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Causes and Symptoms of Data Loss

It’s a common belief that natural disasters account for most of the data lost in today’s corporate world. Disasters such as floods, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes, however, only account for 1% of all data lost in today’s businesses. In fact, human error—accidental deletions and overwrites—causes 10% more data loss than Mother Nature.

But the biggest cause of data loss in today’s businesses is equipment—both hardware crashes and software corruption. System failure accounts for 78% of all data losses while software corruption accounts for 7%.

Problems such as electrical damage and malicious behavior also contribute to hardware failures and software corruption, which leads to data loss.

Because data loss can come from any of these sources, it’s imperative to recognize the symptoms of potential problems and take action to correct it. The tips below tell you how to recognize a problem with your hardware and software so that you can take swift and appropriate action to save your data.

Hardware and Software-A Lethal Combination

Basically, if you notice anything abnormal with your hardware, you may be experiencing problems that could lead to data loss. In addition to sluggishly running system, one of the earliest symptoms of hardware failure is an unusual sound, such as:

  • The drive spinning up or down for no reason may indicate damage to heads or platters (data storage areas)
  • A clicking hard drive may indicate a head crash, corrupt firmware on the drive's ROM chip, an electrical problem like a burned chip, blown heads, a bad PCB controller, overwritten servo's, damage to the hard drive's platters and alignment issues from being dropped, jarred or a power surge.
  • Scrapping/grinding sounds means the BIOS does not recognize the external hard drive or the system was dropped or jarred, the computer suffered water, fire or smoke damage that caused internal and physical damage to the read/write heads and or the platters.

During normal operation the heads do not rest on the hard drive platters. In a damaged hard drive, heads begin scratching the platter surface causing data loss.

Repeatedly turning the system on and off to try to get it to boot will exacerbating the situation, thus causing more damage and total data loss. The best action to take is to leave your system off to prevent further damage.

This advice holds true for just about any symptoms or failures you experience with your system, including:

  • A drive not formatted error
  • A system that freezes or hangs
  • A hard drive or device not found error

A variety of situations cause such errors.

A drive not formatted error usually indicates the hard drive's partition has been damaged, deleted or corrupted. It can be caused by a virus, a hard reboot, a power outage or surge, disc partitioning utilities and sometimes updating software, anti-virus programs or simply installing new software can damage a partition.

When your system freezes or hangs while trying to boot or while accessing a file or program it usually indicates that there are bad sectors on the hard drive. The system is unable to access the information it needs to open the file or load the program. It can be caused by a corrupt file or shared program files that have conflicting call procedures. It could also indicate that too many system resources are being used at once.

When you get a message telling you that the drive is not ready, hard drive or device not found it could mean the hard disk is bad, the boot priority in bios has been changed, the partition structure is damaged, or a virus has infected your system.

As indicated in the above examples, software could also be a root cause of hard drive or system failure.

Some more common examples of software problems that could lead to data loss include:

  • System blue screens
  • Computer keeps rebooting
  • Operating system not found

When your system blue screens as you try to boot or during the middle of an operation, it can mean the operating system has been damaged, there may be bad sectors on your hard drive that the system is unable to read, your hard disk could be failing, you might have a virus, critical system files were deleted or the partition or file structure may have become corrupted or damaged.

The most common reason a computer keeps rebooting over and over is because the boot sector has been hijacked by a virus that creates a continuous loop. It keeps telling the system to go back to the boot sector and reboot.

An operating system not found message typically means that the operating system files are damaged, the boot device priority has been changed, the partition table is damaged or the hard drive has been formatted.

Whatever symptoms your experience, your data can be saved and/or recovered if you take swift action.

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