Should I Partition My Hard Disk?

What are the benefits of a partitioned hard drive, or some practical uses of a partition?

Disk partitioning is one of those topics that generates conflicting opinions.

Some swear that proper partitioning aids performance, makes backing up easier, and is just generally “better”.

Others opt to let Windows sort it all out, believing that improper partitioning might prevent the file system — already optimized for both safety and performance — from operating in the best way.

While I’m certain the truth is somewhere in between, I tend to fall into the latter camp.

I’ll look at some of the pros and cons to partitioning your hard drive, and make a recommendation if, after all is said and done, you’re still not sure.

Read moreShould I Partition My Hard Disk?

How Do I Get Data Off of the Hard Drive in a Dead Computer?

My computer died on me. I can’t get it to boot up. I need to take the hard drive out and pull my files off from it. How do I retrieve the files from the hard drive in a dead computer? Thanks for any help you can give me.

This is a pretty common scenario. Depending on what caused the computer’s demise, there’s a relatively good chance you can retrieve the information off that hard drive.

Of course, if it’s the drive itself that caused the failure, things get a little more interesting.

There are several approaches to this problem. I’ll start with my favorite: not needing to do it at all.

Read moreHow Do I Get Data Off of the Hard Drive in a Dead Computer?

Should I Defrag My External Drive, and If So, How?

Should I defrag my external hard drive? I thought I should as it contains some important documents and my computer backups. As such, I tried to use Defraggler (Piriform Ltd”s program) for the purpose. The program has been running on my external hard drive (capacity 2T) for the past 10 hours and it has done only 10% of defrag. The analysis does say that there are 32 fragmented files and 92% fragmentation. Is there anything I am not doing right? How should I defrag this drive, if I should?

While there are alternatives, you’re doing it right; Defraggler is a fine program to use.

The more important question is that, even with “92%” fragmentation, should you even be bothering?

Read moreShould I Defrag My External Drive, and If So, How?

“Chkdsk Cannot Run Because the Volume Is in Use by another Process” — What Does It Mean and How Do I Fix It?

I think I’ve got a problem with my hard disk. I tried to run Chkdsk, but I keep getting this “Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another process” error. What’s that mean and what do I do to fix it?

Chkdsk is an important and little-understood command-line utility that comes with every version of Microsoft Windows. Its purpose, as its mangled name implies, is to “check” your “disk”.

In order to do its work, Chkdsk needs complete and exclusive access to the disk it’s about to check. If it doesn’t have that, “Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another process” is the result.

I’ll look at why, what to do, and what it looks like as it happens.

Read more“Chkdsk Cannot Run Because the Volume Is in Use by another Process” — What Does It Mean and How Do I Fix It?

A Drive with All My Data is Showing as Unformatted — What Do I Do?

I recently replaced my system hard drive and have taken my old internal hard drive out and installed it into a external enclosure. When I plug it in, it shows up on my computer, but without a file system label, only a letter designation (G). Disk management says it is unformatted. It was NTFS as an internal drive. I’m concerned that if I format it, I will lose all of my data now stored on the drive. What steps do I take to format this external drive without losing my files? Or am I missing a step in accessing the information on the drive?

First, don’t format the drive.

Formatting will erase whatever’s on the hard drive, or at minimum, make it extremely difficult to recover your data.

I do have some suggestions of next steps to take instead.

Read moreA Drive with All My Data is Showing as Unformatted — What Do I Do?

Can I Reassign My Drive Letters?

I have TWO hard disc drives and a cd rom drive on my computer. The HDDs are C and E, and the cd rom drive is D. Is it possible to swap the HDD letters, i.e C becomes E and E becomes C? Or are the letters fixed at the time of format?

Drive letters are not assigned at format time, and yes, they can be changed. In fact, it’s quite easy to change them, and I do it all the time.

For every drive except “C:”, that is. “C:” is special.

First, let’s look at the how.

Read moreCan I Reassign My Drive Letters?

