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How to Tell When Your Hard Drive is Going to Fail

How to Tell When Your Hard Drive is Going to Fail

Hard drives form the basis of our computing. The use of computers comes down to manipulating data, and the hard drive is, of course, where we store all our data; family albums, music, work documents, email, the list goes on.

Most of the components in your computer are electronic devices. They don’t fail with time like a mechanical device such as a car. But your hard drive is one of the few mechanical devices used in modern computing, and as such, it’s destined to die eventually.

It’s important to learn to recognize the warning signs of an imminent hard drive failure, since you might not have the budget for an extensive back-up system, so you can rescue all that data before it’s lost—sometimes forever, not retrievable at any cost.

Why do hard drives fail?

Logical Failures

Logical failures occur when the electronics of the hard drive failure or the software (firmware) has a problem. This kind of failure is usually the cheapest and easiest to have fixed. Unfortunately, it’s also an uncommon failure.

Media Failures

If the hard drive has been handled roughly, or the magnetic platters are scratched, have read/write errors or low-level formatting problems, this is a media failure. These are also relatively uncommon. Once the platters are scratched, the data should be considered scrapped.

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Head Failures

A head failure occurs when the read/write head crashes into the platters (the head crash), has an “improper flying height” or the wiring between the logic board and the head is faulty—among other failures related to malfunction of the read/write head. This is a common failure. The head crash is particularly nasty.

Mechanical Failures

Mechanical failures probably make up the bulk of hard drive failures. The motor burns out, the drive overheats, bearings get stuck—the kind of thing you’d expect to find when a car fails. These can be nasty but if the failure didn’t affect the platters, you might have a chance of recovery, but at a cost.

How do I find out when it’s going to fail before it fails?

That’s not always possible, and sometimes a hard drive will just die—but it’s still important to keep an eye on the symptoms of an imminent hard drive so you have the chance to back-up your data and get professional help.

Hard drives are incredibly sensitive bits of hardware, so don’t try to crack it open and have a look inside unless you know what you’re doing. And most definitely ensure that if you do crack it open, the platters don’t get exposed to the open air—hard drives can only be opened in Class 100 clean rooms or they’re pretty much instantly destroyed by dust.

It’s a lot easier to back-up than to get your data recovered. Once you detect any of the signs of failure you need to ensure that you have a back-up and if not, make one. Then when the drive dies, you can claim your warranty if you still have it, or buy a new drive, and be on your way.

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Recovery can cost thousands and thousands of dollars; it sure is a ridiculous amount to pay, but there’s not much you can do but shop around and find the best price. The cost of transferring a back-up onto a brand new drive is much cheaper than having a recovery specialist do the same for you.

Strange Noises

Sometimes hearing strange grinding and thrashing noises means your drive is beyond repair—for instance, if you’ve had a head crash, it very often is. Or it could just be that the motor has failed or your hard drive is grinding away because of noisy bearings. If you’re hearing strange noises then act very, very quickly—you probably don’t have much time.

Disappearing Data and Disk Errors

Computer won’t let you save a document? Or you’re sure that you had a file on your desktop yesterday that’s nowhere to be seen today? Programs that always worked suddenly stop working, asking where a file it depends on is stored?

These are all potential signs that your hard drive is on its way out. Of course, it could be that your kids moved your files for fun or a virus is eating through them, but disappearing data is never a good sign for your drive if you can rule out those alternative causes.

Your computer stops recognizing your drive

This may seem obvious, but if your computer no longer recognizes your drive chances are there’s a problem with it, not the computer. Test it in a friend’s computer and see if your hard drive is recognized by it.

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Often, this will be a logical failure—unless you can hear strange noises that indicate a severe mechanical or head problem.

Computer Crashes

Does your computer regularly blue-screen or suddenly reboot? Does it crash often, especially when booting your operating system? If your computer is crashing, especially at times when the computers is accessing files (such as during the boot sequence), it may indicate a problem with your drive.

