There are numerous reasons for a hard drive to start running slowly, ranging from the most serious, due to a hardware issue, through file system issues, to software, virus or operating system problems. It is not always easy to determine the cause of the problem, but the one thing you can’t do is ignore it, as it is unlikely to fix itself.
Hardware Issues Risk Total Failure
Often the first stages of a hardware failure will also be accompanied by unusual sounds. These could be clicking and scraping noises or even an odd high pitched metal sound. The best prepared users will already have all their data backed up, but for those who aren’t, it is important to take notice of these signs before that lead to data loss, and need for data recovery.
By the time you start to notice a slowdown and hear unusual noises, it may already be too late to make a complete backup of your data before a failure occurs. All this said, it is also quite possible for a hard disk to start make some odd noises, but continue to work perfectly for years. However, if your drive starts to make clicking noises, total failure is almost certainly imminent as this is usually a sign of unreadable disk sectors, and hard disk data recovery will be required.
File System and Operating System Issues
The operating system deals with all read and write requests between the computer and the hard disk, but in rare instances it is possible for important system data on the file system to become corrupt, and lead to issues with accessing data held on the drive. If left unchecked, situation can become worse. Such problems could be the result of a system crash, power failure or even a virus infection.
When data is written to a file system, the operating system will usually allocate the first available data blocks, and continue writing in a contiguous chunk, until it finds old data, at which time a new area of used space is required. This leads to fragmentation, and on NTFS which has data compression enable, the background process used to compress the file, can lead to further fragments being created. With multiple processes being run, the chances of fragmentation are also increased. Without regular defragmentation, a drive can end up with even a file of only a few megabytes being spread across many areas of the disk, which will slow down access times.
What Steps to Take
If you value your data, you have a responsibility to ensure the file system is in the best condition possible, such as taking care to not install malware and viruses. Regular defragmentation not only helps the speed of access, but can also increase the chances and quality of data recovery in the event of a failure.
If your drive starts making strange noises, it is important to take action. In the event of clicking noises, we recommend powering down the drive and seek a professional data recovery solution. The operating system is very aggressive in attempts to re-read damaged sectors, which can quickly lead to further damage, which can soon spiral out of control.