Saturday, November 24, 2007

Become your hard drive doctor?

Hard drives are the main data storage areas of a computer. There are a lot of delicate electrical and magnetic instruments in a hard drive. For the purpose of maintaining these hard drives, it is important to understand their working. The hard drives contain a read/write head and a spindle motor. This head receives electrical impulses from the CPU and writes the information onto hard disk clusters through a magnetic field. Any kind of tampering with this equipment or with the computer in general can damage the head and cause it to crash. This damages the drive permanently. To prevent such type of damages, we must ensure that computers are packed neatly while transporting them from one location to another. Avoid installing your computer in a movable panel. Keep it away from dust and moisture. Electrical disturbances in the form of spikes and surges can cause interference to the electro- magnetic field around a read/write head. Keep the computer away from such disturbances. Switch off the computer and unplug it if there is lightning or other natural disaster.Always shut down the computer after selecting shut down from the start menu. Improper shutdown can also damage the hard disks since the hard disk floats on a cushion of air below the head. Accidental or abrupt shutdown can cause the two to collide. This can be fatal for a hard drive. Run Scan disk utility for countering this problem. Another major cause of disk failure is cluttered file system. This happens as new files saved onto the disks are often arranged in incongruous sectors. The problem can be solved by running DEFRAG application.Sudden temperature and humidity changes can spoil the hard disk beyond repair. The head may suffer from condensation and this leads to data loss. If disks have been redundant for a long time, high temperatures may lead to sudden evaporation of disk surface material. Much software is available to ensure drive safety. Many advanced packages like Stellar Shield, Stellar Backup and Stellar Smart are available to prevent hard disk failure and minimize the impact of crashes.The normal life span of a hard disk is believed to be 5 years to 20,000 working hours. Protection of hard disks is not always possible. In these cases, you can save your data to an external flash drive. Also maintain regular data backups and replace drives regularly. Since hard disks suffer maximum threats from read/write heads, ensure that these are in excellent condition always. In any case of data or disk failure, consult the concerned professionals. Never try to run any repair utility without professional guidance. In any case, always shut down the system if you feel confused or lost. Use the appropriate disk recovery software. If there are strange noises in your hard disk or if there is any evidence of physical damage, immediately pack your hard drive and send it to the nearest data recovery lab. Remove any stray piece of hardware and immediately uninstall any corrupt hardware or applications.The above precautions can help us to extract maximum output from the hard drive as well as ensure data protection. Advanced file systems and increasing need for space puts constant pressure on hard drives. We should ensure correct fragmentation for reducing this. Hard disk losses can be even more costly than data losses. Hence preventing them can alone ensure complete data protection. Anyone can be a disk doctor if we practice the above measures.
By Andrew Watson
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