Hard drives are the memories of our computers. They store documents, data, voice recordings and even entire movies. Because hard drives are so spacious and efficient these days, we can start to believe that they offer permanent and secure storage for our data. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
For such hard-working devices, hard drives can be remarkably fragile. They store data on stacks of rotating metallic platters. Magnetic heads ‘float’ between the platters, moving information back and forth without making physical contact. The information that looks so real on a monitor is, in fact, delicate electrical impulses on a metal plate.
Once people in an organization know how hard drives work, they understand how easy it is for data to be lost. As hard drives become smaller, so does their ‘tolerance’, the distance between the platter and the heads that read and write data. Bumping into a computer while the hard drive is running can make the head actually touch the platter and literally ‘rub out’ the data there. Contamination, like dust or moisture, or a slight change in power can also cause damaging head contact.
That’s why it is absolutely vital to switch off the hard drive at the first sign of any unusual noise, like grinding, scraping or chattering. If nothing’s wrong, nothing has been lost. But if there is physical damage taking place inside the drive, prompt action can keep it to an absolute minimum and more data will be available for recovery