Various Signs of External Hard Drive Failure and their Causes


Hard disk is an integral part of any computer system. It is a hardware, which caters for the needs of various storage requirements on a computer. Depending on the computer and the storage space there are various kinds of hard disk available. However, a hard disk can crash unexpectedly causing some serious damage to the data. Such crashes make the hard drive corrupt resulting in inaccessibility of the data. An external hard drive can also crash, making the data inaccessible. However, you can recover data from an external hard drive or an internal hard drive.

Inaccessibility of data can also happen due to the crash of the operating system. However, it is very different from hard disk failure. The operating system is a software that crashes due to logical failures, whereas the hard disk is a hardware that crashes due to physical failure. Inaccessibility of data means denial of any access to data; however, the data remains present in the hard disk. In such a situation, it becomes very important to recover files from hard drive.

In order to determine whether the failure is exactly logical or physical, you need to analyze the symptoms as well as error messages if any. For example, in case the system is not booting and making any clicking or grinding noise, this means that the crash has happened due to some physical failure.

There could be so many reasons for a hard drive failure. Some of the common reasons are mentioned below.

Manufacturing Defects

Some hard disk remains faulty since they are manufactured. Such hard disks can stop functioning or behave abnormally after a few days of purchase. This happens mainly due to the improper testing and examining of the hard drive at the time of manufacturing. Such a defect makes the hard disk inaccessible by the user resulting in a boot failure.

High Temperature

Continuously using a computer system can result in overheating. Overheating can also be caused due to faulty CPU fans or poor quality of the cabinet box. In case of a faulty CPU fan, the CPU fan either moves slowly or does not move at all. This results in an unexpected clicking sound arising from the system.

Sudden Power Failure

An unexpected power failure can turn off the system in an abnormal manner if you are not using a UPS. In addition, any fluctuation in the power supply can also cause some serious damage to the hard disk, making it undetectable by the system BIOS.

Mechanical Failure

A hard drive is made up of various mechanical components. Failure of any mechanical component can make the hard drive to act abnormally. You might experience a clicking sound due to bad sectors on the hard drive or rotation failure of the spindle motors.

Data corruption

Data can get corrupt due to many reasons including virus attacks, sudden system shutdown, regular power failure, etc. As a result, you cannot access any of the files and folders saved on your computer.

Human Induced Errors

Any kind of mishandling can also make the hard drive corrupt. Usually, mishandling is done unintentionally; however, any intentional actions like modifying the registry files or altering the system files attribute can also make the hard drive faulty.

However, there are various signs that make the hard drive failure predictable. Such symptoms can help from unexpected data loss, by taking appropriate actions before the loss. Some of the common symptoms of a possible drive failure are mentioned below.

Inaccessible Files

In the most common possibility of a hard drive failure, the files present on the computer become inaccessible. In such a situation, you might see an icon for the file, but you would not be able to access it.

Drive not Detected

A computer stops recognizing the hard drive if it is about to fail. With an unrecognized hard drive, you would not be able to boot the computer, if it is your primary boot drive. In addition, you would not be able to see the drive letter listed when you search for your drive.

File or Folder takes more time to Open

If accessing your file and folders is taking more time than usual, your drive is failing. Such an extended time to open a file or folder can result in a possible ‘Blue Screen of Death’. In addition, a slow booting process is also an indication of a failing drive.

Drive making Noises

A noise from the hard drive is a clear indication of some mechanical failure within the hard drive. It happens usually when the hard drive’s head touches the platter. Such a noise occurs when you boot the machine, indicating that the drive can fail any moment.

Bad Sectors on the Hard Drive

In case the Windows has detected any bad sectors on the hard drive, you need to backup your data immediately and replace the hard drive. Windows has an integrated error-checking tool, which scan the drive for any error.

In addition to the above-mentioned signs, there are several other warning signs of hard drive failure. Some of them are mentioned below.

  • Your hard disk crashes most of the times while booting up Windows
  • Error messages while moving files or performing any other crucial activities
  • Incorrect appearance of the file and folder names
  • Files and folders getting disappeared
  • Printing the file results in garbled output
  • Hard drive showing incorrect properties like available space


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