Why Doesn’t My External Drive Appear When Plugged In?

Some time ago, when attempting to back up a new Windows 10 laptop, I inserted one of my external USB drives and … nothing. Since then, I’ve heard similar reports from others. If anything, it seems to be getting a little worse in recent months.

Now, to be clear, I don’t have an answer as to why things don’t appear.

But I can tell you what seems to work to make it show up.

Read moreWhy Doesn’t My External Drive Appear When Plugged In?

What External Drive Should I Get?

I frequently recommend you purchase an external hard drive for your backups. Backing up to an external drive is probably the most important first step in getting an overall backup strategy in place.

The inevitable question is, “What external drive should I buy?”

The problem, of course, is that the answer keeps changing. Technology evolves, and as a result, so does my recommendation.

Let me give you a few guidelines, and then a few current (as of this writing) examples.

Read moreWhat External Drive Should I Get?

How Do I Fix a Cyclic Redundancy Check Error When I Try to Copy a File?

Outlook started acting up, so as part of my attempts to fix it I tried to copy the PST to another location. The copy failed part way through with a cyclic redundancy check error. How can I get past this and back up my data?

A cyclic redundancy check, or “CRC” error, indicates a bad spot on your hard drive. The fact that you see it when trying to copy a file indicates the bad spot may be within the file itself.

We need to verify that, try to recover your file, and repair your hard drive.

Then we need to learn from this.

Read moreHow Do I Fix a Cyclic Redundancy Check Error When I Try to Copy a File?

How Do I View the Contents of My Hidden D: Drive?

In the past I’ve had what was called a recovery drive on my system, D:. Now, with Windows 10, I no longer have D:, but the recovery partition is still there. How do I view what’s in it?

As we’ve discussed in other articles, machines with Windows 10 installed frequently have multiple partitions. One or more of those partitions is typically labelled as a “recovery partition”.

While in the past you may have seen such partitions assigned a drive letter like D:, there’s no requirement that it always be that letter. In fact, there’s no requirement that it be assigned a drive letter at all.

Recovery partitions not having a drive letter is actually a good thing.

Read moreHow Do I View the Contents of My Hidden D: Drive?

Do I Need All These Partitions?

Is it possible to remove some of the Recovery Partitions from my SSD laptop? I think some of these partitions are not needed but I don’t know which ones. If they can be deleted, how would I add that space to my C: drive?

The short answer is yes, but no.

Yes, you can delete partitions, but no, I would not advise it. As you say, you don’t know what the partitions are, so you don’t know whether or not they’re needed. It’d be a shame to delete one and find out later that this was a serious mistake.

However, if you feel the need, I do have one approach to doing it more or less safely.

Read moreDo I Need All These Partitions?

Hard Disk Failure Is Imminent! What Do I Do?

I get a message that shows hard disk failure is imminent, please back up your hard disk and have it replaced. So I did the backup with the system built in backup process. But it stopped the process halfway. So some files were encrypted and some files were not. I copied the files which were not encrypted to my external hard disk drive. But the remaining files which were encrypted are not able to copy and open. Please give me an idea to recover my files.

I’m sorry to say it’s very possible that you are S.O.L.: Severely Out of Luck.

I’ll run down what I suspect is happening, what I would do in your situation, and additional options you might have.

And, of course, I’ll review how you could have prevented this in the first place.

Read moreHard Disk Failure Is Imminent! What Do I Do?

What Should I Look for in a Replacement Hard Drive?


What features should I look for on a long lasting hard drive? I know it will fail at some point, and that I should have multiple backups. I grew up in a time when the technology was much more expensive, so I’m not really used to being able to have access to multiple backups. What I’m looking for is how I can determine the expected lifespan of a hard drive.

My friend and I both lost backup drives in the last week, both were 3 years old. Mine was used constantly as a network storage device, hers was used sparingly as a backup drive. We have both given up hope in recovering the data. I do have mine on a few other drives, but not as well consolidated at it was on the drive that died, there is little hope for her photo collection.