Really Slow Access Times

It shouldn’t take half an hour to open a folder in Windows Explorer, or two hours to empty the trash. I’ve come across this problem plenty of times over the years, and it’s always followed by a failing hard drive within a month or two.

If you have this symptom on your computer and your drive does not fail, please uninstall Vista from your 486.

Sound is a great indicator. As soon as the sound changes from the norm, or you get plenty of clicking and grinding from your hard drive, you need to power it down immediately. Get to know the sound of your hard drive while it’s young and in working order, because you’ll need to be able to hear the slightest differences when it gets older.

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What next?

Don’t try to be a hero. If there’s time, get your data backed up. If there’s not—nasty noises, for example—get it out of the computer or enclosure, wrap it in anti-static plastic or aluminium foil and keep it safe until you can send it to a professional. Hard drives are very sensitive, just like those kids who die their hair black and write poems about suicide. Don’t mess with them.

When you contact a recovery specialist, they will give you details on shipping the drive, though they tend to prefer you hand-deliver it to prevent further damage.

When it comes to hard drives, just remember to keep an eye on it and act quickly. And, of course, keep extensive back-ups, even if you have to skip groceries one week to do so.

More by this author

Joel Falconer

Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

Automations are key to improving efficiency. Set the system up right from the beginning and you’ll reduce the amount of no-shows and cancellations.

Whatever your business is, with automations, meeting scheduler apps do more than just streamline appointment setting. They prime your workflow for maximum results.

Meeting scheduler apps are awesome if you use them right. Use them wrong and you can look like an arrogant elitist.

In this article, I will share with you 11 great meeting scheduler apps you can start using today to boost your productivity.

1. ScheduleOnce

    ScheduleOnce is an industry leader and robust solution. Whether you work alone or have a large team, ScheduleOnce can support you.

    ScheduleOnce allows you to create multiple users and multiple calendars. I use one calendar for booking podcast guests with automations set up to prep my guests for our interview. I use another calendar for strategy sessions and coaching calls.

    ScheduleOnce also has embeddable widgets so you can keep the scheduler inside your own website.

    Starting at $7 a month and a 14 day free trial, ScheduleOnce can fit a variety of needs in business.

    Available on Web

    2. Calendly

      Calendly stands out for its clean, easy to use interface. If you like clean design, Calendly might be your choice. It too has robust automations and integrations for individuals and teams alike.

      You can try Calendly free for 14 days. Their basic plan is free while their most robust plan is only $12 a month.

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      Available on Web | Google Chrome Extension

      3. Assistant.to

        For those who use gmail, Assistant.to is a super simple solution.

        From inside an email, you click on the Assistant.to icon and pick times your free. Assistant.to embeds the times directly into the email so the recipient can quickly pick a time that works for them.

        While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of apps like Calendly or ScheduleOnce, Assistant.to is completely free.

        Available on Web

        4. Acuityscheduling

          Acuity is a robust meeting scheduler very similar to ScheduleOnce. It integrates with CRMs, Email Marketing platforms, Analytics tools and accounting software.

          It comes with a 14 day free trial. They have a free solo account but if you want the benefit of the integrations, you’ll start as low as $15 a month and can cost up to $50 a month.

          Available on Web | iOS | Android

          5. Pick

            Built for simplicity, Pick is direct and easy to use. You can create your own url extension like pick.co/yournamehere and it integrates with Google calendar and Office 365.

            At $3 a month, this is a great tool for quick scheduling.

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            Available on Web

            6. X.ai

              For those who are early adopters of AI, this may be the solution for you. X.ai created two AI assistants they call Amy and Andrew Ingram. After setting up your account you simply CC them on your emails with the person you’re wanting to schedule and the AI assistants will email your guests from there until your appointment is set.

              This type of scheduler feels more personal because of the dialogue. There are stories on their site of people thinking Amy and Andrew are real people. X.ai integrates with Google, Office 365 and Outlook.

              Starting at $29 a month for an Individual account and $39 a month per user for a Team account, Amy and Andrew are ready to schedule meetings for you. Want to try it out first? They do have a free trial.

