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How to keep hard drive data safe and sound

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The capacity of modern hard drives grows rapidly but their actual reliability constantly goes down. On the one hand manufacturers are pressed by the recording density, on the other hand – intense competition. Popular hard drives models are getting cheaper and their development cycle is shrinking. Besides, cheap components are used.

That’s why the only way to save data is to backup.

Unfortunately, few users can have constant availability of fresh workable file copies keeping in a reliable place and ready to replace lost data at any moment. In spite of multiple software for data backup and cloud technologies actively developing few past years, regular backup is hampered by both laziness and the unwillingness of many users to bear the costs. For example, Network Attached Storage device (NAS) might cost as a whole PC. Cloud services are also not free.

So, the best option is not to lose data, and to do this, a PC user should behave cautiously and try to make hard drives fail as little as possible. Smart hard drive choice, its proper installation and operation can help to avoid emergency situations. Monitoring of the drive state and periodic prevention will not be superfluous. Here we’ll talk about the most common proper operating principles of hard drives.

But first, let’s discuss the causes of data loss. According to statistics collected by data recovery companies the causes are distributed as follows:

  • 40% – malfunctions and failures of hardware
  • 30% – user’s mistakes
  • 13% – software failures
  • 10% – intentional damage to data (theft, damage, etc.)
  • 4% – exposure to viruses and other malware
  • 3% – external influences (natural disasters, fires, etc.)

As we can see a common opinion that a user himself is to blame for problems with the computer is wrong – machine failures often lead to troubles. And “human factor” only takes second and also a significant place in this rank.

Proper HDD operation essentials

After choosing a hard drive, proper installation and connecting by good cables, a period for operation begins. To last it as long as possible you’ve got to provide comfortable conditions for the disk. Each drive needs good power, cooling and mechanical protection. Periodical control for a disk state is also necessary.

  1. Disk power mainly depends on a power supply unit quality. 350–400 watts power supply unit is quite enough for a usual computer.

Modern hard drives take not too much power (3–8 watts in stand-by mode and 5–12 watt in active work) but they are quite sensitive to power quality, especially to voltage deviations. The electronics board dangerously over-warms at high voltage and lowering voltage might cause restarts. In any case, disk resource shortens.

  1. Cooling is a serious problem for many three-inched disks: active work warms them significantly. The optimal temperature for hard drives is 25–45 ºC. Both warming above 50 ºC and cooling lower 20 ºC is bad for a disk – it accelerates mechanical parts wear. So do not skimp on computer coolers.
  2. A disk state control is an important stage of operation helping to identify emerging problems. First of all, take attention at how a disk is identified in BIOS: name and capacity must completely match with a label. Also, sometimes you need to start special software for monitoring S.M.A.R.T status.

What to do if data is lost?

Firstly, you need to find out whether it’s mechanical or logical damage.

  1. If you hear unusual drive sounds – clicking, repeated spin-up, and spin-down sounds – it’s mechanical damage. The best you can do is to disconnect a disk from a PC and carefully take it to a reliable data recovery service. If you are not ready to have significant expenses just accept the data loss.
  2. If there are no weird sounds but the disk doesn’t show up as usual in a Windows Explorer or is shown as RAW most likely it’s a logical failure, for instance, a filesystem error. In this case, you can try to recover data DIY. You need to prepare another data storage to copy the recovered data and choose a data recovery software. There are a lot of software at the market. Choosing you need to consider a particular task. For example if there was NTFS filesystem almost any software can help, even free version of Recuva. If you used not a common filesystem like BTRFS a software choice is very limited. Most probably you’ll choose ReclaiMe software which has advanced algorithms for devices working on Linux.
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