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Preparing for the Inevitable Hard Drive Crash

Here’s how.

May 2009
by Stanley Zarowin/Journal of Accountancy

Q: I recently had to replace my hard drive. My tech support person said it had crashed, and he didn’t know why. When I asked him what I could have done to prevent it, he shrugged his shoulders. What advice do you have?

A: I assume, since you had to replace the drive, that your support person determined that the failure was mechanical, not a software, or logical, problem, which, with a little expert tinkering, could be fixed. The industry uses the word crash to mean both. I’ll focus on the physical crash, which is much more serious. However, be aware that a virus can make a hard drive look as if it suffered a physical failure. Also, some physical failures of other replaceable computer parts — such as a burned-out circuit board — can resemble a hard drive crash.

The worst-case physical crash usually occurs when the disk gets stuck or the read/write head plunks down hard on the spinning disk — either because it got badly bumped or it “tripped” over a fleck of dirt.

Unless you’ve dutifully backed up all your data on an external drive, the first order of business is to try to retrieve the data. There is a reasonably good chance that a crash-rescue expert can retrieve most, if not all, of your data, but it’s going to be an expensive operation. Be aware that an unscrupulous repair person can purposely misdiagnose a software crash as a physical-damage problem and then charge you for data rescue and hard drive replacement. Your only defense is to seek out a reliable technician.

This article has been excerpted from the Journal of Accountancy. View the full article here.