The most frequent question we get asked is "what caused my hard drive to fail?" The reasons for hard drive failure are as varied as they are numerous. Here are some common causes:
the pressure on hard drive manufacturers to get the fastest and highest capacity drives to the market often results in compromised component design and quality control. Some finished hard drives are not properly tested before they leave the production line. We have often come across drives on 2-month old computers that have had complete hard drive failure. Most probably, the drives in these systems would have been in the early stages of failure before they even left the factory. The inexpensive deals for laptops and desktop computer systems one sees in Irish media advertisements don't seem such good value after all, when the most critical component in them fails taking all your data with it.
Many an office worker has thought nothing of all the lights flickering and computer systems momentarily turning off while there is construction or electricity company maintenance works happening nearby. Until, that is when they turn back on one of their computer systems only to discover a blue or black screen greeting them. More often than not, in this type of scenario there has been a power spike on the electricity network and hard drives don't really like sudden drops or surges in power. Power surges can cause electronic and mechanical failure of a hard drive by simply blowing a chip on the logic board of the drive or causing the drive head to stubbornly park on the drive platters.
Heat is the enemy of the hard drive. Hard Drives like moderate and constant conditions. A very common problem we come across is the heat-induced failure of laptop hard drives. The scenario plays out like this.
Shock damage occurs when you're hard drive gets a sudden jolt. This often causes the drive head to "park" violently against the drive platters. In the worst case scenario the magnetic surface of the drive platters get damaged due to the scouring effect of the drive heads.
A typical example of user error would be when a tech-adventurous user tries to repair their computer with a Windows Installation CD and accidentally formats the whole hard drive in the process. If this has happened to you, you stop using your computer immediately as you risk totally overwriting the data.
Many a Monday morning our technicians have spent in someone's office after an employee left a tap run over the weekend. This is a typical unexpected event that catches many a computer user unawares. Likewise, a fire damaged drive can get damaged by the heat of the blaze or by minute smoke particles entering the drive.
With the exception of Toshiba, most computer manufacturers do not make their own hard drives. So the question should be which hard drive manufacturer makes the most reliable drives? The simple answer is that there is no one reliable manufacturer of hard drives. Over the years, we have seen some models have higher failure rates than others but taking into the number of units sold / different brands of hard drive, most hard drive manufacturers have similar failure rates and independent research verifies this. There is one caveat to remember however - some hard drives fail slowly and give you plenty of warning that they are "on their last legs" whereas other manufacturers seem to produce drives that experience "sudden-death" catastrophic failure. From our experience, the S.M.A.R.T technology in Western Digital drives can give their users adequate warning that failure is imminent.
It is highly unlikely that a desktop publishing program or any program for that matter will cause a hard drive to die. Sure, partitioning programs like Partition Magic et al if used incorrectly can cause the partition table do disappear but a desktop publishing program - no. It is merely co-incidence that you installed a new program and the hard drive died in the same system a week later.
Usually the "click of death" is the actuator arm moving the drive heads across the platters as the drive goes into a constant "seek mode". In other words, the drives heads are desperately looking for readable data on the platters but cannot find any as the heads, actuator arm, spindle or platters are damaged thus preventing the "read" function. Occasionally, with a faulty PCB board a clicking noise will also arise as the electronics controlling the actuator arm have been damaged.
Most cases of liquid spillage we come across are laptop related. If you have spilt liquid on your laptop, carefully turn it off from the mains power supply. Then turn the laptop off using the Windows shut-down feature. (Start>Shut Down).
Do not attempt to "dry it out" using hairdryers, radiators or convector heaters. A rapid change in the humidity level inside the system can cause further damage. Seek assistence from data recovery experts.