Bad Sectors on Hard Drive

Bad sectors on hard drives need to be diagnosed and worked upon for prevention of data loss...
There are many hardware and software problems that can arise in computer hard drives over time. If there is a hardware problem, you will get to hear some clicking or scraping sound. You would need to take the hard disk to a computer repair professional. On the other hand, if it is a software problem, you will see errors popping up on your computer monitor. One of the primary cause of applications issues in hard disks is bad sectors.

Bad Sectors
In computer terms, sectors, also called clusters, are the smallest storage units on the hard drive on which data is stored and retrieved from. If a sector is damaged due to any of the reasons mentioned below, it is termed as a bad sector. These sectors are not only a problem in computer hard drives, they are also a problem in flash memory devices such as USB pen drives. All hard drive types may have to face the problem of damaged sectors. If a sector goes bad, the data stored on it will be lost, and will not be accessible to the user. However, the user can gain access to the data that is stored on other good sectors. Damaged sectors decrease the overall memory storage capacity of the disk.

There are several causes of bad sectors on hard drives. They may be a result of regular everyday use for a substantial amount of time. The problem of damaged sectors can also be present in new out-of-the-box hard disks. Physical damage or shock can even lead the hard drive to have bad sectors. If the hard disk experiences a strong jerk, the platter can be damaged, which might in turn create bad sectors. Another reason for damaged sectors is excessive generation of heat in the PC and improper ventilation settings.

Fixing Bad Sectors
A bad sector cannot be repaired, but can certainly be avoided from data storage. You just need to mark them as such, after which the operating system will not attempt to store data on them. Hard disks that are manufactured today have extra sectors incorporated in them. These spare sectors come into use only when there is a problem of bad sectors. This is a really good facility and rules out the possibilities of the hard disk's memory size getting reduced due to bad sectors. For precluding loss of stored data, you need to do a backup of your data periodically and replace the hard disk after it has been used for a considerable amount of time.

If you want to mark bad sectors, in Windows explorer, right-click on the drive which is to be repaired. Click on the 'Properties' option, 'Tools', and then on the 'Check Now' button. A window will be displayed wherein you are required to check off both the choices. Finally, click on 'Start' to initiate the process.

There are also some third-party software applications which do the job of fixing bad sectors on hard drives. These applications are believed to be more effective and trustworthy that the inbuilt repair tools.
By Stephen Rampur
Last Updated: 9/29/2011
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