How to Repair a Failed Hard Drive

By Tami Parrington

It's going to happen sooner or later. Everyone who spends any time working with computer knows it, but no one wants to think about the inevitable: a hard drive crash. In fact, the word crash is rarely spoken, as if to avoid invoking the spirits of the tech gods who rule the cyber universe. Acknowledge it or not, someday it will happen to you. You will turn on your computer and you will be met with a blank screen. Then you need to restore your hard drive.

Step 1

Stop and investigate problems the moment you hear any unusual noises from your computer. Never ignore clicking, scraping, "whirring" noises or anything other than a smooth, quiet operation. Even if you can't find the problem, backup now if you haven't already. It is much better to work on problems early and prevent a complete crash that can't be repaired. And it may be impossible to recover data if it's gone.

Step 2

Do not write anything further to your files if you experience any type of system failure. Once a hard drive or a partition crashes, the system thinks that drive is open and will overwrite anything on it if it can access it at all. That means the very documents, pictures or other files you meant to keep protected and safe are now gone.

Step 3

Run a diagnostic to be sure that the problem actually is a failed hard drive. There are many components in a computer that might cause a computer not to boot. Even if it is likely that the problem is the drive, it's worth a few minutes to be sure before going through more detailed work. Remove the drive from the damaged computer and hook it up to another computer as an external drive. If it works, it's not a hard drive problem.

Step 4

Leave the drive installed as an external hard drive on the working computer called, for the operation, the "slave" computer. Install a data recovery system on the "slave" computer. If you do not have access to a second computer, an external hard drive hooked up to the damaged computer can act as an operating drive so long as it is big enough to hold the recovery disk.

Step 5

Install the recovery program. It is best to download the recovery program by downloading it from an online source if the computer you are using to run the damaged drive does not have a CD reader. Send it to the master drive, C:. Once loaded, follow the directions for your program to recover stored files on that hard drive.

Step 6

Run the program and scan the hard drive. Expect the scan to take up to an hour for each 50 gigabytes on the drive. If the scan takes longer than expected, or you receive constant error messages, the drive is probably irreparably damaged and data corrupted or lost.

Tips & Warnings

  • Complete regular backup of all your important files including your treasured music or pictures. Having to restore hard drives or replace them is aggravating and costly, but doable. Replacing work or memories is not as easy, or in many cases, not even possible.
  • Do not attempt physical repair of damaged drives or other internal computer components unless you have advanced technical training. The margin of error is very small with modern computers.