The Science Behind Corrupt Hard Drives

Learn what makes our hard drives fail on us


The fact that it is impossible to access a corrupted hard drive and all the files stored on it are under imminent threat of data loss scares many users. Not only that, even missing the clarity on why a hard drive is corrupted also puts a user in the state of confusion and constant fear of data loss. Read the following article for a detailed explanation on what hard drive corruption actually is.

What makes a Corrupted Hard drive?
Before going into the actual topic you need to understand two major concepts
• File systems
• Master Boot Table

File Systems
File system can be thought of as an organizational program to store, access and manage the data stored on a hard drive. Operating systems can access a storage drive only if file system is functional. NTFS, ExFAT and APFS (Apple) are few examples of a file system.


Master Boot Table
A Master Boot Table or Master Boot Record (MBR) is code that carries the information of entire files that are stored on hard drive. If a MBR is corrupted, there is no other way an Operating System can access storage on the drive. If either the file system or MBR is damaged, the hard drive or any storage will fail to be accessed by the computer. So, when a hard drive is corrupted you can no longer access the hard drive.


Signs that a Hard Drive is Corrupted
When a Hard Drive is corrupted, when you look at in File Explorer (This PC), the concerned drive will be marked as RAW or inaccessible. In some severe cases the drive will not even be displayed in Windows File explorer or This PC. In such cases you need to use Disk Management to fix the corrupted drive. You will learn more about fixing a damaged drive in the upcoming sections.


Why do hard drives become corrupted?
There are a few common reasons why a hard drive can get corrupted:

1. Virus or Malware infection
The MBR is vulnerable to viruses and can get easily damaged. Also there are few viruses that are specifically programmed to infect the master boot record and corrupt the hard drive. Hence, if your antivirus is not updated, there is a probability that your hard drive might get corrupted.

2. Sudden interruption
Sudden interruptions that occur while hard drive is still operational will also corrupt hard drive. Because when hard drive is storing or writing data it simultaneously modifies the MBR. So suddenly interrupting the write process might damage the MBR and result in corrupted hard drive.

3. Bad Sectors
Bad sectors are a set of damaged storage sectors on a hard drive that no longer respond to commands. Large amount of bad sectors will alter the structure of hard drive resulting in a corrupted hard drive.

4. Long term usage
If you are using the same hard drive for longer period of time, it might accumulate lot of wear and tear damage along the way. This wear and tear might not appear to your naked eye but if you are using a hard drive for a really long time there is huge probability that your hard drive might get corrupted.


Can a corrupted hard drive be fixed?
Yes, you can fix a corrupted hard drive however, that should not be your first priority. First you should rescue the data stored on corrupted hard drive. Since a corrupted hard drive is inaccessible, the best chances for your recover data from a corrupted hard drive is with the help of data recovery software.

Integrated with cutting edge recovery engines Cat Hard Drive Data Recovery software is a highly recommended data recovery software solution.


How to Fix a Corrupted Hard drive?
Note: Before fixing a corrupted hard drive make sure that you recovered all the important files from it.
Based on the condition of corrupted hard drive there are various ways to fix it. For example, when a hard drive is corrupted and becomes invisible or marked as a raw partition you need to assign it a drive letter. If you your hard is corrupted due to bad sectors you need to run check disk or if your hard drive is corrupted because of sudden interruptions a normal formatting will fix it.


How to Fix a Corrupted Hard Drive that is Marked as RAW?
When a hard drive is marked as RAW you need to assign a new drive letter using disk management utility. The following steps show how to do it.

Go to Start > Type Computer Management > and then click on Run as Administrator.

Computer Management

In the right side option of Computer Management, you will find the Storage option select it and then click on Disk Management .

Windows Disk Management

• Generally, when any storage drive is corrupted it will be marked as RAW or unallocated and be black in colour.

• Right click on it and select the New Simple Volume option and follow the steps.

• When you reach assign drive letter step, select a desired drive letter and also select a file system and click on Next.

• Wait until the formatting completes after which, you drive should be functional.

You can follow the same process even to fix a hard drive that is corrupted due to bad sectors or a virus infection. But you should also perform the check disk operation. Here is how you run a check disk scan on a drive.


How to Perform a Check Disk to Fix a Corrupted Hard Drive?
After assigning a drive letter your corrupted hard drive or any storage drive should be available in This PC or My Computer or Windows File Explorer. Follow the steps mentioned below to implement check disk.

• Right click on the drive and click on properties

• Within the properties, select Tools tab.

• Now click on check button and wait for the process to complete. This process will fix all the bad sectors or any existing logical errors.

System Disk Properties


How to Avoid Hard Drive Corruption
When a hard drive is about to get corrupted, your computer might start showing few symptoms. These can include sluggish performance, abrupt termination of applications or even some of your files might get damaged or corrupted.

When you start noticing such sings you should take few precautions such as:

• Update your antivirus

• Use check disk (Generally, check disk is used to fix bad sectors hence using check disk might fix any upcoming errors that might corrupt your hard drive)

• Keep your operating system updated all the time

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