An Ultimate Guide to Hard Drive Problems, Solutions and Tips

What are the signs of a failed hard drive? What causes hard drives to fail? Here provides 14 common hard drive problems and their solutions for you.

Aug 27,2019 • Filed to: Answer Hard Drive Problems • Proven solutions

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"Something is wrong with my computer's hard drive and I can't seem to boot the system properly. How can I fix this hard disk problem and access my files again?"

It doesn't matter if you use a Windows or a Mac: your system's hard drive is certainly one of the most important parts of it. A corrupt or malfunctioning hard disk can affect the entire functioning of your computer and cause several other issues. Hard disk can fail after accumulating bad sectors over a long period of time or crash suddenly. Gradual failure of a hard disk is hard to detect since its symptoms mimic those of other computer issues like viruses and malware. These symptoms usually are file corruption and deterioration of PC speed. Corruption of hard disk usually results from the increase in the number of bad sectors which pile up and eventually disable the hard disk.

Hard disk failure can be sudden, complete, gradual or partial in nature and most times data recovery is a possibility. If you have also encountered a hard disk error like this, then don't worry. We are here to help you with a complete guide on hard drive problems and solutions that will help you resolve all kinds of unwanted situations. Let's get it started from the basics and gradually unravel the common hard drive problems faced by users these days.

hard drive problems

Part 1: A Brief Overview of Hard Drives on Computers

Before we get into the details and troubleshoot hard drives, it is important to cover the basics. For instance, in order to work on computer problems and solutions, you need to know what a hard disk is and how it functions.

1. What is a hard drive?

The history of hard drives is probably as old as computers as they were first introduced by IBM in 1956. Ideally, a hard drive is used to store all kinds of information on a system (if it is an internal drive). It is considered as non-volatile storage, which is different from a computer's primary memory (RAM). An internal drive is connected to the system's motherboard as well as a power socket. Nowadays, external hard disks based on flash memory are extensively used as well.

2. How does a hard disk work?

Since magnetic hard disks are still the most commonly used variety of drives, we will consider its example to explain how it works. Ideally, it is a cylindrical unit that consists of various magnetic plates. Each plate is divided into numerous tracks and sectors. The plate consists of minute units that are used to store data in a binary form (0 or 1). A spindle is located at the middle of the disk that rotates the unit.

hard drive plates

Now, whenever we wish to access or store data, a read/write head is moved to the particular area. The spindle rotates the drive and the head either reads or writes the data on it.

3. What are the different types of hard disks?

Ideally, hard disks can be distinguished into different categories on the basis of numerous parameters like these:

4. Which type of hard drive is the best?

Since Solid State Drives (SSDs) are newer and more advanced, they are considered better than HDDs. Not only are they faster, they are also more secure than a magnetic disk. This is because the data stored in an HDD can't be tampered with using a magnet. Also, its speed and overall performance are better than an HDD.


Part 2: How to tell if a Hard Drive is failing?

Before a hard drive fails entirely, it gives us certain signs that we should not ignore. Here are some of the major symptoms of hard drive problems that we should take seriously.

Sign 1. Hard drive clicking sound

A lot of times, users complain of a peculiar clicking sound made by the hard drive's head. It usually happens when there is an inconsistent power supply for the disk or a physical damage on one of the plates.

Sign 2. Access Denied

When users try to access the disk or a partition, they often get the access denied prompt. This means that the system can't locate the hard disk or a particular partition in it. A loose connection or a corrupt storage can trigger this event.

hard drive access denied

Sign 3. Repeated crashing

If the computer or the hard drive crashes repeatedly, then consider it as one of the vital symptoms of a bad hard drive. The disk can stop working out of the blue anytime.

Sign 4. Inaccessibility of data

There are times when the data stored in the disk is lost or inaccessible. This is both, a hard drive problem as well as a symptom for further issues.

Sign 5. OS can't be loaded

While booting the system, you might get a recovery screen stating that the system can't load/locate certain files. This is directly related to a hard drive malfunction.

OS can't be loaded

Sign 6. Abort, Retry, Fail?

This is again one of the common hard disk failure symptoms as it occurs when the system can't locate the entire OS or some crucial files. It means the system has aborted an operation, retried, and failed.

Abort Retry Fail

Sign 7. Sector not found

Sometimes, the hard disk can have a bad sector or two. In this case, your computer will inform you the same by displaying a similar warning message. This can be major hard drive problems symptoms that you should not ignore.

