According to the latest annual survey of hard drive reliability by Backblaze, a provider of cloud backup services, the annualized failure rate for modern hard drives is around 2 percent. This means that if we have a group of 50 people, with every person in the group using two hard drives (perhaps one inside a personal computer and one inside a laptop), then one of those 50 individuals is going to lose all the data stored on the hard drives within a year.
That’s bad news if you keep important data on your computer without proper backup. When a hard drive failure occurs, not only are you likely to lose access to your files but you may not even be able to boot into your operating system to search for a solution on the web.
As with so many other things in life, preparation is the key to success even when it comes to hard drive repair and recovery. If you know why hard drives fail and are familiar with some of the most popular hard drive repair and recovery solutions, you have much better chances of seeing your files again.
Top 9 Best Hard Disk Repair Software Tools
Now that you know what causes hard drive failure, we have for you a list of top 9 best HDD repair software tools that you can use to analyze, avoid, and solve virtually all common hard drive issues.
1. Disk Drill – Best Overall Hard Drive Repair Software
Choosing the best overall hard drive repair software was easy. Disk Drill is by far the most modern data recovery suite on the market, both in terms of its design and its features. With Disk Drill, you can recover over 200 file formats from all storage devices without any expert skills. Disk Drill’s claim to fame is the one-click approach to data recovery; simply click on the Recover button and Disk Drill will automatically take care of the rest.
Apart from the ability to recover virtually every file format you may come across, Disk Drill can also help you solve virtually every hard drive repair scenario because it comes with extra free tools for disk monitoring, hard drive cleanup, data protection, data backup, and much more. If you don’t have time to learn multiple hard disk repair software tools, download Disk Drill and rest assured knowing that it comes with everything you’ll ever need.
2. WinDirStat – Best Disk Usage Tool
When you get your hands on a hard drive that may be corrupted, you should first discover what’s stored on it before you attempt to repair it. You may find out that most of the storage space is occupied by junk files left over by various applications. Traditional file managers are unfit for this job because they provide a very limited view of the stored data. WinDirStat is a disk usage statistics viewer with a special treemap-view, which represents each file as a colored rectangle whose area is proportional to the file’s size. When you see one huge rectangle next to hundreds of small rectangles, you know that you’re looking at a space hog.
3. Clonezilla – Best Disk Imaging Tool
Clonezilla is one of the most useful free hard drive repair software tools. It allows you to easily create full partition and disk backups, which can be deployed on other computers. Clonezilla supports far more file systems than most IT professionals can name, and it even features some basic boot repair tools.
4. DBAN – Best Disk Wipe Tool
Unfortunately, not all hard drives can be repaired. Sometimes, it’s wiser to move all data to another storage device and securely wipe the damaged hard drive before throwing it away. If you value your privacy and security, you should know that the disk format utilities that comes with Windows and macOS don’t guarantee complete data removal. They merely mark the storage space as free, allowing anyone with a good data recovery tool, such as Disk Drill, to recover the deleted data back. Featuring multiple military-grade erasure methods, DBAN can wipe any storage device clean and don’t leave behind even a trace of the original content.
5. CrystalDiskInfo – Best Health Monitoring Tool
CrystalDiskInfo is an extremely handy disk monitoring utility, which can read S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) data from hard disks. S.M.A.R.T. data include things like the rear error rate, the seek error rate, or the spin-up time. Hard disk manufacturers know which values are normal and which may indicate an imminent hard disk failure, and they hard-code them into the firmware. CrystalDiskInfo monitors these values and makes it immediately obvious when they get out of hand, giving you enough time to back up your data before it’s too late.
6. GParted – Best Partition Manager
GParted is a free, graphical partition editor that you can use to resize, copy, and move partitions without data loss or file corruption. You may want to shrink a partition to create space for another operating system or a backup partition. GParted is part of many other hard disk tools, such as Clonezilla or Partclone. It can also be downloaded from the official website as a small bootable GNU/Linux distribution for x86 based computers and used from a USB flash drive.
7. HDD Regenerator – Best Ability to Repair Bad Sectors
While Windows comes with a built-in hard disk repair tool capable of fixing bad sectors and file access issues caused by them, it pales in comparison with HDD Regenerator. This special-purpose hard drive repair tool has the ability to detect physical bad sectors on a hard disk drive surface and repair them a recovery technology called Hysteresis loops generator. Originally developed by Dmitriy Primochenko, Hysteresis can make unreadable data readable again, and HDD Regenerator makes it easy to apply it on Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10.
8. AOMEI Partition Assistant – Best Hard Disk Manager
Despite its name AOMEI Partition Assistant isn’t yet another tool for moving, resizing, and creating partitions. It’s actually a feature-packed hard disk manager capable of solving virtually all commonly encountered issues related to hard drives. For example, you can use it to convert MBR drives to the GPT partitioning scheme, migrate your entire operating system to a different hard drive, or shred sensitive files in a way that makes it impossible to recover them in the future—not even with a professional data recovery tool like Disk Drill.
