It’s the moment we all hope never comes. That moment when you go to access that super important document, or browse those super cute baby photos from years ago, and you get some cryptic and largely useless error message on the screen telling you that no, you can’t access that file, because that hard drive is corrupt, or unreadable, or some equally such infuriating thing.
But that’s ok, right, because your data is backed up somewhere else, like online to the cloud. Right? Oh….
So this is the point at which you madly start googling, and texting your neighbour whose kid knows something about computers. Help! How do I repair a corrupt hard drive??
I have some good news for you, and some not-so good news. The good news is that in some cases there are some easy steps you can take on your own computer to repair the hard drive (at least enough to let you copy the files to a new, working hard drive). The not-so good news is that if these steps don’t work, this could get expensive.
If you work with a Windows PC, there is a built in tool that you can use to scan and attempt to repair a corrupt hard drive. If these steps work, then fantastic! In a lot of cases when a hard drive starts suffering from corruption it will only continue to degrade and get worse, so follow up immediately by buying a brand new hard drive and copying all of the data from the old drive to the new one.
Follow these steps to run a scan on the corrupt hard drive. Note that this process will only work if the hard drive is still appearing in your computers list of drives.
- Open up File Explorer either by pressing the Windows + E keys together, or selecting File Explorer (also called Windows Explorer) from the Start menu.
- Right-click on the troublesome hard drive in File Explorer and select Properties from the menu that appears.
- Select the ‘Tools’ tab on the window that appears and click the ‘Check’ button.
- Follow the prompts to run a scan and repair on the hard drive.
Mac computers have a similar built-in tool called Disk Utility. To repair a corrupt hard drive on a mac, follow these steps:
Open the Disk Utility application. The easiest way to find it is to press the Apple + Space keys together to open the Spotlight Search field. Start typing “Disk Utility” and the application will appear in the results list for you to select.
You can also open the Disk Utility from Applications -> Utilities
If you have a Fusion Drive, make sure you disconnect it before running the first aid utility. It may also be wise to disconnect any other external drives, USB sticks etc.
In Disk Utility select a disk or volume from the sidebar, and then click the First Aid button up top.
If the above steps worked, then congratulations! Go straight out and buy a new external hard drive and copy all of those important files across immediately! Once that’s done, go and setup an automatic online backup so this doesn’t happen again!
But what if the steps above don’t work? In some cases your friendly neighbourhood computer geek may have some extra tools and tricks they can try, but in some situations this may even risk damaging the hard drive even further.
If the missing files are important enough to you, you may want to consider talking to a specialist data recovery company such as Kroll Ontrack or Payam. Generally these companies will charge you a fixed amount of around $100 to analyse the failed hard drive and quote on recovery. The actual cost of recovery will depend on how severe the corruption is, with prices, in our experience, ranging from a couple of hundred dollars through to thousands of dollars. These companies can truly work miracles, however sometimes miracles don’t come cheap.
So, before you hit the panic button, remember when you see those cryptic 'hard drive corrupt' messages, all may not be lost. Follow the steps above, or give us a call if you want us to hold your hand through the process.