Troubleshooting Hard Drive Tips

Here’s a typical enquiry from one of my end users.

“I have a WD my passport. It has been working ok, but I have noticed some problems which I put down to my laptop. However the external drive is no longer being recognised on my laptop or any other machine. I believe it is to do with the control board inside the drive.”

computer troubleshootingWorking in computer support, I find problems like this are very common. The first thing I would ask in this case is for more information on the symptoms of the problem. For example, what are the problems that the user had attributed to their laptop? Can they describe these in any more detail? Remember, it’s possible that there is more than one problem and there is a fault on both the laptop and the portable hard drive.

The reporter of the problem has obviously done some analysis themselves: and has identified a definite problem with the hard drive which is no longer recognised on their laptop or any other machine. For sure this does indicate some sort of problem with the hard drive, but how has the user then come to the conclusion that it’s a fault on the control board inside of the hard drive? From experience, whilst control board issues are not unheard of, they are very rare faults, frequently the result of power outages. So an obvious question to ask would be about power failures and outages. More common and likely portable hard drive faults are to do with mechanical type issues on the hard drive. Here’s a very useful definition of mechanical hard drive failure with video examples: There is a telltale symptom associated with mechanical faults and that is a ticking noise that is produced by the hard drive when it is powered on. It’s caused by the hard drive trying to initiate by reading data from the hard drive surface. This is sort of self test: if passed the hard drive is deemed to be working by the computer, if failed, the drive will reset and try to initiate again – it’s this reset which causes the ticking noise as the drive’s heads reset themselves and try again.

A word of caution though: Before leaping in the at deep end and identifying hardware faults like a broken hard disk or computer, check the simpler things: when dealing with portable hard drives, always take a spare data cable and power supply with you so that you can eliminate and problems with these – I’ve seen faulty power supplies many times in the past that have been incorrectly diagnosed as hard drive faults.