Should I be worried about my dropped, but working, hard drive?
February 20, 2010 7:58 PM   Subscribe

I dropped my external hard drive—badly—but it's still working in every way I can think of. How worried should I be that it will still fail?

I tripped and dropped my very heavy 1 TB drive from about three feet onto a hard tile floor. However, it was off at the time, it doesn't make any weird noises, I can access and copy the files as well as ever, and Disk Utility on my Mac tells me it's OK.

Should I still be worried? I've backed up my important files, but I primarily use the drive to store large files that I edit directly (since my internal is too small) and I can't back up constantly in that situation (at least not with my current setup). Would it be crazy to keep using the drive for that purpose, given that it appears fine?

Are there any other ways I can test its viability? I am on a Mac and the drive is Mac-formatted.
posted by cloudburst to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Two things occur to me:

(1) hard drives usually fail before other components
(2) some hard drives are manufactured with shock absorbers in them. That your hard drive wasn't on when you dropped it likely bodes well for it
posted by dfriedman at 8:10 PM on February 20, 2010

Best answer: Heads were parked on the drive because it was turned off, so the impact didn't ruin any of the disk surface. The actuator mechanism (that positions the head) is servo-controlled so there's basically no way to whack it out of calibration. It will probably continue to work fine.

But no, you shouldn't worry about it. If it fails, simply switch to your backup.
posted by kindall at 8:14 PM on February 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

It has been shown that sometimes you can drop an old hard drive that failed and no longer will work to help it function again. After hearing this theory myself I took an old drive that had quit on me and dropped it from about three feet, it began functioning fine again and lived for a few more years.

In short: don't worry about it and continue enjoying your beautiful baby drive.
posted by zombieApoc at 8:43 PM on February 20, 2010

"Should I still be worried?"

Only inasmuch as you should assume every hard drive you encounter is about to fail and proceed accordingly. While not all hard drives fail, enough of them do to make it a reasonable default assumption about their behavior. I don't think you shortened the life of your disk by dropping it, but its life may not be very long to begin with.

"Would it be crazy to keep using the drive for that purpose, given that it appears fine?"

Without backups? As long as you don't care about the data, you can run without backups just fine. As soon as your work or one of your projects comes into play then yes of course you're crazy to use a single disk without backups. However, this advice stems not from the fact that you dropped the drive but the fact that you admit you don't back it all up.
posted by majick at 4:39 AM on February 21, 2010

How often /can/ you back up and how important are the large files that need to be stored here while editing? If they're uber-important and you can't lose more than a days worth of work on them AND you can't/don't back up every night (you are backing up every night, aren't you?) then I would be worried.

If the time between backups exceeds the amount of rework that you'd be facing if the drive failed: buy a new drive and/or improve your backup schedule.
posted by ish__ at 5:28 AM on February 21, 2010

Best answer: Download a hard drive stress test program just to make sure. It will test the physical surface on your drive. Your HD manufacturer might have one specific to your drive. The gold standard is SpinRite by Gibson Research, but it costs $89. Might be worth it, only you can say. 1 terabyte drive are going for less than $100 these days if you want to replace the dropped one.
posted by whatismyname at 3:30 PM on February 21, 2010

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