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Hard Drives do Fail!

April 2021

A hard disk drive (or hard drive) is the hardware component that stores all of your digital content.  Your operating system, programmes, application preferences, documents, pictures, music and videos represent digital content stored on a hard drive.  Although most hard drives are internal, there are also stand-alone devices called external hard drives that backup data on computers.

It’s a heart-stopping moment when your computer has a hard drive crash.  All those photos, videos, customer information – financial records, contacts, accounts payable, orders – can disappear in an instant.  It is a reality that, like every piece of hardware, hard drives can and do fail.  This could be due to:

  • Physical trauma (hard drive dropped, crushed, circuit board shorted, etc.)

  • Unsafe environment (excessive heat/cold, fire/water damage, etc.

  • Data corruption (damage to filesystem or glitches in firmware)

  • Old age (bearings wearing out, degraded electrical components, etc.)

The most dramatic instances of hard drive failure that spring to mind are the first three options.  But it is old age that causes most hard drive failures and data loss – and it’s surprising how many people don’t consider this!

As you use your hard drive over time, all of the components that come together to let you store and access your data slowly break down, just as the human body eventually does.  Generally speaking, you can rely on your hard drive for three to five years on average.

In the best of cases, hard drives fail gradually leaving you enough time to grab a copy of your data and replace them before facing a fatal failure.  You might experience your computer slowing down or frequently freezing; your data may become corrupted and you start seeing scrambled file names, error messages or the ‘blue screen of death’; or you may hear strange sounds coming from your hard drive.

Hard drives are not meant to be repaired.  Only specially-trained expert engineers in a professional data recovery service can repair hard disks safely and effectively.  And even then, a repaired hard disk drive will only last long enough for data recovery experts to salvage its data.   If your computer’s hard drive fails, you risk losing all of your digital content. That is why having a completed, current backup is so important. 

There are many ways to backup your data, including:

  • Backup to an External Hard Drive – it doesn’t get much easier than this.  Plug an external storage drive into your PC and get started.  A solid state drive (SSD) is faster but more expensive.  Unlike hard disk drives, it has no moving parts and that means fantastic performance

  • Keep it in the Cloud – this refers to ‘off-site’ online storage.  The best Cloud storage services, including iCloud, Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox, keep your data safe with end-to-end encryption.  They also offer free storage space and reasonable fees for additional space.  Since your data is in a remote location, you can access it from anywhere by both computer and mobile device as long as you have internet access.

  • Save it to a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device – a NAS device is a storage drive that connects directly to the internet, typically via an Ethernet cable plugged into your router.  The main advantage of a NAS drive is that it’s accessible from anywhere on your local Wi-Fi network, meaning you can download and upload files with your phone, tablet and laptop.  It’s always on and always available.

  • Backup Software – there are a number of proven, low-cost software packages, which will provide automatic data backup.

For the ultimate in safety, we recommend choosing two methods – one ‘on-site’ (stored at the same physical location as you) and one ‘off-site’ and using them concurrently.  RuralTech has recently experienced hard drive failure…it really can happen to anyone!  If you’d like advice on how best to backup your data, talk to us today!

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