Why Do Hard Drives Fail?

Why do hard drives fail?
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You’re wondering exactly why do hard drives fail? Well, hard drive failure can happen on any computer and the outcomes can be devastating.

For some, some data is lost during hard drive failure. And for others, total data loss can occur, depending on how long it takes to see the warning signs to fix the problem.

Hard Drive Failure Causes

Hard drives have a life expectancy of around three to five years, so never get too comfortable with your hard drive. A physical hard drive or external hard drive can fail for many unique reasons.

Below we have listed some of the main causes of a hard drive failure.


A common cause of hard drive failures is hardware overheating. Bad ventilation and cooling in and around your hardware can cause extreme damage to the equipment. Overworked hardware or hardware not designed to withstand constant strain can cause intense damage to a desktop or laptop.

Any type of smoke or fire damage resulting from too much heat within the machine will absolutely wreck your hard drive.

Power surges

A power surge can be caused by interference with power lines, lightning strikes, or by any event which causes the flow of power to be interrupted and then restarted.

A power surge can result in data loss when the read/write fails to work rightly, and in the worse case, a full computer crash.

Physical computer damage

Any type of physical force, such as jarring, bumping, or dropping your computer may lead to physical damage to the hard drive. If your computer is in use at the time of the impact, the write/read heads may touch or gouge the disks, causing damage to the platter’s magnetic surfaces where the data is stored. This is known as a head crash, and the damage can be important.

Even if your computer is turned off, dropping it may result in hard drive failure.

Water damage

Moisture caused by flooding or even by spilling water onto your computer is definitely bad news. The casing that grips the hard disk drive is not designed to be a barrier against water penetration.

Water will damage the computer power parts and hard disk components, possibly even causing unwanted electrical damage.

Human error

Hard drive failure can occur when a human alters certain system files. Bad installation and removal of important system files from the computer can cause the hard disk to malfunction.

Additionally, activities performed during a forensic investigation can compromise the hard drive.

Corrupted files

Incorrectly closing a program, unplugging the computer during updates, or installing unauthorized apps/programs can cause files to become corrupted.

Power failures and accidental computer shutdowns can contribute to file corruption and eventually hard drive failure.

How to prevent hard drive failure?

To prevent some physical hard drive failure, it is excellent to take precautions and know the signs of a failing drive. If you are using any standard rotational disc drive, then the drive can suffer physical issues to the mechanical parts from being jarred or dropped. In these examples, it is normal for the read/write heads of the drive to become destroyed, resulting in a clicking noise.

And to prevent external hard drive failure, you want to treat an external hard drive like you would treat a physical hard drive. The external hard drive can get physically damaged, depending on where the hard drive is stored. If you are using an external hard drive, you want to ensure the hard drive has an airtight enclosure and is stored in a safe place.

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