- Failure to shut down your PC properly, or forcing the PC to perform excessive reboots
- Failure to watch conditions that can contribute to excessive heat within the PC case, particularly in the area of the drive bays
- Failure to use proper power protection such as a good-quality surge suppressor or, better yet, a UPS
- Failure to observe proper precautions when working with drive connections that can lead to reversed cables, shorting of the drive (if not the motherboard) by plugging in the drive with the PC turned on, and other disasters
- Not regularly scanning your system for viruses using anti-virus software
- Operating the PC in a dirty environment where ash and dust can be pulled inside the PC case and into the drive (Drives are extremely sensitive to contaminants.)
- Operating the PC in extremes of temperature and moisture
- Using a large magnetic device in close proximity to the drive
- Poor mounting of the drive (A drive angled in an odd position or that vibrates excessively can seriously increase wear on internal components.)
Most experts agree that the leading cause of hard disk failure is prolonged overheating. This situation is exacerbated by the large capacity of new drives, which means they have to fit a lot more data into the same size physical drive. Many experts recommend buying a drive-cooling fan to reduce heat-related wear.
Immediate Safety Concerns to Minimize the Destruction
Let’s be clear on one point before going further: If you smell smoke (whether it’s coming from the drive or another part of the PC), see sparks or fire, or hear a terrible noise coming from the vicinity of your hard disk, shut the PC off and disconnect it from power immediately.
Similarly, if a disaster of some type produces water that is coming close to the PC, kill power and disconnect the PC from its power source as soon as possible.
Should you find your PC in a situation where the hard disk is visibly damaged, don’t try to plug the drive back in, even into a different machine. A drive with serious physical injury is not one you can try to work with yourself. If you want to salvage data from it, seek professional assistance (discussed later in this chapter).
Finally, please don’t assume that you can just open up the drive casing and try to repair it yourself, even if friends and associates tell you it’s possible. Ask them to show you a drive they’ve fixed that way in good operation. There aren’t many.
When you send a drive to be repaired or recovered, workers open them in sterile, clean environments and exercise grave care; this isn’t the same as taking a hard disk out to the garage workbench. The least amount of damage you can do there is to contaminate the platter surfaces with debris that makes the drive harder or impossible to recover.