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Has your hard drive ever failed on you? If the thought of losing all of its contents gives you goosebumps, read on to find out how you can keep tabs on your hard drive’s health and prevent data loss.

Why should you check drive health?

A hard drive is a mechanism that consists of spinning platters and a reading/writing head that hovers over them. Since there is physical movement involved, there is always a chance of something going wrong. HDDs may sustain damage from uncareful handling, such as shaking or throwing your laptop, from power surges, static electricity, and a number of other factors, most of which are usually unforeseen. We will talk about those further on.

Assessing the health of your hard drive is crucial for maintaining the integrity of your data and ensuring system stability. In this digital age where our reliance on technology grows exponentially, understanding how to check the health of a hard drive in Windows is what can save you from the headache of PC failures and data loss.

In this post, we will share some essential tips that will guide you through the process of evaluating and maintaining the health of your hard drive. We’ll talk about the options you have for running a disk health check, from using built-in Windows tools to third-party software. By following these recommendations, you can proactively safeguard your data and prolong the lifespan of your storage devices.

What affects hard drive health?

Several factors can affect the health of a hard drive, ultimately impacting its performance and longevity.

  • One significant factor is temperature; excessive heat can cause components to expand and contract, potentially leading to mechanical failure.
  • Another crucial aspect is the frequency and intensity of usage; constant read/write operations can wear out the drive faster than occasional use.
  • Additionally, the quality of the environment in which the hard drive is stored plays a role; exposure to dust, moisture, or other contaminants can damage internal components over time.
  • Physical shocks or vibrations can also impact hard drive health by causing misalignment or head crashes.
  • It is important to also consider the age of the hard drive when assessing its health. As hard drives age, they naturally experience wear and tear, which can lead to decreased performance and potential failure. Expert research shows a significant increase in HDD failure rates starting from just 2 years of drive age.

Regular maintenance, proper ventilation, and avoiding extreme conditions are essential strategies for preserving hard drive health in both personal and professional environments.

Signs of hard drive failure

Wouldn’t it be great to know the exact signs of hard drive failure and be able to take action before it actually occurs? Well, the good news is that hard drive failure does usually have some signs. The bad news, however, is that seeing these signs often means that it’s already too late and the damage may have already caused some data loss.

Nevertheless, knowing the signs may be useful, as it can help you protect the data that can still be saved, and prevent a greater disaster. Here are the most common indicators of imminent HDD failure.

Weird noises

Since your hard drive has moving parts, things like scratches, dust getting in or similar may cause the reading head and/or platters to start making a screeching or clicking sound. If you hear an unusual noise that wasn’t there before, chances are your hard drive is getting ready to wave goodbye, which may happen at any moment.

Missing files or folders

You may discover that out of the 2 or 3 folders you saved, 1 happens to be empty, while you know for sure that there had been files in it. When files or folders mysteriously disappear from your hard drive, it can also be an indication of HDD damage and imminent failure.

Errors and glitches

Seeing errors, especially those related to file copying or moving, may often indicate disk errors or damage. You need to run a hard drive health check. Windows 10, 11, as well as 8 or 7 may sometimes include this recommendation in the error message.

HDD not found

If your hard drive is sometimes inaccessible, but then appears online again, it almost always is a warning signal that something bad is about to happen to it.

Windows failing to start up

This may be linked to lost access to the hard drive, especially when your operating system is installed on it. Oftentimes, you can retry booting up your PC and it may work. In which case the next thing you should do is quickly back up the data you can’t afford to lose and store it somewhere else, such as in the cloud or on an external drive. After that, check drive health using the advice below.

As mentioned earlier, seeing one or several of these signs means that the drive is already experiencing serious problems. Some of your data may have already been permanently lost, and immediate action is required to avoid further losses.

If you are a smart PC user, you’ll probably agree that prevention is key in handling any type of a tech issue. As long as you are aware of hard drive failure potential, you can take steps to execute regular disk health checks on your computer and prevent this type of a disaster.

How to check the health of a hard drive on PC

Since Windows 10 is the most popular operating system today, we will offer tips with this OS version in mind. However, for the most part, the recommendations are applicable to Windows 7, 8 and 11.

So, how do you check storage health on a Windows 10 computer? There are a number of ways to go about this task. Let’s go through the methods and tools available to you here.

Tip 1: Use built-in Windows tools

Windows comes equipped with its very own health monitoring tools for hard drives. Although they may be a bit difficult to locate or use, they are there, and that’s their best advantage. The options include Windows Resource Monitor to check the load on your system drive, the Disk Management app that gives you access to utilities that check the drive for errors, analyze it for fragmentation, and optimize the drive, if needed. Run a search for the tool you need from the Windows Start menu and click its name in the search results.

Tip 2: Use command line

The more tech-savvy folks can launch various disk tools in Windows using the command line: just run the chkdsk command to check your drive for errors, the defrag command for defragmenting the hard drive, or PowerShell commands to check the health of the hard drive.

Tip 3: Check S.M.A.R.T. status

The S.M.A.R.T. function is the tool that lets you check storage health on Windows 10 and identify a drive that might be failing. The abbreviation stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology. You can run the tool via the command line too: right-click on the Start icon in the bottom-left corner of your computer screen and choose “Run” from the list of options. Type cmd and hit OK. In the command prompt, enter the following command and hit Enter to check all drives in your system:

wmic diskdrive get model,status

The result reported next to each drive may be either OK (which is obviously good) or Pred fail (a really bad sign).

Tip 4: Use a third-party tool

If locating or using the built-in Windows tools sounds like too much of a hassle to you, there is a multitude of third-party apps that make checking disk health a lot easier by providing more information and guiding you through the entire process. One free option that’s been around for 15 years is Auslogics Disk Defrag. The app lists the drives you have installed in your system, lets you select the drives you want to check and click the Analyze button to run a disk health check. Once the scan is done, the tool lists detailed info for the selected drives. The information you get includes file fragmentation percentage, the names of fragmented files and their location on the disk, the drive’s S.M.A.R.T. status with a full list of checked parameters and their individual results, and the disk temperature.

Besides defragmenting hard drive, as the app’s name suggests, you can also use it to check your drive for errors and correct those errors. Even though it uses built-in Windows features for things like error check or S.xM.A.R.T. check, the app significantly simplifies access to these tools by placing them all in an intuitive interface. It also provides more information and hints to help you read and understand the results you get.

Tip 5: Hire a technician

If you are concerned about your drives and the data stored on them, but don’t feel you have the time or skills to check drive health on your own, then hiring a professional may be a good option. A technician can run full diagnostics and tell you whether your drives are at risk. They can also help you select a replacement drive if needed and get it installed for you. All this can be quite expensive though, and it’s not something you would resort to on a regular basis. So, you should at least try to learn how to check the health of a hard drive on your PC on your own. It really isn’t as hard as it may seem.


By utilizing the tools and techniques outlined in this article, you can stay ahead of potential issues and ensure the optimal performance of your storage devices. Remember, investing time in monitoring and maintaining the health of your hard drive is a worthwhile effort that can contribute to the overall health and longevity of your computer system.

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