Hardware Operating System

Don’t Be A Victim Of Data Loss

If you own a computer, chances are you have a lot of important data stored on there. It may seem safe and sound, but tragedy could be waiting to strike. Data loss from a failed hard drive is an all too common but preventable problem that could happen to anyone. So, how do you prevent it?

Most computer storage is on a hard drive disk, which consists of a series of spinning disks, or platter, on which data is stored, and a moving arm, or read-write head, which reads and writes data. The platter motor spins the platters at over 5400 rpm (and sometimes up to 15,000 rpm), and the head motor moves the read-write head over the platters. The Hard drive is one of the only moving parts left in the modern computer, and as such is one of the most vulnerable to damage. Always avoid dropping or shaking your computer, especially while it is on. This could cause the parts in the hard drive to bump together (literally your computer crashing).


Unfortunately, sometimes hard drives fail through no fault of the owner. One possible way a hard drive can fail is if the files on it become corrupt. This can be caused by an operating system update getting interrupted or malware. When this happens, your computer may continually try to reboot, or display errors when starting up. Whatever the case, usually most data can be recovered by doing what is called an archive reinstall. This process can repair or overwrite damaged system files. Any member of the 5 College community experiencing this problem can check in their computer to our repair center to get an archive installation done. Just stop in to the Help Center and we can help decide if that is necessary.

Another issue that can be more serious is mechanical failure. What this means is that the hard drive is not spinning or the read-write head is unable to move properly. When this happens it can be very difficult to recover any data because there is a risk of causing physical damage to the platters where the data is stored. This problem is often accompanied by strange noises coming from your computer in addition to failure to boot. Generally, this requires a professional data recovery service to retrieve files, and can be expensive.

The best way to prevent data loss from a failed hard drive is to keep backups. Although it can be impossible to prevent a failure, it doesn’t mean you have to lose your data. An external hard drive can be a great way to keep dated copies of files so you can restore any file to a specific version of it. Important files can be kept on a CD or flash drive. These are not suitable for all your files since they have limited space, but they are also less prone to failure.

One of the best ways to back up data is to use a cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox. Since the files are stored by the service, you don’t have to worry about losing the flash drive or mechanical failure. All you need to access your files is an internet connection. And, all UMass students, faculty, and staff get access to unlimited storage on both Google Drive and Box. Both of these services can be used not just to store your files, but also access and share them anywhere.