I would suppose warranty length and MTBF would be two factors I could determine the lifespan. Also, I know a couple of sites that keep the statistics. I was also wondering if recovery ‘insurance’ would be useful.

I have to start by pointing out that if data was lost when a “backup” drive failed, then it wasn’t really a backup drive; it must have held the one-and-only copy of the files that were lost. As I so often say, if it’s in only one place, it’s not backed up.

I’ve been watching hard drives and hard drive technology for a couple of decades now, and it’s been both amazing and frustrating: amazing in the speed and capacity we now take for granted, and frustrating in that there are certain things we can still never count on.

Like the drives themselves.

Read moreWhat Should I Look for in a Replacement Hard Drive?

My Machine Won’t Boot, How Do I Get at Its Files?

I have to shut down and open my machine several times until it works. It just hangs after the Windows logo and you feel you can work with it, but nothing’s there. You can move the mouse, but there’s no connection. It is a completely frozen PC. Today, it does not want to start or to work at all. I have files that I want to save before I can format it. How do I get at them if machine won’t boot?

I wanted to address this for one simple reason: a dead machine that has the only copy of important files is so common.

Too common.

I’ll look at the two most popular ways to recover your files — a software and a hardware option — but more importantly, I need to make sure everyone learns an important lesson from this situation.

Read moreMy Machine Won’t Boot, How Do I Get at Its Files?

How Do I Fix “Invalid System Disk” Error?

Hopefully I can get this across: when I turn on the laptop the first thing comes on the screen says ‘invalid system disk, replace the disk and press any key.’ I don’t have a boot disk so I hit enter, then I get ‘no bootable device, insert boot disk and press any key.’ I am thinking I need a boot disk.

There are several possible scenarios going on here. The good news is, most of them are completely benign and relatively easy to fix.

The bad news is, the one that’s not benign is pretty serious — as in, “I hope you have a backup” serious.

Read moreHow Do I Fix “Invalid System Disk” Error?

How Do I Turn Off BitLocker on a Drive?

OK, I encrypted my drive. Now I’m tired of the additional hoops I need to jump through just to access my machine. I decided I don’t need or want BitLocker. How do I turn it off?

I’m going to assume you’re talking about BitLocker full-drive encryption, that your system drive is encrypted, and that the “additional hoop” you have to jump through is the extra password you need to specify when you reboot your machine.

Assuming you understand that anyone who steals your machine can access all the files on it, even without knowing your Windows log-in password, turning off BitLocker and decrypting your drive is a snap.

Read moreHow Do I Turn Off BitLocker on a Drive?

How Does Secure Delete Work?

We’ve long been told that when a file is deleted, its contents are not actually removed. Instead, the space the file formerly occupied is marked as “available” for another file to be written to later. Until that overwrite happens, the original, deleted information is still there.

This is the basis for many undelete and other data-recovery utilities. It’s also why most of those utilities recommend you stop using your disk if you accidentally delete something.

But what if you really want it gone? That’s where a technique called “secure delete” comes into play.

Read moreHow Does Secure Delete Work?

Should I Defragment My SSD or USB Flash Drives?

Is it ever useful to defragment a USB flash drive? How about an SSD?

Defragmenting a hard drive makes sense to me because the hard drive read arm has to jump around the disk for fragmented files; but what about flash drives? If all the data is just stored in solid state memory, it seems like accessing those memory addresses won’t take any longer, whether they are consecutive or spread in different places.

You’ve hit one nail squarely on the head: flash devices and SSDs don’t gain significant performance benefit from being defragmented.

In reality, things could get worse. Much, much worse.

In my opinion, you should never defragment a drive based on solid state memory.

Read moreShould I Defragment My SSD or USB Flash Drives?

Should I Run CHKDSK on My SSD?

I’ve heard I should not defragment my SSD because it’ll wear out faster. How does that apply to CHKDSK? Should I run it or not?

