Hard Drive Troubleshooting Tools – CompTIA A+ 220-901 – 4.2

To properly troubleshoot hard drives, you’ll need both physical tools and software utilities. In this video, you’ll learn about command line tools, file recovery software, partition repair, defragmentation, and more.

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If you’re troubleshooting hard drives, then you’ll probably be removing hard drives and replacing them inside of a computer. So you’re going to want to use a good set of screwdrivers. One good set is going to have both a flat, crosspoint, and torx connections. These are not going to be magnetized, so you’re not going to affect anything that’s inside of your computer with a screwdriver. And you never want to open the drive up completely so that you can see the spinning platters. You want to keep everything intact that’s on the inside of that drive.

Another nice troubleshooting tool is an external disk enclosure. This will allow you to take a drive out of a computer, put it into an enclosure like this one, and be able to access it through a USB connection. That way, you’re able to at least recover some of the files even if you’re not able to boot from the drive any longer.

In the Windows operating system, you may want to use the check disk command to analyze the file system. Running CHKDSK with a /f will run through the file system and look for any logical problems. And if it finds any problems, it will fix them on the disk itself.

There’s also a CHKDSK /r that will go through the entire drive and read through every sector to identify potential bad sectors on the drive. If it finds any problems, it recovers any information that might be there, and it sets up those particular sectors as non readable. When you run a CHKDSK /r, it also performs the /f function as well. So you’ll not only check for any logical problems, you’ll check for physical problems as well.

If the volume is being used by another process, then you’ll need to run this check disk during start up. So, for example, you could run CHKDSK /f. And this particular CHKDSK cannot run because the volume is in use by another process. Would you like to schedule this volume to be checked the next time the system restarts? And then you can say yes. And it says the volume will be checked next time it restarts, and it takes you back to a prompt.

When you restart your system, it says that a disk check has been scheduled. To skip the check press any key within nine seconds. And if you continue with the check, you begin to see it perform the actual disk check. You can see that it’s verifying files, it’s performing the indices check, and then finally tells you if there are any problems with any part of the file system.

At that point, it gives a summary of exactly what was done. If there were any problems, it tells you what the problems were. If there were any bad sectors, it identifies those, and gives you an overview of exactly what the check found, and what was corrected.

If you’re configuring a drive with separate partitions, you first have to put a file system onto that partition to be able to read or write information from it. And the Windows format command allows you to initialize that particular partition with a file system. If you’re doing this to a partition that already has data, you will be removing everything on that drive with the format command, so you have to be very careful about how you’re performing this particular function.

The format command uses the letters that were associated with that partition during the partition creation process. If we use format space k colon, then we’ll be performing a standard format to the drive partition identified as drive k.

If you do accidentally format a partition, or you’ve deleted some files you did not mean to delete, you might want to use some file recovery software like this one. This is Recuva. It allows you to go into your file system, and to a drive, and be able to find files that may have been deleted but not overwritten yet. This is great if you accidentally format, or if a virus was to infect your computer and start deleting files from your hard drive.

If you have deleted a volume, or there might be bad sectors on a drive, these file recovery programs are very good at getting as much data as possible, even if some of it has been corrupted. This is also good for recovering photos that might be on a flash drive or inside of a camera. You can learn more about Recuva, which is an absolutely free program, and works exceptionally well, at piriform.com.

As Windows is saving your documents on a hard drive, it’s splitting the follow up into small pieces and saving those pieces wherever there might be free space on your hard drive. It’s very common for a single file to be in many, many different pieces that are spread throughout a hard drive. Whenever you need to retrieve that file, then your hard drive has to go to all of those different locations to finally put that file back together. And that takes time.

To resolve some of these performance problems, you could have your Windows operating system grab all of the pieces of that file and write them to your drive in one contiguous piece. This is obviously going to improve the read and write time, because now you have one place to go to be able to access that single file.

This problem of fragmented files is only going to be a performance issue on spinning hard drives. If you’re using an SSD in your computer, you have instant access to all of those fragments of files immediately. And there’s no performance hit for storing those files in different fragments.

You can run the defragmentation from the properties of a hard drive. You can see there’s the defragment now option in the local disk properties. If you’re at the command line, you can start the defragmentation by running the command defrag. This is something that you can schedule on a weekly basis, and many of your Windows operating systems will do this by default so that you always have the best possible access times to all of your files.