive’s make. 

It’s important to note that each tool has its own diagnostic features. Some popular free diagnostic tools are included by famous brands such as Western Digital, Seagate, Fujitsu, Samsung, and Hitachi.


Commercial Hard Drive Repair Tools

While the manufacturer’s drive testers are free, the commercial tools have a price. The best thing about commercial diagnostic tools is that they combine different examinations into one solution.

  • HDD Regenerator

hdd regenerator

This is a commercial hard drive repair option that is text-based and very easy to use. Apart from its ease of use, this tool will tell you about the health status of the tested hard drive within a short period of time. With this software, you can choose to burn the program to a disk or flash drive. Besides, it has two scanning options namely pre-scan and normal scan.




  • SpinRite


This is another commercial diagnostic tool that works to recover data from bad sectors. The data is rewritten and the bad sectors are replaced. This tool is compatible with hard drives and the latest file systems. It is also extremely fast and compact, thus making it possible to run on a bootable media like a flash drive. 

Additionally, it comes in two modes: one that is meant for recovery and emergency situations, and the other one for maintenance purposes.



Final Thoughts

If you are experiencing problems with your existing drive, it is highly recommended to replace it with a reliable one from a well-known brand. However, with so many models to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which one to buy.

Or, you might want to go with an external drive instead. There are plenty of them in the market, and among the most reliable are Western Digital’s My Passport, Seagate Backup Plus, Samsung T5 Portable, and Toshiba Canvio – Check out Best portable hard drive list


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