CHKDSK (standing for Check Disk) and Defrag are different tools for different purposes. When it comes to CHKDSK, it doesn’t matter what type of drive you have; it won’t harm the drive the way a defrag might harm an SSD.

Let’s look at why that is. In fact, I’ll see if I can’t extend one of my metaphors – perhaps to the point of breaking – to clarify what’s going on.

Read moreShould I Run CHKDSK on My SSD?

Why, or How, do Files Become Corrupt?

How are files “corrupted” and why do they go “missing”? I had this happen recently and was told that it was not a virus that caused it: that it “just happens”. Whatever! Windows had to be re-loaded.

Yes, it does “just happen”.

That should make you a little nervous and perhaps motivate you to invest in that backup strategy you’ve been putting off.

The fact is, stuff happens. Things break. When things break, the failure can be catastrophic. Perhaps your machine won’t turn on. Failures can also be much more subtle, not showing up for weeks or months, or perhaps never.

Read moreWhy, or How, do Files Become Corrupt?

Can a Defrag Cause Data Loss?

My computer was getting slow and I had not defragmented the drive in a year, so I set myself to the task. I used a third party program that was faster and used less system memory than Windows defragger. The defragger “Defraggler” worked flawlessly on my computer.

I had an external drive, which I decided to defrag. Defraggler would not work on the external drive, a USB drive connected to my computer, which is a laptop. So, I went looking for a way to defrag my external drive and found your site. Someone had asked that question, and I followed your instructions to right-click the drive and select defrag from the menu, and Windows defrag would defrag the drive. The external drive had only 10% of the drive’s size in data, but if I remember right, defrag does not distinguish between data and empty portions of a hard drive.

I set defrag to work using another 3rd party program called “No Sleep”, which simulates a person moving the cursor, so the computer doesn’t shut down. Then I went to bed. When I awoke the computer was hung up, and I had to back out of defrag. When I looked at my external drive almost all of the data was gone.

The external drive was a backup of sorts, and it was not itself backed up. I hadn’t gotten around to that. So, hundreds of hours of work was lost. I started by going back on the web and found an article that warned that Windows defrag often hangs up on large drives. My external drive was a terabyte in size. The lack of warning for this on your site led to the loss of my data.

I have 8 recovery programs, all third party, which I rarely use. Six of them could not recover anything. The seventh recovered everything. So, I’m whole. But you need to add a warning in your instructions to warn people that Windows defrag has problems with large drives … and maybe small ones. I never have used Windows defrag since I was alerted to the existence of third party programs that do a better job of defragging.

I’m sorry you had such a time of it, and I’m very relieved you were able to recover your data.

Unfortunately, there’s really no warning for me to add, other than what I already repeat ad nauseum: if there’s only one copy, it’s not backed up. Your data was already at risk: the drive could have failed at any point and it would all be gone.

In fact, I suspect that something like that was bound to happen. Defragging a drive should never cause data loss, unless there’s a pre-existing underlying problem.

Read moreCan a Defrag Cause Data Loss?

What’s the difference between SATA and PATA and IDE?

This “SATA” stuff is new to me. What does it mean? It’s something about hard disk drives, I know, but I don’t understand what. I went to get a new hard drive for my machine and the one that I wanted was SATA. But when I told the salesperson what computer I had, he said I didn’t want it and instead, I needed something called PATA or IDE? I’m very confused.

Well, one part of this is easy: IDE and PATA are two names for the same thing.

The rest – well, the easy part is that SATA and PATA are two different ways of connecting a hard drive to your computer. Your computer will have one or the other, and what you purchase must, in general, match.

When we go further, however, things start to get a little complex.

Read moreWhat’s the difference between SATA and PATA and IDE?

NAS Drive Failure: How I Dodged a Bullet

As you might imagine, I have a number of computers and related devices. For the last three and a half years, one of them has been a NetGear ReadyNAS branded NAS – Network Attached Storage.

It’s turned off now. I finished replacing it the other day, and I want to share why, some of the mistakes I made, some of the mistakes I didn’t make, and what I replaced it with.

