Though many people like to believe that once they purchase a computer it’ll last for decades, sooner or later natural wear and tear forces them the replace certain components. This is particularly true for hard drives, which tend to become corrupted for various reasons, whether it is physical damage or an issue with software. There are certain ways to keep computer hardware healthy for longer periods of time – by cleaning it both physically and digitally – but if you receive an error message about bad sectors on the drive, then it usually indicates that the end has just begun.
But even if the situation seems rather bleak, there is still a chance to fix bad sectors and avoid having all of your data erased from the failing drive. The only question is when should a rescue mission be carried out and when is it time for the drive to say its last prayers?
Fixing Bad Sectors According to Their Type
The first thing to do before attempting to fix a drive with bad sectors is to determine what type of bad sector are you dealing with in the first place. In that regard, there are two possible cases: physical (hard) and logical (soft) bad sectors. Admittedly, this step may seem unnecessary at first, because regardless of the nature of the bad sectors they will always result in data loss and worsened performance of the affected drive. However, the type of bad sector does matter a lot, mostly because one issue has a chance of recovery while the other means game over for the hardware.
Physical Bad Sectors
As the terminology suggests, physical bad sectors occur when the hard drive in question is physically damaged. Although many things could result in physical damage – like excessive heat, dust, blunt force, and even natural wear and tear – there is always one symptom that clearly indicates a case of physical bad sectors, and that’s the strange noises coming from the hardware.
Should you come across this symptom – which is often accompanied by further signs like an extremely slow system and the frequent appearance of differing error messages – then save anything important from that drive onto an alternative drive or cloud storage as soon as possible, because the drive is irreparable and could completely fail you any time. In other words, physical bad sectors can only be cured by replacing the entire drive.
Logical Bad Sectors
Even though it sounds less scary than physical damage, a logical bad sector still means that whatever is stored in that particular sector is probably gone for good. However, since the damage isn’t physical, it can actually be repaired. To make things even better, both Windows and macOS have their own tools to deal with this kind of issue.
In Windows, go to “This PC” and right-click on the drive suffering from bad sectors. After that, select Properties > Tools > Check. Clicking on the “Check” button will initiate a scan of the drive for errors, the result of which is then disclosed with you. Should the tool find bad sectors, click on “Scan and repair” and wait for the process to end.
On Macs the process is more or less the same. In Finder select the disk repair tool by clicking on Go > Utilities > Disk Utility, then pick the drive that needs to be examined. Begin the examination process by clicking on “First Aid” and simply follow the instructions on screen. If there is an issue with the drive, Disk Utility will tell you what was repaired and whether further actions should be taken.
Prepare for File Evacuation
Being able to fix bad sectors is a huge bonus and can put users’ minds at ease. Too bad, then, that bad sectors indicate the slow decay of the drive and there is nothing permanent to do to avert the disk’s fate, total failure. This is the main reason why fixing the bad sectors should be preceded by collecting all the data from the failing hardware with data recovery software. This way you can at least save your data without further damaging the disk by overwriting stored information, not to mention that it is also possible to recover hidden data that may be left in lost partitions.