Your hard drive is the workhorse of your computer, but do you really know what it’s up to in there? Here’s a brief description of how your hard drive works, and what you can do to make sure it keeps working the way it should.
How it works
When you save a file to your hard drive, it is magnetically recorded onto a platter inside your hard drive. Most hard drives have several platters mounted on a spindle that allows them to spin as fast as 15,000 times per minute. Each two-sided platter is mounted on a single arm with a slider that lets the heads move across the surface of the platter to access data.The amount of data each platter can hold is usually measured in Tracks Per Inch, where a track equals one concentric ring around a disk.
Because of the amount of data that can be stored in a single track, each track is divided into sectors, and when you save data to the disk, it is referenced according to its track and sector.
Organize your hard drive
Occasionally your hard drive will make a whirring sound as it searches for a file. This is the sound of the platters spinning as the read heads zoom back and forth to access each sector where the data has been stored. You can speed up this process by periodically “defragging” your hard drive. The Windows Disk Defragmenter utility reorganizes the scattered data on your hard drive to make your files run more efficiently. It also moves the files that you use most often to the beginning of the hard disk where they’ll load faster.
To run Disk Defragmenter in Windows XP, follow these directions:
Click Start > Programs > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter.
You should analyze a drive (volume) before defragmenting it. Because defragmenting may take considerable time, this tells you whether you need to take the time to perform this task. Click the Analyze button.
A drive must have at least 15 percent free space for Disk Defragmenter to completely and adequately defragment it. Disk Defragmenter uses this space as a sorting area for file fragments. If a volume has less than 15 percent free space, Disk Defragmenter will only partially defragment it. To increase the free space on a volume, delete unneeded files or move them to another disk.
Click the Defragment button.
To interrupt or temporarily stop defragmenting a volume, click Stop or Pause, respectively. The bottom frame displays a graphical representation of the utilities progress.
Another powerful utility that comes with Windows is Disk Cleanup. This application allows you to easily sort through and delete unused and temporary files, freeing space on your hard drive and speeding up its operation.
To run Disk Cleanup, Go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools and select Disk Cleanup.
Choose the drive you want to scan from the drop-down menu, and wait while the program calculates how much disk space is available for cleanup.
On the Disk Cleanup tab, check the boxes next to the types of files you want to remove.
Temporary Internet Files are Web pages stored on your hard drive for quick access. Deleting these files will leave intact your Internet browser preferences and bookmarks.
Downloaded Program Files are Java and ActiveX applications downloaded from the Internet to view certain pages.
The Recycle Bin contains files you have deleted from your system. They are not permanently removed until you empty the bin.
Temporary Files are created by some applications to temporarily store data. Typically, the data is deleted when the program closes, and it is safe to delete these files if they have not been modified in over a week. Clicking the View Files button will display the files to be deleted in a separate window.
To remove Windows components or unused programs, click the More Options tab. Clicking the appropriate Cleanup button will open the Add/Remove Programs utility, where you can then select what you would like to delete.
If you’ve ever turned off your computer without properly shutting down the system (or had to restart after a crash), then you’ve probably seen your computer run a utility called ScanDisk. ScanDisk checks the hard drive for errors and, if it finds any, marks the cluster of sectors containing the error as unusable, so that no data can be written to or read from that portion of the disk.You can also run ScanDisk from within Windows. This allows you to do a more thorough scan of your hard drive and detect errors that might make it difficult or impossible to read or write to the disk.
To run ScanDisk in Windows 98, and Windows Millennium:
Click Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > ScanDisk.
Select Thorough under Type of Test.
Click Start to begin the scan.
Windows XP refers to ScanDisk as an “error-checking” tool; to perform error-checking, follow these directions:
Open My Computer, then select the local disk you want to check.
On the File menu, click Properties.
On the Tools tab, under Error-checking, click Check Now.
Under Check Disk options, select the “Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors” box. ScanDisk should take only a few minutes to run, and should probably be done every two or three months. It will give you a report of the number and types of errors it has found, and can even automatically repair some of these errors.
More serious errors can be repaired by reformatting the drive, if the errors are “soft” errors (which means that the magnetic signal on the disk is weak or the formatting is bad).”Hard” errors, however, refer to actual physical damage to the disk, such as a scratch or a bump, and cannot be repaired.
If you have a large number of hard errors on your disk, you will probably need to replace your hard drive.The average life span for today’s hard drive is between three and five years. Simple maintenance can keep your hard drive running smoothly well past the time it has become obsolete.
Luckily, today’s hard drives rarely fail without a warning given well in advance. All modern disks are equipped with a feature called S.M.A.R.T. that allows real-time analysis and the reporting of any developing problems and potential issues. The big question is: can you read the warnings?
The following free applications take the guesswork out of the equation, and they make it easier for you to diagnose what’s really happening with your Hard Drives.
- Disk Heal fixes these problems with just one click.
- Fixes Task Manager Inaccessibility
- Fixes Folder Options inaccessibility
- Fixes Registry Editor Inaccessibility
- Fixes File/Folder inaccessibility:
- Has a virus hidden your files/folders and you cannot unhide it, use disk heal to fix this problem.
Emsa Disk Check – CD/DVD/HDD Disk Diagnostic Utility
Emsa Disk Check is a dual-purpose utility, for disk checking (prescan and full disk reading) and also benchmarking. It scans/reads the entire contents of a disk (CD, DVD or hard drive; or even floppy), and it shows any read errors that may appear. In addition, it shows drive speed information, progress statistics and so on. It was designed with simplicity in mind, but ease of use for you.
Emsa DiskCheck main features:
- Useful to quickly and fully scan removable disks like CD, DVD for surface defects like disk scratch problems, bad CD-R/RW DVD-R/RW writes, etc.
- Can check CD-ROM, DVD, hard disks, even floppy disks.
- Useful for benchmarking a drive, be it CD, DVD or HDD.
- Shows ‘locked’ files on disks.
- Useful speed comparison (shows the ‘X’ multiplier speed comparison with CDs and DVDs) with possibility of switching in CD/DVD ‘X’ mode.
- It scans/reads a disk fully until completion or user stop, at the maximal speed available.
- Reports progress, statistics (files, folders, time elapsed, estimated time remaining).
- Reports any errors encountered (error count and log entry for each).
- Prescan accesses the disk table of contents and computes file information, showing the total number of files and folders and total space on disk before running the full scan.
Download at: e-systemsHDDlife
Knowing about the possible failure of your hard drive means having time to prevent all your data from being lost HDDlife is a program that will allow you to control the health of your hard drive using an intuitive interface. Just run the program and it will show you the list of your disks with the percentage of their health left, as well as their temperature.
- Controlling the health of your hard drives using the S. M. A. R. T. technology.
- Constantly monitoring the state of your hard drives in the background mode.
- Displaying the temperature of your hard drives.
- Disk free space info and control.
The current version supports IDE, Serial ATA and SCSI disks with standard controllers, while external, IDE RAID and SCSI RAID controllers are not supported.
Download at: hddlife.com
Don’t forget, that Hard Drive diagnostic software is offered free from all the major hard drive manufacturers. Check out their sites.
Western Digital Support:
Please note that since Seagate purchased Maxtor, the download sites are identical.