And yes, how I dodged a bullet: a data loss bullet that had my name written all over it.

Read moreNAS Drive Failure: How I Dodged a Bullet

How do I secure a hard drive before sending it in for repair?

How does one secure a hard drive while sending the computer to a repair facility? I have personal financial information on my hard drive and will just a password provide sufficient protection while the computer is in the shop? After the fact, is there maybe a way to find out if someone has copied the files?

What you’ve presented is actually quite a dilemma.

To answer the second part first: no. There’s simply no way to determine if your files have been copied – at least not in any way that absolutely says they were copied with malicious intent.

The problem is, there’s really no fool-proof solution to your scenario. In fact, I’ve heard of companies occasionally electing not to repair a hard drive, because it meant that sensitive data might be visible to repair technicians.

Your options to secure a hard drive are limited, but if you can plan ahead, there’s a chance.

Read moreHow do I secure a hard drive before sending it in for repair?

Why won’t some files defrag?

My wife’s computer shows several fragmented files remaining after a defrag. She has tried uninstalling some programs but some will not uninstall. What can I do to help rid her of this problem or is there a program that will help with this?

Actually, this is not necessarily a problem. It’s not at all uncommon to have some files that refuse to defrag, and that’s quite alright. Chances are it won’t impact performance in any noticeable way, and that’s really what defragging is all about: improving performance.

Let’s look at some of the reasons, and some of the ways to force the issue if you still feel you need to.

Read moreWhy won’t some files defrag?

How do I replace my system hard drive without installation media?

Hi, Leo. My problem is this – my main drive failed today. It doesn’t seem to be spinning. There is power going to it as the light flashes for a few seconds. The error message says to install the boot media and in the BIOS, the hard drive is not even showing. It’s just the C Drive and all of my important stuff is on my external drives, which I do backup regularly. Hence, I’ll be replacing it soon. However, the computer only came with recovery discs. I’ve already tried reformatting the new drive using the recovery disc but it just keeps going back to the “Windows is loading files” screen. I changed a hard drive a few years ago but I had a startup disc to boot from. This machine does not have a boot disc. It’s Windows 7 and if I remember correctly, my other replacement used Windows XP.

You might be in a bit of a pickle.

There a number of things I gleaned from your question. Most of them are bad news. A possible glimmer of hope: you said you have your important stuff on external drives that you back up regularly. If you meant that you’ve been doing full system image backups, you’ll probably be fine.

Read moreHow do I replace my system hard drive without installation media?

What’s a Dynamic Disk?


Leo, first, thanks for all I’ve learned from your newsletter and your books. A couple of weeks ago I bought Saved! Backing Up With Macrium Reflect and began learning how to use Macrium Reflect. I registered the book and downloaded the pdf version. A few days ago, I downloaded and installed on my Windows 7 laptop the trial version, version 5.2. Now that I’ve succeeded in creating the rescue CD and booting from it and creating several daily scheduled full backups on a 1 TB external drive, I decided to purchase it.

But when I went to the website to buy a personal version for home use, I found that there are two options. A standard version 5 or a professional version 5. The web page explains that the professional license offers the features of the standard license plus “Dynamic disk support” and “Restore images to new hardware using Macrium ReDeploy”. I think I understand why Macrium Redeploy might be very helpful sometime in the future but dynamic disk support begs a few questions. What is a dynamic disk? Does my Windows 7 laptop have a dynamic disk? What is dynamic disk support? Does a home user, like me, need dynamic disk support for a Windows 7 laptop?

It seems like a disk would be a really simple thing. You put some data on it, add a little organization around it to find that data and your done. Right?

Dynamic disks are a little more complex, but the good news here is that most folks really don’t need to worry about dynamic disks. But they are kind of interesting, and I’ll go into some detail on the different things they can do.

Read moreWhat’s a Dynamic Disk?

Can I Make My C: Partition Bigger by Taking Space from D:?