              Available on Web

              7. YouCanBook.me

                is another competitive solution for scheduling meetings online. You can manage the calendars of your entire team, configure booking forms, and integrate with your calendar.

                They have a free account branded with their company name or you can have some control over your branding and appearance at $10 a month for all their features. Either way, this company is worth a look.

                Available on Web

                8. Doodle

                  Doodle is unique in the space of meeting schedulers because it helps groups of people find a time to meet that works for everyone.

                  It integrates with your calendar and allows you to send a poll to all invited. Once people vote on the poll you can see which time works best for everyone.

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                  You can also run polls for food preferences if you’re scheduling a lunch meeting or a section of town if people are coming from all over.

                  While there is a free account, you’ll unlock it’s potential starting at $39 per year.

                  Available on Web | iOS | Android

                  9. WhenAvailable

                    WhenAvailable is another scheduler that works for groups of people. You can use it to schedule a pickup game of basketball, decide on your next book club or book your family reunion.

                    Their free account allows up to 20 guests, unlimited events and one contact group. For $15 a year you unlock all the goodies including reminders and chat messages.

                    Available on Web

                    10. Rally

                      Like Doodle and WhenAvailable, Rallly is helpful for scheduling meetings and events with multiple people involved. You create a poll and everyone votes. It’s quick and easy.

                      Unlike Doodle, it doesn’t have as many features, but it’s entirely free.

                      Available on Web

                      11. NeedtoMeet

                        Finishing strong, NeedtoMeet is our last app that allows you to schedule meetings or events for multiple people. It has mobile apps, custom urls, easy polling, notifications and commenting.

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                        NeedtoMeet also allows 1:1 Meetings for things like performance reviews for your whole team. You send out the your calendar slots to your team and they can only pick 1 slot, minimizing the amount of emails and scheduling you have to coordinate.

                        While they have a free account, you can unlock all features for only $19 a year.

                        Available on Web

                        Bonus: Don’t Make These Common Mistakes When Using Meeting Schedulers

                        In the excitement of streamlining your scheduling process, it can be easy to forget the feelings of those you’re inviting to meet. I know. I’ve done this.

                        To say “Hey, schedule time on my calendar” feels colder than “Hey, here’s my calendar. To avoid all the back and forth, pick a time that works best for you.”

                        Always make sure to frame your invite with your scheduler app with the benefit to them and why we’re doing it this way rather than the old fashioned, personal way.

                        A little finesse goes a long way. Without it, you risk seeming transactional and cold.

                        Some meeting scheduler widgets you can embed in your site can take a couple seconds to load. If you go this route, make sure there’s text just above the widget that lets your guest know the calendar will appear below and to wait for it to load.

                        If you use an online meeting tool like Zoom, it’s also important to explicitly let them know the meeting will take place on Zoom and include the Zoom link in the email reminder. Many make the mistake of not clarifying where the meeting will actually take place which can create last minute chaos at the time of the meeting.

                        Should you require special settings, like ethernet, external mics or lighting, let your guests know that on your thank you page and reminder emails so they are prepared for the meeting and you end up with the best meeting possible.

                        With clear communication in your automation, your meeting scheduler tools can almost perform like a virtual assistant for a fraction of the cost, or free, depending on the app you choose.

                        The Bottom Line

                        Meeting scheduler apps are diverse in features and unique in design. Before committing to one and realizing it’s not a fit, I recommend exploring which 3 might best fit you and then doing a trial with each of them at the same time so that you can see how they feel as you use them side by side.

                        Scheduling meetings the old fashioned way can be tedious. Conversely, finding a scheduling app that works seamlessly in the background is heavenly.

                        Like cell phones, meeting scheduler apps are moving from a nice-to-have luxury to must-have necessity in the lives of productive people. As you explore your options, stay true to your brand and the tools that have worked well for you to this point and simply find a meeting scheduler app that plays well with what you have created.

                        Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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