Sector not found


Part 3: Top 10 Hard Drive Problems and Solutions

There are different hard drive problems that users can encounter, resulting in its malfunction in numerous ways. Let's uncover some of these common hard drive issues here.

Disk Error 1. Hard Drive Not Found

Chances are that while turning on your system, you might get the "Hard Drive Not Found" error on the screen. This makes your system standstill as it will not respond to most of the usual commands. The hard disk problem occurs when the internal cable connecting it has been damaged or is loose. Water or physical damage can also lead to this problem. A logical partition can also be lost or corrupted, in this case.

Boot device not found

Solution 1: Perform a hard reset

This is the easiest way to fix this hard drive malfunction issue. Simply turn your system off and remove its power cord or the battery. Also, disconnect all kinds of peripheral devices from it and press the Power button for 15 seconds. After waiting for a while, connect the battery/power cord (not the peripheral device) and turn it on.

remove battery laptop

Solution 2: Check for physical damage

While this might be a tedious job, you can consider opening up your system and checking the hard drive connection. If the connection is loose, then you can visit a professional as it would require soldering.


Video Tutorial on Fixing External Hard Drive Not Showing Up

Disk Error 2. Volume is Dirty (Hard Drive Error 0x80071ac3)

As the name suggests, this error depicts that either the entire disk or a volume has been corrupted. When the problem occurs, users get an error like this with a hexadecimal code. The problem can happen with the internal as well as the external hard drive. A bad sector on your hard drive or an unexpected shutdown are the two primary causes for this hard disk problem. If it is an external drive, then an unsupported file system or driver can also be a reason for this.

Volume is dirty

Solution 1: Check System Errors

If a disk is not functioning in an ideal manner, then you should perform an automatic system check. To do this, just right-click its icon and go to its Properties. Under the Tools tab > Error Checking section, click on the "Check" button. Follow the simple on-screen instructions to resolve any system error.

check system error

Solution 2: Reconnect the external device

Most of the people get this error while using an external hard drive, USB drive, or an SD card. In this case, simply remove the external drive and turn off your system. Restart it and connect the drive again to check whether you get the error back or not.


Disk Error 3. Can't Boot the System

Since the internal hard drive also stores the firmware and the operating system, its failure can also result in the booting of your system. There are all kinds of prompts that users get in this case when the system can't boot. It happens when there is a change in the BIOS settings or the essential system files have been lost. The partition where the operating system has been installed can also get corrupt, resulting in this computer problem.

Solution 1: Restore default BIOS settings

If there is an issue with your system's BIOS settings, then this will fix it. Turn on your computer and keep pressing the BIOS key, which can be F10, F12, F2, DELETE, etc. Once you enter the BIOS window, press F9 to restore the default settings. Exit it and restart your system now.

Windows bios settings

Solution 2: Perform an advanced startup

You can also take the assistance of a bootable media or a Windows installer to startup your system. Firstly, go to Windows Settings > Recovery > Advanced Setup and click on the "Restart Now" button. Also, connect a Windows CD/DVD or a bootable media to your system. This will let you reinstall Windows on the system or boot it from another media.

windows-advanced-setup


Disk Error 4. Corrupted Hard Disk (Hard Disk #(XXX) Error)

As much as you try to avoid it, chances are that your hard disk can get corrupt unexpectedly. The error mostly occurs in HP systems, but even PCs from other manufacturers can also undergo the same. A malware attack on the system, a corrupted sector, or a bad program can be a major trigger for this. Also, if your system is trying to access any file that no longer exists, it in can lead to this error.

hard-disk-error

Solution: Perform a Hard Drive diagnostic test

Since this hard disk error is mostly associated with HP systems, we will consider its example to troubleshoot hard drives. In other systems, the respective key would be different. To fix this, just restart your system and press F2 to run System Diagnostics. The screen will display the relevant key to do it.

f2-system-diagnostics

As the diagnostic window will open, choose to perform Component Tests and select your Hard Drive from the available options. Confirm your choice and wait for a while as the system will run a thorough diagnostic and tries to fix this problem.

component-tests-windows


Disk Error 5. Hard Drive Error 0142

This is categorized as a major hard disk error as it depicts that the disk has failed to load the booting or system files. You might have to run a thorough diagnostic to fix this. If not, then you can consider resetting the system. The hard drive error mostly occurs due to a corrupted sector or a firmware related issue. You might have accidentally deleted a crucial system file as well, leading to the inaccessibility of certain OS components.