I have a laptop that somebody partitioned so that the small section is C: and the large (and mostly empty) section is D:. No matter how I try to get programs loaded into D: instead, everything goes to C: and therefore C: is full, while most of the hard drive, namely D:, is empty. Is there any way other than starting fresh that I can change to size of C? I tried renaming C: to D: and vice versa, but of course that didn’t work.

Yes, I wouldn’t expect that rename to work. There are simply too many places, such as within the system registry, that have recorded the fact that things are on “C:”. If you rename C: to D:, the system wouldn’t be able to find them.

What you’re looking for is partitioning software.

And there’s a good chance you already have what you need.

Read moreCan I Make My C: Partition Bigger by Taking Space from D:?

Should I backup to an SD Card?

Now that you can buy a 256 GB SD card for about $100, would that be a good way to back up a laptop? I always hate plugging in an external drive to backup my laptop. This way I can schedule automatic backup and not worry about the media. The 256 GB card has a lifetime warranty and so if fails you can, in theory, get a replacement. Any idea about the expected failure time for reading or writing the SD card daily?

You know, my gut tells me that this is a bad idea. There are a few things that make me uncomfortable.

Read moreShould I backup to an SD Card?

How Should I Use My SSD and HD Together?


I’m building myself a new Windows 7 machine. It will have a 250 GB Solid State Drive; a 1 TB SATA 3 hard drive and a 250 GB IEE HD. I assume the OS will be on the Solid State Drive but what about the other programs? Will a dynamic partition be better? Does the 1 TB need to be only backup? Can I run the OS only from the Solid State Drive and programs from the 1 TB drive?

I’m not really sure by what you mean by IEE HD, but I do have some ideas on how to set this thing up. You can, of course, do whatever you really want and it will probably work just fine, but here’s the approach that I would take.

Read moreHow Should I Use My SSD and HD Together?

Did My Boot Defragmenter Tool Actually Fix My Boot Problems?

For about a month on both my Acer and HP (they’re both about 3 years old) laptops with Windows 7 Premium, my boot would fail about 1 or two times a week sending me through the Windows repair process. I tried a number of things to no avail. Then about a month ago, I found and used a boot defragmenter tool on the advance tools section of Glary Utilities. I like and have used Glary Utilities software for several years but I’ve never defragged my boot before. For the last month, I’ve not had a single boot problem on either of my laptops. Could just using this single Glary Utility’s boot defrag tool have totally fixed my boot problems?

It’s possible, but my suspicion is that it didn’t really “fix” anything. I think it just moved things around, which ultimately is what defragging does after all. You might still have an issue that’s waiting to bite you later in a different way.

Read moreDid My Boot Defragmenter Tool Actually Fix My Boot Problems?

Can you recommend a good external hard drive?


I have a desktop running Windows 7 and plan to follow your suggestions for backing up. But having never used an external hard drive, I’m overwhelmed with the choices and could use some direction. My internal hard drive is a 500 GB SATA and the USB I have is 2.0. Can you recommend some guidelines: 2 ½ inches or 3 ½? 5400 vs 7200-RPM? 500 GB vs a terabyte? Which brands are the most reliable, etc?

Can I make a specific recommendation? No. The problem with this type of recommendation is that the industry is constantly changing over time, in some really fundamental ways. Often it seems, those changes happen immediately after I make a recommendation!

Instead, I’m going to review one recommendation that I just made to a friend of mine. Then I’ll discuss some of the characteristics of the drives that you asked about.

Read moreCan you recommend a good external hard drive?

If I buy the same model replacement machine, can I just move the hard disk?


I have a Dell Inspiron 1545 operating on Vista. It has had problems with the monitor frame and hinges. I want to buy a used laptop of the same model and move my hard drive over to it. If I purchase a laptop with the same operating system, what kind of problems will I encounter? What if the used machine is purchased using Windows 7?

I receive so many variations of this question where people want to replace or swap hard drives from one machine into another.

