The scary reality about computer crashes is that the warning signs are few–if they exist at all–and even when you know what to look for, these signs can be very difficult to detect.
For this reason, computer backup is necessary every day, because it’s near impossible to know if, or when, your hard drive is at risk of an imminent crash.
I often hear prospective clients say dismissively: “Well, I just bought this computer not too long ago–it’s practically brand new–so I don’t need to worry about backup just yet.”
And that’s when I tell them about Google, the single largest owner of computer hard drives in the world.
In February 2007, Google Inc. released a study that they conducted on their own computers entitled Failure Trends in a Large Disk Drive Population. According to this study, which was the most extensive of it’s kind ever completed, hard drives are most likely to fail if they are less than 3 months old, or more than 2 years old. Basically, if you think computer backup is unnecessary because your computer is new, you may be in for a terrible shock.
But if you’re still intent on holding off on all precautionary action until you can personally perceive a problem with your computer, there are some signs that–if you’re lucky enough to notice them–may indicate that your computer is in imminent danger of a critical crash. I want to emphasize, though, that these warnings may, or may NOT, be apparent. The absence of any or all of these signs does not mean that your hard drive is in the clear.
Remember: a hard drive crash can happen unexpectedly at any given moment, and the likelihood that you will see it coming is ridiculously small, and certainly not worth the risk. Operating your business on a computer without automatic daily offsite backup is a recipe for bankruptcy, as over 70% of companies that suffer major data loss go out of business within one year.
That being said, here are several warning signs that may indicate that your computer is at risk of hard drive failure:
1. Your computer is slow to boot (turn on).
If you notice that your computer is not starting up quite as quickly as it usually does, and this decrease in speed cannot be attributed to the installation of new anti-virus software, your hard drive may be suffering from bad blocks/sectors.
Your hard drive contains magnetically coated metal disks that spin at a speed of about 5400 times per minute. If these disks (or their coating) become damaged in any way, a catastrophic failure is likely within 6 months time.
2. Your computer starts to whir, and/or make noise.
A change in the way that your computer sounds could indicate that the disks within your hard drive are having difficulty completing their rotation. Remember: your computer has moving parts, and these parts are situated in extremely close proximity to each other. Specks of dust, not visible to the human eye, can damage these disks and impede their movement, let alone the metal fingers that support these disks.
3. Your computer experiences a read/write error, or indicates that a disk has failed to respond.
According to the Google Inc. study mentioned above, hard drives are 30 times more likely to fail within 60 days of experiencing an initial scan error, than drives that have yet to receive such errors.
So how can you protect your computer against a crash?
1. The number one BEST way to protect your computer (and your business) is not to attempt to protect it against a crash, but to plan for data recovery after a crash.
The reason being is there is no fail-safe way to prevent a computer crash. Simply search “automatic computer backup” and the name of your city, province or state, to sign up with one of the many secure online storage services available.
2. Enlist the services of a reputable IT Service company that offers monthly service contracts, and have them clean and test your hard drive on a regular basis.
Regular cleaning of your hard drive will not only prolong the life of your computer, but will reduce the risk for data loss.
3. Ask your computer to scan for errors and bad blocks.
Your computer may not be kind enough to automatically alert you when sectors of your hard drive are damaged, but you can ask it to scan for trouble. To do so, follow these steps:
o Right click on My Computer.
o Select Manage, which brings up the Computer Management display that is split between a right and a left side.
o On the left side look for Event Viewer, and click the plus sign to its left. A list will appear below.
o Click System. A list will appear in the right side of the display.
o Scroll down the list to search for any red “X” Error entries. These entries indicate an existing problem.
o Double click on the red “X” entries to bring up the Event Properties display, which will tell you more about the error.
In closing, I highly recommend that you commit, right now, to backing up your computer via an offsite secure storage service. Waiting one more day to protect your business, may just be one day too many.