Maintaining Your Hard Drive


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Most people don’t put too much thought into how they should maintain their hard drive. After all, a hard drive is not considered as crucial to performance of the PC such as a processor or a graphic card, so why should you even bother looking after it.


Here’s some useful info about keeping your HDD alive and well.

Number 1: if you have a laptop, don’t accidentally drop it down the stairs. My lapt… err… “a friend’s laptop” still has a few potentially-unreadable blocks on it.

Number 2: if you do damage your some blocks, don’t throw the whole drive away. Instead, the simplest thing you can do is have your operating system mark the blocks as bad. On Windows, you can do this by typing this into the command prompt: chkdsk /r /x C: (assuming the bad drive is your C: drive). On GNU/Linux, the steps you need to take will depend on your filesystem. For ext2/3/4, do something like this: e2fsck -f -v -c /dev/sda1 (assuming your partition is /dev/sda1).

Number 3: physically damaged sectors might be fixable using software. Seriously! I’ve seen a program called DRevitalize work wonders on “my friend’s” laptop. It used to run really slow and make a rhythmic (almost musical, surprisingly catch) “clicking” noise whenever it tried to access certain sectors, which weren’t technically unreadable, just slow. After using it, the computer never made that noise again, and most of the previously “bad” sectors were now totally usable.

That said, it is a Windows program, so you’ll need Windows. Also, it doesn’t like being used on a C: drive while Windows is running, because Windows might try to access the partition, which will inevitably cause problems. To work around this, try using a bootable CD that can run Windows apps. For older computers, I swear by the awesomeness that is Hiren’s Boot CD, as its “MiniXP” system is lite and fast, making it ideal for computers that don’t have access to swap space. Unfortunately, it tends to fail on newer computers (BOSD), so you might be better off with this newer version, which is based on Windows 10. If your computer boots via UEFI (most newer computers do), you’re probably stuck with the Windows 10 version.

There is also an MS-DOS version of DRevitalize, too, so feel free to break out a bootable floppy if desired. (The old version of Hiren’s Boot CD can boot into an MS-DOS system, which happens to be preloaded with the DOS version of DRevitalize.)

DRevitalize works on a such a low level, it honestly doesn’t matter what filesystem you use. Despite being a Windows program, it can repair physically damaged disks with non-Windows filesystems such as ext2/3/4, btrfs, ufs, etc.

There is a downside: DRevitalize is trialware. Until you buy a license, it will intentionally freeze after fixing a sector, showing a countdown until it resumes operation. It starts off as a mere 15 second count down, but each time this happens, the countdown gets longer, eventually taking hours to fix a single sector. (If you dropped your computer, the HDD can have thousands of bad sectors.)

Also, as the program’s on PDF manual points out, sometimes a block can seem fixed, only to give the user trouble later. It’s best to run the program two or three times, let the machine remain powered off for a few days, then run the program a few times again. Also, some drives are too damaged to be fixed 100%. That said, once you’re confident the drive is 100% fixed (or at least, it’s as close to “fixed” as it’s going to get), make sure to run your operating system’s bad block checking commands, just as an extra precaution.

Number 4: avoid unnecessary spindowns. Your operating system may or may not be aggressively spinning your HDD down to save power (I think this is especially common on laptops). This is bad, because when the HDD spins back up, it puts extra pressure on the bearings, which could cause the device to wear out faster. Thus, if your device is constantly spinning up and down, that may be energy efficient, but it will ultimately kill your HDD. Checking these settings is pretty easy on Windows, and there’s probably a ton of how-tos out there. As for GNU/Linux systems, you can check these settings with either the hdparm utility, or via the graphical “gnome-disks” program.

PS: just because files exist on your system, that doesn’t mean they’re slowing your system down. You could have a billion programs installed (assuming you have room), and still be fine, as long as those programs aren’t all running at once. This is because running programs - not installing them - is what typically slows the computer down. That said, some programs automatically set themselves up during installation to run in the background, so be aware of that.