Swaps like this usually don’t work, but your scenario actually could. Nonetheless, there are indeed a couple of misconceptions that I want to clear up here.

Read moreIf I buy the same model replacement machine, can I just move the hard disk?

Why does my computer make a grinding noise when starting up?


Recently, my computer has been making a very loud grinding noise when I boot from cold. It seems to take forever to stop and everything goes very slow during this time. What is this and how can I correct whatever is wrong?

There are two possibilities that come to mind. One is something that you should deal with, but it’s nothing to really panic over.

The other is definitely worth panicking about. And in fact, given that your machine is running slowly while this is happening, it might be time to start panicking right now.

Read moreWhy does my computer make a grinding noise when starting up?

My External Drive Is No Longer Visible. How Can I Get Its Contents?

My husband is running Windows 7,64-bit. He has a secondary drive, 1 TB that has been on there for some time. He recently turned his machine on and the drive was no longer showing as being available. We have tried externally plugging the drive into another machine and it’s still not registering. Is it recoverable in any way?

There are several possible problems here. None of them are particularly simple to diagnose or resolve, but I’ll run through some of the ideas that I have.

Read moreMy External Drive Is No Longer Visible. How Can I Get Its Contents?

Will an external drive left plugged in be damaged if there’s a power surge?

My main worry about leaving an external drive on all the time is that in my experience, a major cause of damage to hard drives is a power cut or surge. If both internal/external drives are switched on, both might be destroyed. What do you think?

You’re right. Surges happen and they can destroy drives. But personally, I leave my external drives plugged in all the time.

There are a few things to be aware of before doing that.

Read moreWill an external drive left plugged in be damaged if there’s a power surge?

Can I stop an “idle” computer from hitting the hard disk at all?

My hard drive is rather old. I’ve already lost one with all of my data on it, so I don’t want to repeat that again. Without money to get a new one, I thought I’d relieve my hard drive of any unnecessary load. Obviously, I stopped things like indexing and particular services that access the hard drive and I’ve even killed the paging file. I know, but I’ve got enough RAM not to run out of RAM and I don’t need a paging file. All of these helped quite a bit, but I’ve still got some disk activity from Windows. Is there any way to make Windows load itself into RAM and then stop system and svchost.exe entries from making the constant disk activity and therefore slowly killing my hard drive?

Absolute zero disk activity? No, I don’t believe you can accomplish this in any practical way.

I have at least one idea that will get you about 90% of the way there, but I just don’t think the extra effort that you’re going through is going to help your hard drive.

I’ll explain.

Read moreCan I stop an “idle” computer from hitting the hard disk at all?

Why Am I Getting “Open Block” Errors from My Photo Program?

My operating system is Windows Vista. The problem software is Picasa. I’ve used it for a long time without problems. Now, I’m getting several error messages when I open it. They all begin with “”CBlockFile::Open Block err=10″” They are as follows (various list of filenames that are associated with this error). I’ve taken off the software and I’ve reapplied it several times. I’ve had many conversations with Picasa; they’ve tried to help me but with no success. Any suggestions?

I could be wrong, but I suspect your hard disk either has or is developing a problem.

In this case, make sure you’re backed up! You don’t want to lose those pictures!

Read moreWhy Am I Getting “Open Block” Errors from My Photo Program?

Will a power loss cause data loss on SSDs?

If I buy an SSD hard drive to replace my dead mechanical hard drive, what are the drawbacks? I have no UPS. If the electricity goes out during writing, will the data be gone like a USB flash drive?

I’ll admit that the phrase “like a USB flash drive” in your question bothers me. It kind of implies that flash drives always lose their data on power loss and that simply is not true.

Sudden power loss will actually affect all three of the different devices (physical hard drives, a Solid State Drive, or a flash drive) in pretty much the same way.

There are three things that can happen when power is suddenly removed from your computer while you’re using your hard drive.

Read moreWill a power loss cause data loss on SSDs?

Will a failing hard drive have warning symptoms?

