Unfortunately bad sectors are the enemy of every computer user in the world. A hard bad sector is a sector on a hard drive that cannot be used due to permanent damage to the surface of the disk. This is not always physical damage (although is often the case) it can be caused by the sector locking and becoming unrecoverable.
A soft bad sector is a bad sector that may be repairable as these are logical errors. This article concentrates on hard bad sectors. Running the check disk utility which is built into the windows operating system should resolve logical errors.
Any data stored on a bad sector when it goes bad is usually lost as the sector becomes unrecoverable but the rest of the drive should function correctly and the data on the drive should be OK.
How did I get bad sectors?
Bad sectors are to be expected on any hard drive and most drives have bad sectors when the drive is first manufactured. Over the lifespan of a hard drive you will get bad sectors through no fault of the user. These are usually dealt with by the operating system and stored and marked as unusable.
Laptop drives also seem to be more susceptible to bad sectors than a desktop computer simple because a laptop is more likely to be moved around increasing the chances of damage as most hard drives have moving parts. The exception to this is solid state drives which have no moving parts.
What are the signs of bad sectors?
The most obvious sign is a dramatic slowdown in your computer. People often attribute a slowdown in their computer to a virus or a lot of junk on their computer but in my experience bad sectors are just as likely to be the culprit. The operating system tries to read data and re-try’s until it times out and moves on. Multiple bad sectors will bring a computer to a grinding halt.
A good way to check this is to look in your event log under system (control panel, administrate tools, event log) If your computer has many bad sectors they may be logged here.
Another common sign is the activity of your hard drive. A hard drive with bad sectors does tend to be much more active. Even when the computer is idle you may see the hard drive light flickering away as it tries to organize or bypass the bad sectors.
You may also receive boot errors when booting your operating system such as files missing or boot records corrupted. These can sometimes be attributed to problems with bad sectors on your hard drive. If you are receiving error messages and unable to boot you may find our “hard drive failure repair and recover data” article useful.
Can I repair bad sectors?
You can not repair hardware bad sectors as they are permanent damage on the disc. Having said that you can perform something called remapping which means the system marks the sectors as bad and knows not to use them to stop your system becoming unstable. Windows has built-in tools that can do this for you called chkdsk.
There are other free tools out there that may be able to repair bad sectors(soft) and remap hard bad sectors such as HDAT2. There are also the tools that come from your hard drive manufacturer.
Avoiding bad sectors in the future
Sometimes no matter what you do you will end up with bad sectors on a drive but there are a few things you can do to minimize the risk.
- Keep your computer dust free. Use compressed air to clean out tough areas to reach.
- Always shut down your computer correctly. Turning off the computer by the power socket is a sure fire way to damage your hard drive
- When moving your computer do so very carefully.
- Keep your computer cool and well ventilated.
- Using disk defragmentation software to prevent wear and tear.
- Malware and viruses can also be a cause of bad sectors. Ensure you run good anti malware software like Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and have a good anti-virus program like Kaspersky Internet Security to keep your computer protected.
Will the drive be OK to continue using?
My answer to this is always the same. Once hard bad sectors start popping up on your drive you can be pretty sure more will follow eventually leading to drive failure and possible data loss. If you can replace the drive ASAP and if you can’t then be sure you have a back up routine to an external hard drive or cloud in place for when the failure day does arrive.