We've all been there, one day our computer is working normally, the next its hard disk drive gives out and you're left scratching your head at what on earth happened.

The unfortunate truth is that, sometimes, your hard disk drive will fail. This might be because it takes a hard knock, but often it seems to happen for no reason. A hard disk drive is full of moving parts, fragile moving parts. This makes the life expectancy of a hard disk drive hard to define, unlike a carton of milk that has an expiration date on the side.

By their very nature, it's inevitable that a hard disk drive will fail at some point. Here at Fasthosts, we know that that's not a particularly helpful timeframe, which makes it very important to perform a regular hard disk health check to help predict potential signs of failure.

What is a hard disk?

Before we start breaking down why your hard disk drive might have failed, let's first clarify exactly what is a hard disk.

Without going into extreme detail, a hard disk drive is a mechanical data storage device that enables your computer to function correctly. Compromised of a spinning disk and several arms that are used to read and write data, a hard disk drive is capable of storing several terabytes of data, but the specifics of their construction makes the delicate.

There are many factors that might cause a hard disk drive to break. A power surge, power outage, overheating, exposure to sudden and rapid vibrations, corrupted files, or even malware, these are but a fragment of the potential causes for hard disk drive failures and is a key reason why we advise that all files be saved on a cloud backup.

Hard disk health repair software

To ensure any hard disk drive you own is running as smoothly as possible, it's a good idea to utilise hard disk drive diagnostic tools like HDSentinel.

This type of hard disk health repair software performs constant scans and monitor your hard disk drive's performance to analyse whether a hard disk drive failure could occur. If it deems a failure likely, it can then attempt to perform a repair, though this will be of little use if your hard disk drive suffers a mechanical failure.

Hard disk drive monitoring software like HDSentinel gives you better insight into the health of your hard disk. Your hard drive's health is displayed as an intuitive percentage of 100. This figure is based on the estimated remaining lifetime and SMART (self-monitoring, analysis, reporting technology) data that was built into the hard disk at the time of manufacturing.

HDSentinel presents this data visually and textually and shows an estimated remaining lifetime in days and hours. At Fasthosts, if a customer tells us that their hard disk server is under 40% health, then we'll exchange it for a new one.

Hard disk drive protection

While it's not possible to fully prevent a hard disk drive failure, there are ways you can mitigate the likelihood of it occurring. These methods might not be feasible for a single computer, but for dedicated servers like the ones at Fasthosts, they're an absolute must.

Climate control

Overheating can be a major problem for dedicated servers, which makes controlling the temperature of their room a necessity.

The Fasthosts data centres are designed and built to combat all manner of external climate factors. All our centres are controlled by multiple redundant CRAC units that keep the temperature and humidity of the data centre optimal at all times.

Over six thousand dedicated servers running 24/7 expel a lot of heat, so in-depth design and technology are required to keep the temperature consistent and the servers cool.

Uninterruptible power supplies

Power outages are an unavoidable fact of life. At some point, we're all going to experience a power cut, potentially preceded or followed by a power surge. Thus, having systems in place to provide an uninterruptable power supply can mitigate the risks associated with these issues.

The Fasthosts data centres are supported by their own unique uninterruptible power supply. A series of batteries and diesel generators ensure that in the freak case of a power outage, the power to the data centre is switched to the backup supplies with absolutely no interruption.

Protective design

In many cases, there is no way to prevent the effects of sudden and random vibrations, but again, there effects can be reduced to a manageable level.

Many hard disk drives can be fitted with rubber dampeners that absorb vibrations and movements that could be harmful to the hard disk. It's this style of protection that we opt for with the Fasthosts servers.

How to recover data from a damaged hard disk

If, despite your best efforts, your hard disk drive does die, then we have good news for you. It is possible to perform a hard disk data recovery procedure, depending on how your hard disk drive was damaged.

Sadly, if your hard disk drive has ceased to function due to physical damage, then the likelihood of your data still being intact is very slim. But if your drive failed as a result of corrupted data or malware, the hard disk data recovery process is relatively simple.

For the best possible chance of recovering your data intact, we recommend taking your hard disk drive to an expert. This will minimise the potential loss of data, and they might be able to provide an answer as to why your hard disk drive failed in the first place. Of course it's also possible tot recover the data yourself.

If you want to recover your hard disk drive's data personally, you'll need to remove the hard disk drive in question from its machine and connect it to another computer. Next, you'll need to install your chosen hard disk recovery software. Disk Drill and TestDisk are very popular choices and work for both Windows and Mac. You can then use this software to preview and save your files to another hard disk drive.

Backing up your data

Generally speaking a hard disk recovery attempt should be your last resort once all other avenues have been exhausted. You could and should back up your data at every opportunity, whether that's on another hard disk drive, a dedicated server, or on the cloud.

For example, all of Fasthosts dedicated servers are built in a RAID-redundant configuration. In a RAID 1 setup of two mirrored drives, if one disk fails, the data is safe on the other. We can then replace the failed drive and, depending on the operating system, its data can be retrieved from the other drive and reuploaded.

If you're looking for server solutions or consistent ways to back up your data, then Fasthosts has exactly what you need with our dedicated servers and cloud server services. Never worry about losing your server's data again. From just £30 a month, you'll have access to two 1TB HHDs, unlimited bandwidth, 24/7 support, and absolutely no setup fees.

Of course, it's not just servers that we provide at Fasthosts. From web hosting to domain names, we can provide everything you need to get your business's online presence up and running. Get in touch today and see how we can help, or check out our informative guides and articles over at the Fasthosts blog.