hard-drive-error-0142

Solution 1: Restart system in safe mode

If a particular program or application has caused this hard disk problem, then you can consider restarting it in the safe mode. To do this, just restart your system and press F8 a few times to enter its advanced boot options. The key might differ from one version to another. Use the arrow keys to select the "Safe Mode" option and press enter. This will boot your system in the safe mode.

restart-safe-mode

Solution 2: Give your system a fresh start

This is relatively a newer feature that is available in Windows 8 and 10. Ideally, it is equivalent to resetting a computer and will automatically remove all the installed programs and applications from it. Simply go to Windows Settings > Windows Defender & Security Settings > Device Performance and health. Go to the "Fresh Start" option here and get things started. Follow a simple click-through process to reset your system and get rid of any malicious entity.

windows-fresh-start


Disk Error 6. Data Loss from a Corrupt Hard Drive

Hard drive is capable of storing a large amount of data which can be accessed at any time. However, sometimes you risk losing the important data contained in them because of failure or corruption of the hard disk. If an entire drive or a partition/sector has been corrupted, then it will automatically delete your saved files.

There can be numerous reasons for causing data loss on your system. A corrupt storage, a faulty program, bad sector, malware attack, or any other disk-related issue can trigger it. You can also accidentally format or delete your data as well. While there are hardly any native solutions for this, you can try a dedicated third-party data recovery tool.

Solution: Use Recoverit Data Recovery

It doesn't matter what kind of data loss scenario you are facing, you would be able to move past it using Recoverit Data Recovery. It is one of the most advanced data recovery tools available for both Windows and Mac. The application is easy to use and has the highest recovery rates in the industry. You can recover your lost data not only from Windows/Mac's internal hard disk, but also from external sources like USB drive, SD card, etc. All you need to do is follow these steps after downloading Recoverit on your system.

Step 1: Select where to scan

Firstly, launch the Recoverit Data Recovery application on your system and select a location to scan. This can be your entire drive or a partition/folder in it.

select a loation

Step 2: Scan the hard drive

As soon as you click on the "Start" button, the application will scan the selected drive or the partition. Simply wait for a while for the process to be completed successfully.

scan lost photos

Step 3: Restore your data

In the end, the application will let you preview the files that it has extracted during the process. You can select the data of your choice and click on the "Recover" button to save it. Make sure you save it to a trusted location (and not the corrupt hard disk again).

restore your data

Video: How to Recover Lost Data on Windows PC


Disk Error 7. Corrupted Files

Corruption of system files usually occurs when the system shuts down suddenly, making it impossible for you to access your hard drive and thus your system. Some of the reasons for the corruption of the system files include power surges, use of malicious program, accidental closure of a running program and improper shutting down of the PC.

Solution: Close programs before PC shutdown

The solution to this problem is to make sure that you close down all programs that are running before commencing to shut down your computer. Moreover, when shutting down the computer, you must do so in the standard manner. In addition to this, you should avoid installing malicious programs on your hard drive and keep cleaning it regularly so that no unwanted programs remain there for long.


Disk Error 8. The Parameter is Incorrect

If you are trying to connect an external hard drive to your system, then you might get this error message. Subsequently, it won't let you access the data that is stored in your connected disk. An incompatible file system on the hard drive or a physical damage in it can trigger this. If the disk is damaged, then it can also display the hard drive error.

parameter-is-incorrect

Solution 1: Check USB port and drive

Mostly, a damaged port, cable, or the drive can cause these hard drive issues. Make sure that the device is in a working condition and the USB port is not damaged. Clean it thoroughly of any debris or dirt and reconnect the external hard disk to check its connection.

Solution 2: Format the drive

If the hard drive's disk format or file system is not compatible with your system, then it can also trigger this hard disk problem. To fix this, you can just format the drive. Simply connect it to your system, open My Computer, and right-click the hard drive's icon. Go to the "Format" option and select the file system to a compatible format (like NTFS). Click on the "Start" button to wipe the existing data on the drive and reset its file format.

format-usb-drive


Disk Error 9. The Request Failed Due to Fatal Device Hardware Error

This is a fatal error that users get while working on an internal or external hard drive. While it is mostly linked to a hardware issue related to a device, sometimes even a logical error can also trigger this situation. If you are trying to access or copy a file that is no longer available, then you will get a hard disk error like this. Apart from a loose connection, a corrupt configuration, or incompatible driver can also be a trigger.

fata-hard-drive-error

Solution 1: Reconnect the disk

If these drive problems have occurred due to a loose connection, then you should consider this approach. Disconnect the external hard drive and restart your computer. Now, try to connect it again and check if the system detects the drive. You can consider disassembling the system and check if the internal hard drive has been connected properly or not.

