Hard disk drives (HDDs) are mechanical devices — and unless the laws of physics suddenly change, every hard drive will eventually fail.
But while some of the issues that cause drive failures are out of your control, you can take certain steps to ensure that your HDD lasts as long as possible. Below, we’ve provided some general tips.
First, the most important piece of advice: Backup your data regularly. Learn how to incorporate the best practices into your backup strategy.
And if you lose data due to a hard drive failure, accidental deletion, or for any other reason, we’re here to help: Datarecovery.com provides risk-free evaluations, and we support our clients with an extensive no data, no charge guarantee. To learn more, submit a case online or call 1-800-237-4200 to speak with an expert.
1. Choose a hard drive from a well-known manufacturer — and never buy used storage media.
Certain hard drive models are more likely to have manufacturing defects that lead to premature failure. However, in our experience — and to be clear, we’ve recovered tens of thousands of hard drives — the major manufacturers tend to produce reliable products.
We do not make specific recommendations for storage media make/models. However, we do recommend researching carefully, particularly if you’re buying online: Some online retailers that work with third-party sellers have been known to sell refurbished hard drives, which are much more likely to fail prematurely.
Some quick tips:
- Where possible, purchase hard drives directly from the manufacturer.
- Otherwise, purchase from a well-known supplier, not an online retailer that works with third-party sellers.
- Pay attention to price. If a seller regularly offers hard drives at 30-40% below MSRP, the deal may be too good to be true.
- Do not purchase storage media through online auction websites.
2. Ensure proper ventilation around your computer.
Hard drives are engineered to operate in a wide range of conditions, and contrary to popular belief, research from Google indicates that fairly high ambient temperatures don’t affect operating lifespan that much.
But that assumes that the computers in question have adequate ventilation, and it’s far from established science: Other studies from National Instruments and the University of Virginia found that ambient operating temperature directly affected the lifespans of hard drives in data centers.
Our opinion is that ambient temperature is probably a minor factor, but proper system ventilation is crucial. Computers generate a lot of heat, which can build up within the system chassis and can damage printed circuit boards (PCB). Without appropriate ventilation, your hard drive is at risk (along with every other computer component).
Some general tips:
- Don’t put desktop computers directly up against walls. This may prevent the system’s fans from exhausting hot air.
- Keep your system clean. Regularly clean out dust, following the manufacturer’s instructions; generally, you’ll use compressed air to blow out the contaminants.
- Avoid putting laptop computers on pillows, blankets, or other materials that might prevent heat sinks from doing their job.
For additional info, read: Can Hot Summer Temperatures Damage Your Hard Drive?
3. Use a surge protector.
Power surges can damage hard drive controllers, which allow the device to transfer information to (and from) your computer.
Surge protectors work by diverting extreme spikes in voltage, sending the excess back into the grounding wire of the outlet. Make sure your surge protector is actually a surge protector, not a power strip: A true surge protector contains a metal oxide varistor, an inexpensive component that regulates voltage.
You should see a little light that indicates whether the grounding protection is active. If the light goes out, replace the surge protector.
4. Don’t max out your HDD’s capacity.
Hard drives work better when they’re not packed with files. If you’re using a hard drive for archival purposes, you can fill it to near its capacity — but if you’re using the hard drive as your boot drive, you should keep it below 85% of that capacity.
Past that point, the drive will need to work harder to find files, and fragmentation issues can severely affect performance.
5. Backup your data.
We know we mentioned this in the introduction, but it’s really important: If you’re not backing up your data, you should assume that you’re going to eventually lose your files.
The best backup strategies have some common characteristics:
- The backup occurs automatically, without relying on the user.
- Data is stored in at least two physical locations.
- At least two (but preferably three) copies exist of all important files.
- The user checks the backup regularly to ensure that it’s complete.
For additional guidance, read: World Backup Day: A Good Reminder to Protect Your Data.
And remember, if you’ve lost data, we’re here to help. Datarecovery.com operates full-service laboratories at each location, and our services are designed to provide complete peace of mind as your case progresses.
Get started by scheduling a free evaluation online or call 1-800-237-4200.