Maximizing the Life of Your Hard Drive

Posted February 16, 2006 by onlinedevil in Windows

Increasing and optimizing the life of your hard drive will insure that your are making the best use of your system and can prevent loss of data. Read on to find out how to recognize the symptoms of a failing hard drive and how to fix it.

Most users understand that their hard drive is the most fragile and important component of their computer. For these reasons, the hard drive requires a bit of special attention in order to maintain its best working condition.

Your hard drive is likely one of the most important items you own. It contains work data, school data, emails, photos, music, movies, tax information, etc. Incidentally, the hard drive is also one of only two moving components in your computer (the other being your optical drive). The following is a list of important maintenance and monitoring techniques you can use to maximize the life of your hard drive and prevent data loss.

Hard Drives Write Data In a Non-Linear Way

When files accumulate on your hard drive, they do not just get written in a linear fashion. A hard drive writes files in small pieces and scatters them over the surface. The fuller your hard drive becomes and the more files you save and delete, the worse file fragmentation can be. Hard drive access times increase with fragmentation since your drive must work harder to find all the pieces of the files. The more fragmented your data is, the harder the actuator arm has to work to find each piece of a file.

Let us start by defragging the hard drive:
Simply launch the Disk Defragmenter utility. Go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools. Choose which disk or partition you would like to defragment, and set it to work overnight or while you are not actively using your computer. Defragmentation will speed up your computer and ensure a longer life for your hard drive.

Note: Any kind of electrical danger, may it be power surges, old power supply, lightning strikes, incorreect wiring, and other factors, can and will cause damage to your computer. Get a highly rated protected power bar or an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS).

All modern hard drives have a self-monitoring technology called SMART (Self Monitoring Analysis & Reporting Technology). What most people do not realize is that the majority of hard drive failures do not have to be unexpected. Most failures occur as a result of long-term problems which can be predicted. By regularly monitoring disk health and performance, you can know about potential hard drive problems before you lose any of your data.
Several excellent utilities are available, including DiskView and Stellar SMART for standard IDE and SATA desktop drives. Also available are tools that monitor the health of SCSI drives and full RAID Array systems. Ariolic Software offers a great utility called ActiveSMART.

If you only follow one of these suggestions, let it be this one: always back up your important data. After all the monitoring and all the prevention measures are in place, one fact still remains: all hard drives fail. Backing up regularly will ensure that you are never caught without your critical data. For individuals, the simplest solutions include external portable hard drives, DVD’s, and online storage. For businesses, we recommend renting space at a secure data centre and implementing a disaster recovery plan, regardless of the size of your business.

I hope that the above techniques give you some idea of the importance of hard drive maintenance and provide some insights in how you can protect yourself from data loss.

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