Solution 2: Reset the driver

There are times when the hard drive malfunctions due to a driver related issue. In this case, you can consider resetting the driver to resolve this hard disk problem. Go to the Device Manager from the Start menu and expand the "Disk Drives" option. Select and right-click the driver option. From here, you can disable the device. Wait for a while and enable it again to resolve this hard drive issue.

reset-disk-driver

Solution 3: Update the driver

Apart from resetting the driver, you can also consider updating it as well. Simply launch the Device Manager option and select the driver listed under the "Disk Driver" feature. Go to its Properties > Driver tab and click on the "Update Driver" button. Now, you can just follow on-screen instructions to update the disk drivers on your system.

update-disk-driver


Disk Error 10. The Disk is Full

This is certainly one of the most common hard drive problems that users face. If you have accumulated a lot of data on your disk, then it can run out of space. Not only can it corrupt your hard drive or cause it to malfunction, it would also make your system run slow. The accumulation of tons of photos, videos, documents, and other unwanted files. You could have installed numerous unwanted applications as well. The frequent partitioning of the disk can also lead to its fragmentation.

disk-is-full

Solution 1: Deleting unwanted content

The easiest fix for this hard disk error is the deletion of any unwanted content. Just go to your disk's partition and start removing the videos, photos, documents, etc. that you no longer want. Just make sure that you don't remove any important system file in the process. Also, visit the Recycle Bin and empty it to make more free space on the disk.

empty-recycle-bin

Solution 2: Uninstall unimportant applications

If you have installed lots of applications and programs on your system, then consider getting rid of them. To do this, go to Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features. In the newer Windows versions, go to Applications under Settings. Now, just select the program you want to remove and click on the "Uninstall" button. Follow the on-screen instructions to uninstall the selected program and restart your computer.

windows-uninstall-programs

Solution 3: Defragment the disk

When we keep on partitioning a disk or join different components, it leads to its fragmentation. Thankfully, with the help of the disk fragmenting tool, you can reclaim this lost space on your hard disk. To do this, just go to the Start Menu and look for "Disk Defragmenter". You can also access it from System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. Authenticate your account by entering the admin password and select the drive you wish to defragment.

defragment the disk


Disk Error 11. Data inaccessibility on a non-booting system

When a hard drive is crashed, a lot of users end up losing their important files since the system is not able to boot correctly. While the data is still there on the disk, it becomes inaccessible. To get it back, you need to create a bootable media and run data recovery on your system.

The firmware component or the important system files can be wiped off entirely from your computer. It can also be physically damaged or crashed due to the lack of free space on the disk.

Solution: Create a bootable recovery media using Recoverit

This is what makes Recoverit a complete data recovery solution. Using it, you can even create a bootable media and perform data recovery on a crashed system as well. The application can make a CD, DVD, or a USB drive into a bootable WinPE media.

Step 1: Start crashed system recovery

Firstly, install and launch Recoverit on any working computer and from its home, select the crashed system recovery option. Subsequently, connect the CD/DVD or the USB drive to your system (that you wish to make a bootable media).

select computer crash recovery

Step 2: Create a bootable media

Select the drive you wish to convert to a bootable media from the interface. You need to confirm it as the existing data on the drive would be deleted.

create a bootable media

Once the process is completed, the application will let you know that the bootable media has been created. You can now unmount it from the system.

create a usb drive

Step 3: Boot the crashed system

Turn on the non-booting system and press the BIOS key (F12/F10/DEL) to enter its boot settings. From here, you can change the priority of the booting media (the connected USB drive or CD/DVD). Exit the BIOS settings and boot your system from the connected media to start Recoverit data recovery.

change-bios-settings


Disk Error 12. Computer Virus & Malware

Computer viruses and malware infect the system and corrupt the system files that are stored on the hard drive. These viruses and malicious software usually enter the system from an outside source for instance, the internet and an external hard drive. These viruses first tend to attack the hard disk and then spread to other computers that are linked through the same network.

computer viruses and malware

Keeping your computer’s operating system updated is one of the solutions to this problem. Moreover, another possible solution is installation and frequent updating of an antivirus software program. This antivirus is going to protect your system and your hard drive and make sure that it remains safe from their threat.