9. SpinRite – Best for Older Computers
Considering that the last version of SpinRite, an application for recovering lost files from magnetic data storage devices such as hard disks, was released back in 2004, you might be surprised to see it featured on this list. The reason why we decided to include it is simple: it remains the best hard drive repair tool for older computers. Since it runs inside a live version of FreeDOS, you can use it to scan just about any computer—even one that doesn’t work properly anymore. The tool supports not only Windows file systems but also DOS FAT, all Linux file systems, Novell, Macintosh, and more.
How to Repair a Hard Disk That Doesn’t Work Properly
There are many different ways to repair a hard disk that doesn’t work properly, and each is useful in a slightly different situation. Listed below are seven repair methods that can help you repair most logical hard drive issues that are preventing you from accessing your data.
Many strains of malware, such as ransomware, can prevent you from accessing important files or even being able to boot up your computer at all. The good news is that Windows comes with a capable antivirus, called Windows Defender, and it takes just a few simple steps to instruct it to scan your entire computer:
- Open the Settings app (Win + X > Settings).
- Go to Update & Security > Windows Security.
- Click Virus & threat protection under Protection areas.
- Select Scan options.
- Click the checkbox next to Full scan and click the Scan now option.
Full scan will check all files and running programs on your hard disk, so it may take a while to complete.
Check and Repair Hard Disk Errors
Modern files systems, such as NTFS, are robust and reliable, but they’re not entirely immune to various errors, which can lead to data corruption and file access issues. The good news is that most of these errors can be fixed with built-in hard disk repair tools, namely CHKDKS.
- Type “cmd” in the search box on the taskbar and select Run as administrator.
- Enter the following command (make sure to replace X with the letter assigned to the hard disk you want to fix) and press Enter: chkdsk X: /f
- Wait for CHKDSK to finish. The process may take several hours depending on the size of your hard disk.
The /f parameter tells CHKDSK to fix all hard disk errors.
Use a Hard Drive Repair Tool
In this article, we’ve described several hard drive repair tools, including HDD Regenerator and SpinRite. Both of these tools can be used to check the file system and file system metadata of a volume for logical errors, and we highly recommend you give them a try before attempting more drastic fixes.
If you decide to use a hard drive repair tool that isn’t featured in this article, then make sure to verify that it really does what it promises to do. There are many software applications that promise almost miraculous results but, in reality, won’t do much more than infect your computer with malware.
Re-Install Hard Disk Drivers and Update Firmware
Sometimes, hard disk issues are caused by faulty drivers and firmware. For example, a bug in the firmware of some SAS SSDs (Serial-Attached SCSI solid-state drives) produced by Hewlett Packard can cause the hard drives to fail after reaching 40,000 hours of operation (roughly 4 years).
Fortunately, reinstalling hard disk drivers and updating to the latest firmware is easy, and you won’t lose any data.
To reinstall hard disk drivers:
- Press Win + X and select Device Manager.
- Expand the Disk Drives section.
- Right-click on your hard drive.
- Choose the Uninstall option.
- Restart your computer.
Windows will automatically reinstall the latest version of hard disk drivers.
As far as firmware updates go, you should start by visiting the support website of the company that has manufactured your SSD. There, look for available firmware updates and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install the latest update available.
Format the Disk
Formatting a hard disk that refuses to work properly is a drastic option, but its effectiveness can’t be denied. When you format a hard disk, you recreate the entire file system and start from scratch, fixing all issues with bad sectors and data corruption in the process.
To format a non-system drive in Windows:
- Open File Explorer.
- Select This PC.
- Right-click the hard drive you want to format and select the Format option.
- Select the desired file system and give your drive a name. To save time, you can leave the Quick format option selected.
- Click Start and wait for your hard drive to be formatted.
If you want to format your system drive, then we recommend begin the installation of the Windows operating system and choose the Custom install option. You will then be able to format or delete any partition.
Check Physical Hard Disk Connections
Your hard drive is most likely connected to your motherboard with two cables:
- Power cable: As the name implies, the job of the power cable is to supply electricity to your hard drive.
- SATA cable: The SATA cable allows your hard drive to communicate with your motherboard.
If any of these two cables is loose or damaged, then you may experience all kinds of hard drive issues, ranging from minor to serious. A quick inspection won’t take you more than a minute or two, but it can save you from wasting on software fixes that don’t address the core issue.
Connect the Hard Disk to a New Computer
If none of the above-described fixes have solved your problems, then you should rule out the possibility that some other component, such as your motherboard is to blame for them. You can easily do that by disconnecting your hard disk and connecting it to a different computer.
Should the problems magically disappear, then you know that the hard drive itself is fine, and you need to identify and fix the real issue.
