The #2 Most Asked Question at cat-man-du [VIDEO]

The #1 most asked question at cat-man-du is “How did my PC get infected?” and I’ll be blogging on this soon enough. Today I want to focus on the #2 question “How did my hard drive fail (crash)?”

The simple answer is – Because a hard drive is a mechanical device, it has moving parts and when those moving parts fail or even have a tiny hiccup – your data can be lost. The best thing to remember is this – ALL HARD DRIVES WILL FAIL. Yep, every single hard drive is a ticking time bomb and it’s not a question of “if” but one of “when”.

If you take a close look at the picture on the left, you’ll see a hard drive that a cat-man-du guru took apart so we could see the inner workings. Notice anything familiar about the design? If you guessed “it kind of looks like a record player” then you just figured out more than the average computer user knows about hard drives.

Want to learn more – read on.

A hard drive (the basic design) has many things in common with record players. The information you save and the programs you install on your desktop or laptop reside on the mirrored platter you see in the photo. The disk(s) inside a hard drive are coated with a substance which is magnetized. Attached to an actuator arm is a “head” which is very similar to the arm, head and needle of a record player. At the very tip (where the record player needle would be) is a small bead of ferrite material with a coil wrapped around it.

As the computer user saves data, installs programs and opens files, electrical pulses are passed through the head, creating a pulse for a one and a reverse pulse for a zero.
The ones and zeros make up all the information stored within a PC or Mac. All those ones and zeros are just hanging out on the spinning silver platter (which turns at anywhere from 5400 RPM to 7200 RPM). How fast is a drive platter spinning? 7200 RPM equals about 75 miles an hour.
While all this is happening the actuator arm is moving back and forth across the platter faster than the eye can see saving and retrieving information. If even the smallest dust particle gets in the way of all this high-speed magnetic storage action, it could scratch the platter, interfere with the head and cause all the data to go to info heaven.
When a hard drive fails you need a service called data recovery which can be as simple as removing the drive and making a copy of the ones and zeros to a new drive. It can be a little more tricky the worse that the drive “crash” is. Data can sometimes be saved from failing hard drives using specialized software but if the mechanics inside the drive have failed, the drive has to be sent off to a clean room to be disassembled and the data retrieved – which can be very expensive.
Purchasing a hard drive from a brand that has a proven track record of brining reliable drives to market can also help. Cheaper hard drives are made cheaper and result in a higher failure rate. While there is no manufacturer that can get it right 100% of the time, we have partnered with Western Digital as our sole supplier of hard drives due to their great customer service and fewer failures (not zero failures).
So to sum it all up:
  1. Your hard drive IS GOING TO FAIL
  2. Hard drives are kind of like record players
  3. All your photos, documents, programs, music and videos are floating around on top of a metal platter
  4. Hard drives are imperfect mechanical machines that do awesome things with magnetism

So what do you/ should you do? You’ve heard it before – read on:

Back up your data!

Hard drive manufacturers, computer technicians and technology service providers are not responsible, nor do they warranty or guarantee your data. You are all on your own when it comes to being responsible for keeping your information from vanishing into thin air.

There are many solutions for backing up data, the best ones are the ones in the cloud. MozyHome Free, and Carbonite are two great places to setup an automated backup that will be in the safe (mostly) reliable (mostly) cloud.

Another option is to store your data in the cloud and skip the drive all together (this doesn’t replace a backup). Those with a Google account can use Google Drive to store many different types of information and Dropbox also has free cloud storage.

For businesses who need a cloud based backup solution, our business division ( IT) has a great solution for you.

To wrap this all up, here is a great YouTube video that the Department of Design and Multimedia at The University of Nicosia put together to demonstrate how a hard drive works – enjoy!