• Technical Merritt

5 Tell-tale signs that your storage drive may be about to fail

Updated: 2 days ago

Like all electronic devices, PCs and laptops, unfortunately, don't last forever. Over time, the components inside them will eventually give up the ghost.

While it's easy enough to replace a broken device, the same can't be said for all the data stored in your machine. It's worth noting; in modern computers that rely on solid storage, Solid State Disks (SSDs) are, generally speaking, more durable than Hard Disk Drives (HDDs).

SSDs don't have any moving parts and can withstand accidental drops and shocks or vibrations in laptops better than HDDs ever could. Take a look at our blog post here, where we talk about the benefits of upgrading to an SSD.

However, SSDs aren't bulletproof and can fail, too, as do other forms of flash memory.

Here are five signs to look out for, warning you that your drive may be on it's last legs...

1. Abnormal noises

Despite having lots of moving parts, including platters rotating at several thousand RPM and arms that move back and forth across the platters in the blink of an eye, modern HDDs are designed to be near-silent in operation.

You may occasionally hear the faint clicks and whirs as they access your data, but that's about all you should hear. Anything louder than that, especially anything high-pitched and metallic-sounding, should be a red flag that all is not well. Don't ignore it - it is only a matter of time before it fails.

Back up all the data on your drive - sooner rather than later - and look at replacing it with a new drive.

2. Missing data

Another sign that your drive is on the way out is when a file - or several files - go missing or are inaccessible. The way that data is stored on a drive means that if one part of the drive becomes damaged, it can affect how the information is being stored on other parts of the same drive.

If a drive does start losing the odd file here and there, you should consider replacing it soon. Depending on the age of your drive, you may not need to do this as urgently as you would with a noisy HDD. But - as before - don't ignore the signs.

Again, back up any critical data stored on it and replace it when you can.

3. PC taking longer to boot up or save files

This one is not always immediately obvious, as a slow-running PC can be caused by several factors. The more data stored on a drive, the slower it will run, and with more and more software running in the background, PCs will often run slower than when brand new.

But if your PC was happily working one day and all of a sudden takes an age to start up or to either save or access files, then there is definitely cause for concern.

Finding out whether the slow-down in performance has been caused by software or by a failing storage drive isn't going to be easy. We certainly wouldn't recommend rushing out just yet to replace the drive with a new HDD or SSD because your system has become a bit lazy.

For now, make sure you are regularly backing up your data in case things suddenly take a turn for the worse.

4. The dreaded start-up message: "Insert Boot Disk and Press Any Key"

Many people will experience this start-up message at some point, and it is a common occurrence with owning a PC or laptop. There could be many reasons for seeing this - it could appear because a new BIOS has just been installed, for example.

But if you haven't made any changes or recently performed any updates, it may be an indicator that your boot drive is heading for the hills. At the very least, the drive is displaying signs of corruption, and you may not be able to recover your data.

If you can, back up your data and get a new drive.

5. The Windows "blue screen of death" (BSOD)

This is the screen displayed by the Windows operating system when it's simply lost the will to live and is no longer able to continue functioning correctly.

The latest Windows version provides a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone and links to Windows Support. Here you can find advice and guidance on how to resolve the issue, but primarily this consists of making changes to your software, such as uninstalling programs and drivers.

But if the source of the BSOD is a failing disk drive, then no amount of software tinkering will help.

Whether your drive is an HDD or an SSD, the components inside them will deteriorate and eventually fail. With any luck, you will experience one of the red flags we've outlined above and recognise the inevitable.

The best practice is always to make regular backups of any data you can't afford to lose. It's better to take preventative measures than to get caught out.

It's simple to replace the storage, not so simple to replace all that data.