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My Hard Drive Crashed – How Did This Happen?

“How did this happen?”  In the data recovery industry we hear those four words all the time.  The fact of the matter is that if you aren’t doing regular backups of whatever data on your computers hard drive is important to you, then you are eventually going to lose it.  That much is inevitable.  Computer hard drives consist of an aluminum or ceramic and glass composite platter, with a highly polished platinum coating attached to a spindle and while the computer and hard drive are powered on it’s spinning at 7200 RPM’s while a read/write head on a mechanical arm flies and moves over the surface at a distance of three nanometers away from its surface reading and writing data magnetically onto the surface of the platter (also known as a disk or disc because it looks like one).  Hard drives contain lots of moving parts: the motor that turns the spindle which is floating on top of ball bearings to rotate the platter(s) at anywhere from 5,400 to 10,000 RPM’s while the drive arm moves the read/write heads over the spinning media surface.  Ball bearing can wear out, electric motors can seize up and freeze, and circuit boards and silicon chips slowly break down as they are exposed to heat and temperature changes.  If the drives read/write heads ever fail, or the drive is bumped, set down hard or otherwise jolted it can cause the heads to come into contact with the surface of the disk causing what is known as a head crash.  All these things can and will cause the temporary or permanent loss of the data that you have been storing on your computers hard drive.  A relatively new technology known as solid state eliminates some of the movement related mechanical failures but wear out with use at approximately the same rate as conventional hard drives.   To summarize– if you aren’t doing regular backups of your data then losing it is inevitable.

computer hard drive

Open hard drive with visible spindle, platter, head, actuator and arm.

Computer hard drive data recovery companies specialize in recovering data from crashed or damaged drives but as any data recovery scientist or company will tell you; not all hard drive crashes are recoverable.  One study found that each and every individual data loss incident costs the organization or individual on average $2,900 in lost productivity.  The best way to approach data recovery for both the individual and organization is to make sure that you never need it in the first place.  Doing regular backups means that when your hard drive does eventually fail, you will be able to recover your work from the backup and will not end up having to buy a potentially costly data recovery job and/or losing your data entirely.  RAID (redundant array of inexpensive drives) and other high availability systems help to reduce the incidence of data loss, but in no way will completely prevent it.  Data can still be erased, corrupted or a hard drive can go into a partial state of failure (what we call the ‘walking wounded’) which can still result in data being lost or damaged.

In spite of popular assumptions, hard drives were never intended to last forever and will all fail eventually provided that they remain in use.  A brand new hard drive is almost as prone to failure as an old one, although studies have been conducted that indicate that the times when a hard drive is most likely to fail are within it’s first six months of use, and then in its third year of use and drives continue to fail at a predictable rate throughout all stages of the computer hard drives life cycle.  Hard drive manufacturers themselves concede that their drives will inevitably fail by releasing statistical information regarding the hard drives that they produce relating to the products mean time to failure. These numbers are often based on some overly optimistic assumptions, and some questionable math causing it to appear that many drives will last longer than they do.  The simple fact that the manufacturers of the hard drives are releasing MTF (mean time to failure) statistics at all proves the point that every drive is going to fail eventually.

So when is the last time you ran a full backup of your computer system?  Do you have a disaster recovery plan in place for your business or home computer?  The time to think about disaster recover is long before the event occurs and should consist of understanding what can and will happen to your data, planning, doing backups and then testing to make sure you are actually able to restore from the backups you have created and that the recovered data is good and accessible.

If you need help with backups, disaster recovery planning or data recovery, IT Connect offers expert support in all stages of disaster recovery planning, testing and implementation for the Waukesha and Milwaukee metropolitan areas.  This includes backups, planning, testing and data recovery services.  Contact IT Connect today in order to prevent a potentially costly data recovery tomorrow.

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