My last hard drive yesterday gave me a blue screen of death while I was online. After that, my computer wouldn’t even recognize that the hard drive was plugged in. The thing was about 2 ½ years old and it was a replacement for the original drive that was making noises, but still works. This was my first total failure before I could get a complete backup. I have backups, but they were a week or two old. What would cause this if you had to guess? Like a sector zero problem? Shouldn’t I have a gotten a read failure (the drive shows up in the BIOS)? Or a grinding noise? I’m not sure, but I did not hear the thing spin anymore. I don’t know what the symptoms of a sector zero failure are. I’ve never experienced it. Of course, that would leave circuit board failure (with unknown symptoms.) The old drive was a PATA. The replacement is SATA.  I’ve tried several PATA cables and got the same results.

Ultimately, a drive can fail in so many ways that it’s not at all surprising that you didn’t get any warning – other than the failure itself.

It sounds like you’re expecting symptoms associated with a failure. While some do have signs (and I’ll go through a few that indicate that your hard drive is failing), you don’t ever want to rely on these absolutely.

Read moreWill a failing hard drive have warning symptoms?

Does defragging too much harm my hard disk?

Can defragging harm my computer? It looks like it’s a good way to improve my speed, but after a while, I’m back with 5% fragmented disk. So does defragging harm my computer? If not on single use, then on multiple uses? In fact, can it make it even slower instead or make some applications bugged? Making them crash by moving their files around?

As I’ve explained in a previous article, defragging rarely gets you to a 100% completely defragmented machine. There are a couple of different reasons why, but I’ll leave it to that article to cover that situation. The real question here is: does defragging too often harm the machine?

Absolutely not. Let’s talk about why.

Read moreDoes defragging too much harm my hard disk?

How do I defragment a hard drive on Windows XP?

How do I defrag a hard drive on my Windows XP? In my home, I am using Windows 2000 and I love it, but I’ve had two occasions where I visited a friend who was using XP. I could not find the defragmentation program. I appreciate your point that frequent defragmentation is unnecessary, but over a period of one or two years, occasional defragmentation has its place. Once at a machine at a motel lobby, I found that defragmentation program but was unable to execute it because I was not the administrator. Why would defragmentation demand administrative privileges?

Getting at the defragmenter is actually pretty easy in Windows XP. We’ll talk about this and some other issues related to defragmenting.

Read moreHow do I defragment a hard drive on Windows XP?

Does Having Multiple Partitions Shorten My Hard Disk’s Life?

I have a Solid State Drive for Windows and applications and a hard drive for data. I also have some games on the hard drive. Right now, I have only two partitions: C and D (those are actually two drives, but yes, I get the idea). I want to know if having multiple partitions on my hard drive would shorten its life? For example, let’s say I have three partitions on my 1 TB hard drive. Partition D for games, partition E for data, and partition F for downloads. Now let’s assume that I would play a game and download a patch around 4 GB or a free game from Steam around 10 GB at the same time. Because all my downloads will be saved to partition F and my games are all installed on partition D, performing these two tasks would force my hard drive to move its head to and fro between its outer and inner edges of the platter. Right? So, would that affect my hard drive’s lifespan more than if it had been left as a single partition?

The really short answer is no. These would not affect your hard drive’s life span. But from the sound of your question, you’re making some assumptions here that aren’t really valid. Let’s take a closer look.

Read moreDoes Having Multiple Partitions Shorten My Hard Disk’s Life?

Should I update my hard drive?

Could you please tell me if I should update my hard drive? My Dell computer is eight years old. I’ve seen where you should update your hard drive, but I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to change any settings. Would it do that? Should I do this?

I’m not sure where you’re seeing this information that says “you should” update your hard drive.

In my opinion (and I’ve said this many times in different scenarios), if your machine’s working and you’re happy with it, I wouldn’t go looking for trouble. You don’t need to upgrade a hard drive unless you actually have a reason.

What reasons could those be? Let’s look at some.

Read moreShould I update my hard drive?