How to Repair Your Hard Drive with Recovery Service (if Nothing Else Works)
Just because there are multiple easy-to-apply DIY fixes doesn’t mean that you have to do everything on your own. If fixing your hard drive and recovering lost data is important to you, then it makes sense to let data recovery professionals with plenty of experience and state-of-the-art equipment take care of everything for you.
Sure, it will cost you some money (but probably not as much as you think), but you’ll be able to achieve the best data recovery results possible.
When selecting a professional data recovery service, you should always check their data recovery guarantee to verify that you won’t be billed anything if the recovery attempt ends up being unsuccessful.
What Causes Hard Disk Failure
Hard disks are mechanical devices, and, like all mechanical devices, they can fail without notice. Some hard disk failures are entirely avoidable, but many others are governed only by luck and chance.
Unlike solid-state disks or USB flash drives, which have no moving parts, every traditional hard drive has a very fragile part called the read/write head. This head looks like a miniature gramophone needle, and its purpose is to transform the platter’s magnetic field into electrical current to read data from the disk and transform electrical current into a magnetic field to write data on the disk. Because there are only 3 nanometers of clearance between the head and the disk platter, which holds the actual data, even the slightest misalignment can, and usually does, result in a catastrophic head crash.
Every traditional hard disk comes with an air filter that equalizes the atmospheric pressure and moisture between the enclosure and the outside environment. It’s critical for the filter to prevent all dust particles from getting inside the enclosure as even the smallest speck of dust can cause a head crash if the head happens to run over it.
Often, a head crash is caused by a sudden jolt, such as when a user throws his or her laptop on a bed instead of carefully laying it down.
All reputable hard disk manufacturers thoroughly test their products before selling them to consumers. But even with modern testing methods, defective hard disks still sometimes slip out and end up on sites like Amazon. Most manufacturing defects reveal themselves during the first year of use, so it’s advisable never to trust a brand-new hard disk with critical data. Of course, it’s best if you don’t trust any hard disk unless you keep up-to-date backups somewhere else.
Most hard drives are designed to operate at temperatures from 5 to 50 degrees Celsius, and some newer hard drives can operate at up to 60 degrees Celsius. While overheating usually doesn’t result in a critical failure, it often leads to data corruption and read errors. It’s paramount to keep your PC or laptop well ventilated, especially during the summer months. In extreme cases, heat can even cause the electronic circuit board that controls the entire hard drive to fail, making it impossible to do hard drive repair regardless of which software you choose for the job.
Inside every hard drive is a plethora of sensitive electronic components. A sudden power failure preceded by a short power surge can literary fry these components, rendering the entire hard drive useless. A high-quality surge protector is by far the best way how you can protect yourself against electronic hard drive failure. Yes, a reliable surge protector isn’t cheap, but it’s one of those expensive purchases that are worth every dollar.
When unintended changes are introduced to data during the data writing process, we talk about file corruption. As we’ve explained above, file corruption can happen because of overheating, but it can also be caused intentionally by malware.
In recent years, we’ve seen massive growth in the number of ransomware infections. Ransomware attacks don’t technically corrupt files; they encrypt them. However, from the point of view of a user who’s unwilling to pay several hundreds or thousands of dollars to the ransomware creators, the result is the same.
How to Prevent Hard Drive Data Loss
As we’ve explained in this article, it’s often possible to recover from hard drive data loss. However, it’s always much better to prevent it in the first place by following these best practices:
- Take care of your computer: You like you need to take good care of your body to be healthy, you need to take care of your computer to prevent hard drive data loss. Make sure the computer is well ventilated and avoid exposing it to extreme temperatures, moisture, and other adverse conditions.
- Use high-quality hard drives: Not all hard drives are equally reliable. For example, a budget SSD from a no-name company is extremely unlikely to have the same lifespan as an enterprise-grade SSD from a reputable manufacturer. If avoiding data loss issues is important to you, then spending extra money on high-quality hard drives can save you a lot of trouble in the future.
- Create backups of important data: Any files that are not backed up in at least one extra location can be gone in any minute. We recommend the 3-2-1 backup strategy, which states that you should always have three copies of your data on two different media, with one copy stored offsite (such as in the cloud).
- Use reliable antivirus software: Viruses and other malware can cause widespread hard drive data loss, so you should always protect yourself against them using reliable antivirus software. If you’re a Windows user, then you already have a good antivirus software, Windows Defender, installed on your computer, but you can always install a different solution.
- Separate system and user data: System hard drives (typically disk C) see a lot of use, so they’re much more likely to fail than hard drives that are used just for data storage or backup purposes. For this reason alone, it’s a good idea to avoid storing important data on your system drive.
Of course, you can do a lot more to prevent hard drive data loss, but these five best practices are enough to provide a solid foundation that you can then build on as you see fit.
Does it seem that your hard drive is dying? Don’t despair. There are many wonderful hard disk repair software tools that you can use to diagnose and fix hard drive issues. Most of these tools don’t cost anything, which cannot be said about the service offered by most data recovery businesses.