Backblaze is a company that has been performing data backups to hard drives for several years. Their server rooms consist of literally thousands of hard drives, which gives them a unique opportunity to study drive lifetimes.
Backblaze also studies failure rates of hard drives by model number and manufacturer and publishes a quarterly report. In a study they did in 2013, their data showed that after 4 years of use, 20% of all hard drives failed. They estimated that after 6 years, half of all hard drives in use worldwide would fail.
I have a customer who is still doing her company bookkeeping on a 12-year-old hard drive. I had another customer recently give me a 20-year-old computer running Windows XP and its hard drive fired right up. So obviously, many drives will run for much longer than 6 years without having any major issues. But let’s remember that hard drives are mechanical devices that will all fail eventually, so a current backup is a good idea too.
If a drive does fail, you can sometimes recover data from the damaged drive, but it can be an expensive and time-consuming process. It’s a LOT easier and much less expensive to back up your files and swap an older working hard drive with a new one than it is to try to recover your data from a crashed drive.
If you’re using an older computer with an older hard drive, I can replace that old hard drive with a new one and copy your data over for you. In most cases, people also see an increase in speed with a new drive.
Trust me, it’s better to do it before it becomes a crisis.
Probably the most common symptom of a failing hard drive is that distinct clicking noise – sometimes called the click of death.
If you have ever had this problem in the past, chances are it was diagnosed as a hardware failure. And in some cases it is. Unfortunately, I can’t fix this type of problem. Most technicians will ship a drive like this out of state to a lab that can open the drive to solve the problem. I have a local partner with the appropriate tools and experience to fix it for you, saving you lots of time.
How and why do hard drives start clicking?
Traditional IDE and SATA hard drives have lots of little moving parts inside. Your information is stored on magnetic discs arranged in a stack. Imagine a record player, with a big stack of records, and in between each record is a separate needle. That’s exactly how the platters that store your information work inside your hard drive. You ask the computer to read a file, and the platters spin to put the file under the correct head so it can be read. There are motors and other parts in there too, but the point is, any of these parts failing or breaking down is going to cause your hard drive to crash.
The clicking noise is usually caused when one of the heads can’t find the first sector on the drive and it goes into a loop looking for it. If you let the drive run and it clicks for a long period of time, the platter itself can get warped. Since the platters are where your data is, that’s not good. If your drive is clicking and you want to be able to possibly recover data from it, shut it down as soon as possible.
But sometimes, your hardware is functioning exactly the way it should, and the drive is clicking anyway. Newer, large capacity hard drives have a language they use to communicate called micro-code, which is stored on the green circuit board underneath your hard drive (called a PCB board). If the firmware fails, the drive can do all kinds of strange things, including clicking.
If it’s a physical problem, you’re looking at an expensive repair, starting in the $1000 range and running to $1600. The drive needs to be shipped to a facility with a cleanroom so it can be opened without dust and debris damaging the platters. usually the process involves transferring good parts using a donor drive that’s the exact model of your hard drive. Once your drive is working, they can copy the data to a brand new hard drive that you can either purchase from them or ship to them. The donor parts are removed and your damaged hard drive is disposed of properly.
Luckily, if the problem is with the PCB board or the chips that are on the outside board, no cleanroom should be required and the cost is usually less than $500. One place I recommend checking out is 300 Dollar Data Recovery. They can diagnose your drive for you and if the problem does require cleanroom facilities they can even forward it along to one of those companies if you are interested. If you’d be more comfortable, I can handle the arrangements and ship it off to 300 Dollar Data Recovery for you.