Look after your hard drive (and save £££)

Dear students,

Welcome (or welcome back) to University. You probably haven’t heard of us (yet) but a large number of you will contact us over the next few months, probably just before a big deadline.

You’ll be panicking because your computer won’t switch on or your hard drive has started to make a funny scratching noise, and we’ll tell you that yes we probably can recover your essay, but not before Friday, and it’s going to cost even more than smashed avocado on toast.

Which is why, if you value your data (and by data we mean your dissertation, project files, and photos), you should follow our six simple rules for looking after your hard drives and USB sticks.

The hard drive is the bit of your computer that contains all of your data. Unlike phones that can be carried around, dropped, and squashed, without too much internal damage occurring, the hard drive in your laptop needs a little TLC.

Inside, a hard drive looks like a miniature record player. These moving parts will be damaged if they are jolted while the computer is turned on, and it’s easy for the head to jam and scratch the disc. When this happens, your computer won’t be able to read the data on the hard drive.

Of course, your new laptop might contain a solid state drive (SSD) instead of a hard drive. They are faster and more robust than an HD as they contain no moving parts, but they are more expensive and can still be damaged.

Whichever type of drive you are using, make sure you have a backup copy of your important files on an external drive or in the cloud.

How to look after your hard drive

1. Do not carry your laptop around when it’s on.

2. Do not put heavy things on your laptop, if you do you risk squashing your hard drive.  All those books you’ve just taken out of the library? Put them somewhere else. Your laptop is not a bookshelf.

3. Nor is your computer a coaster, do not put drinks on it. If you spill liquid on your computer you risk permanently damaging the electronics inside as well as the hard drive. If that happens, you’ll not only have lost your data but you’ll also need a new laptop.

4. Do not open your hard drive, ever. If you open a hard drive outside of a clean room* then all of the dust, sweat and skin particles in the air will cling to the platter and make data recovery extremely difficult (and more expensive).

*And we don’t mean the kind of clean that only occurs before your parents visit, we mean a lab environment.

5. Look after your USB Stick. Treat it like the pet you had to leave behind. And, just like a pet, if you squash, squeeze, twist or snap a USB, it will die.

6. Format your camera cards to reduce the risk of data corruption. The erase function leaves residue data on the card whereas formatting wipes it completely, just make sure you have transferred all the photos on to your computer before you format.

Is it possible to recover data from a broken hard drive?

Usually, yes. It depends on what has happened to the hard drive and how bad the damage is.

The cost of data recovery depends on what has happened to your hard drive to result in data loss, which is why we always do a diagnostic first so we can give you an accurate quote. On average our data recovery service costs around £400-£550, but it could be anything from £120 to £900+

When you choose a data recovery company, ask if they have access to a clean room (remember, that’s a lab environment). If they don’t, ask them who they will send the drive to should it need to be opened as part of the recovery process.

Now you know how to look after your hard drives, we hope we won’t hear from you during your studies. But if you do need a hand you can find us on twitter @dialageek or facebook.com/dialageek

Wishing you the best of luck.


The Geeks.