Disk Error 13. Manufacturing fault

Hard disks that haven’t been tested beforehand become unresponsive after a few months of use. This problem is encountered usually with new hard disks. The reason for this is more often than not a manufacturing fault which causes the hard disk to fail.

The best way to solve this problem is to be careful when purchasing a new hard disk. It is crucial to test the new hard disk before installing it in your computer system. However, if you have a hard disk with a manufacturing fault and it becomes unresponsive then the only solution available is to replace it.


Disk Error 14. Heat

Heating is a common problem associated with hard disks. If the system is overused, the fans of the hard disk start moving slowly and the system starts heating up immediately after being booted. Moreover, clicking noises can be heard from the hardware of the system too which is an indication that the hard disk is overheated. The reason for this is lack of proper ventilation or a faulty CPU fan which overheats the system to the point that the hard disk crashes.

computer hard drive heat

The solution to the heating issue is to ensure that the CPU fan has been installed properly and is providing sufficient cooling to the hard disk. Moreover, you can install an application that keeps you notified about the temperature of your hard disk. If it starts exceeding the maximum limit, shut down the PC for a while and let it cool down before resuming your work.


Part 4: Not Sure of Hard Disk Error? Here are Some Common Solutions

We have already discussed some specific hard drive issues and solutions in the previous section. Though, there are times when users are not able to identify what is wrong with their hard drive in the first place. In this case, you can consider the following troubleshooting hard drive suggestions.

1. Let your system rest

If your hard drive has been overheated, then this would most likely solve the problem. Simply shut down your system and let it rest for a few minutes. Turn it on when the system is not heated and the surrounding area is well ventilated.

2. Format the hard drive

In case if the hard drive issues are caused by a malware or a logical error, then you can just format it to fix this. If your hard drive's icon is not getting displayed on My Computer, then launch the Disk Management tool on it. Select the disk space, right-click, and choose to format it. Confirm your choice and wait for a while as the hard disk would be formatted entirely.

format-hard-drive-windows

3. Run Disk Repair

If there is a minor hard disk problem, then you can easily fix it by performing an automated repair. To do this, you can take the assistance of the system's native feature or a third-party tool. For instance, Mac's Disk Utility is an excellent option to repair a hard drive malfunction scenario. Just launch Disk Utility, select your drive, and click on the "First Aid" option to repair it.

disk-utility-macos

4. Use the CHKDSK Command

If you are using a DOS-based operating system, then you can just take the assistance of the Check Disk (CHKDSK) command. To do this, just launch Terminal/Command Prompt on your system and type the command "CHKDSK" followed by the drive name you wish to scan. Your system will carefully scan the respective drive and will get rid of minor drive problems.

chkdsk-command-prompt


Part 5: Tips on How to Use a Hard Drive

By now, you must be able to fix all kinds of hard drive problems and related issues. Though, if you do not want to face an unwanted situation like this in the future, then consider the following tips:

1. Check hard disk's health regularly

A lot of users don't know this, but you can check the health of a hard disk on Windows pretty easily. All you need to do is launch Command Prompt and enter the "wmic" command. It stands for Windows Management Instrumentation Command and will check the working of the disk. If the health is critical, then you can take a backup of your data and perform different repairing steps.

command-prompt-wmic

2. Keep at least 20% storage free

Needless to say, if you will cram your hard drive with too much data, then it can affect its overall functioning. Make sure that you keep at least 20% of the total space free to keep it running smoothly.

3. Avoid unexpected shutdown

Try not to turn your system off while an application or a crucial process is still being running in the background. This can tamper with a system file or process related to its hard disk.

4. Keep your system updated

If you don't want to suffer from any compatibility issue or a malware attack, then make sure that you keep your system updated. It will install all the essential patch files and keep the drivers up to date.

5. Avoid overheating and physical damage

Last, but most importantly, try to avoid any unwanted physical or water damage on your system. Also, make sure that the disk is not exposed to a magnet, which can lead to data loss in it. Keep the system ventilated or place it on a cooling pad to prevent the overheating of the drive.

6. Protect your important data

The following are some tips that you need to remember if you don’t want to lose your precious data.

  • Install a good anti-virus program on your computer and regularly update it.
  • Always create backups of your data in a separate location.
  • Never shut down your computer system while any program is running.
  • Don't write and add new data after the loss of hard disk data.
  • To retrieve data safely, resort to Recoverit Data Recovery. Here is a guide for you: Recover data from crashed hard drive.
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