Steve Flannery

Steve Flannery

You might had heard about Western Digital Hard Drives since Western Digital is the world’s largest manufacturer of hard drives. If you were to open up your desktop or laptop, there is an excellent chance that Western Digital built yours.

You don’t even have to look at your other electronics since Western Digital also manufactures other drives, like external hard drives used in Home Media setups. Their hard drives set the universal standard.

How Western Digital Started

Western Digital was founded in 1970 in California when it first began manufacturing semiconductor elements, such as calculator chips and floppy disk controller chips. It wouldn’t be until the early 1980s when Western Digital started making hard disk drive controllers.

The controller is the electronic part that controls how the platter moves when the head slider reads or writes, and it is the element that sends data to and from the disk to the computer.

Moving forward to the 1990s, Western Digital experienced what can be described as a slump. The technology was improving so fast that Western Digital could not keep up, causing it to sell many of its side ventures and focus solely on hard drive manufacturing.

However that was still not enough, and it wasn’t until Western Digital requested aid from I.B.M. that it was able to recover and once again gain a foothold in the data storage industry. 

Enter the 2000s. That is when Western Digital began to pick up steam again with their release of the first mainstream A.T.A. hard drive disks with 8MiB of disk buffer. There’s no need to go into these items now, but just know that these products were what allowed the company to surge through the ranks and align itself with the best data storage manufacturers in the world. 

2006-2009 were significant because they were the years when Western Digital became a household name with the release of their new My Book line of external hard drives.

These ranged from a few hundred gigabytes up to the most massive 2TB that was released in 2009. Western Digital did not stop there. From that point on they became the company with the most firsts in terms of storage capacity with their timely release of new, record-breaking products.

Becoming the largest manufacturer

Ultimately, in 2012, after the acquisition of Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST), Western Digital became the world’s largest manufacturer of hard drives. As of October 2019, they are still the largest manufacturer in the world, consistently releasing new products.

Their most significant release in 2017 was the 14TB hard drive. Western Digital also has its series of SSDs (Solid State Drives) and N.V.M.E. (Non-Volatile Memory Express) products available to the public, but these technologies are often designed and sold by their subsidiaries like SanDisk.

In spite of being the largest manufacturer in the world, taking roughly 40% of the world’s hard drive market share, Western Digital products are not without fault. That is not to say that they are more prone to breaking down. Instead, the opposite is true.

They are among the best in dependability. Year after year they rank in the top three most reliable storage products on the market. 

Because of great numbers in the market, Western Digital hard drives are the most numerous that we see at Steve’s Computer Repair, and they are the most we have experience with repairing. If you suspect a problem, bring it by for us to look at. “So what are the most common problems?” Glad you asked.

3 Most Common Concerns

Most signs of an impending failure of a Western Digital hard drive are difficult to spot, but you should be on the lookout for these warning signs: your computer boots up far slower than usual, your computer fails to boot (sometimes a few times in a row), or your files are getting corrupted or they are disappearing. 

If you encounter any of those symptoms, then we highly encourage you to drop what you’re doing and back up any critical data right away.

Sometimes however, you won’t even get a warning and your computer will be on but fail from one boot-up to the next. Now is the time to listen to your computer. Often you can tell when a hard drive is about to fail if you listen for specific sound cues. 

Computer Stopped Booting

Let’s assume that your computer has stopped booting, but it is making some noises. Get close to your desktop or laptop and listen for any the following sounds: clicking noise, chattering sound, spinning then turning off, then spinning again.

All these are signs of imminent boot-up failure. Also, should you happen to hear no sound or no spinning whatsoever, then you have a dead computer in need of repair. Your computer may need a new hard drive.

Now let’s look at some other scenarios.

Disks Not Spinning

If the disks inside of your computer are not spinning at all, it could be that your printed control board has gone bad. A printed control board is an electronics piece that dictates how the hard drive operates. 

Everything from controlling how fast the platters spin, to which spots the head should read from is prescribed by the board, therefore if the printed control board fails, the drive itself won’t work at all.

The good news to this kind of failure is that the data itself should still be in the right conditions, and replacing the control board or the chips in the control board that failed can usually result in a functioning hard drive.

The second possibility in the case where the disks have completely stopped spinning involves hard drive failure. In this case, the solution is to replace it. 

Spinning Disk Making Noises

Another symptom common to Western Digital hard drive failure is a spinning disk that is making chattering or clicking sounds.

If either of those sounds is met and you can still access your operating system, then we strongly recommend that you back up any critical data immediately since hard drive failure is not a possibility, but a certainty at this point. 

In addition, if your computer refuses to boot one day to the next and chattering or clicking noises are coming from the hard drive, then we recommend you turn off the computer and stop using it to prevent any further damage.

Primarily what is happening is that the spindle or arm that holds the head (which does the reading and writing) has undergone a mechanical failure. This failure can come in different forms, but in Western Digital hard drives, it is mostly from a stuck spindle or heads that have crashed onto the disk plates. 

If a stuck pivot is a culprit, then data recovery can still have reasonable success rates if the platters are switched to a twin donor enclosure. If the heads are the ones that failed, however, data recovery success rates plummet. 

The reason that head failures have low recovery rates is that when a head crashes with the data plates, scratches are made on the surface. Since the plates are spinning at incredibly high speeds and the head hits even a couple fractions of a second late, the result is the loss of vast amounts of data.

While this type of failure can technically be repaired, we at Steve’s Computer Repair place our primary focus on the recovery of as much data as possible from the failed hard drive. 

This process is much more complicated than the previous types of failure because it is the data medium itself, that is, the hard drive plates, that have become damaged. That means we have to transfer the plates to a healthy donor drive and attempt to copy as much of the data as possible without further damaging the surface of the plate.

Causes and Solutions

This may sound scary, but knowing a few ways that you can prevent, or at least be aware of what can cause problems for your Western Digital hard drive, might help you to avoid them.

Mishandling of the device is one of the common causes of hard drive problems. Studies have shown that Western Digital hard drives are most likely to fail due to mechanical failures arising from a lack of conscious concern for taking care of them.

For example, sudden shocks such as drops were the most likely causes of failure. So handling them with care (even the portable My Books) is a very good practice.

Another much more active approach is to monitor your hard drive using a system called SMART (Self-Monitoring,
Analysis and Reporting Technology) that is compatible with pretty much all newer hard drives. SMART’s system relays error messages that alert you to a failing or soon to fail hard drive. And, interestingly, most studies have shown that Western Digital devices are better than other brands at reporting to the user that their hard drive might be failing. Here’s a system that knows itself.

A Hidden Option

One last idea that could help extend the lifespan of your storage is an option hidden away in the power settings of your computer or laptop.

This option is under the Hard Disk tab of the Power Options/Advanced Settings menu and is used to turn off any hard drives that have not been accessed for a certain amount of time. What this means is that the hard drive will shut down, thus preventing wear and tear.

It is very useful if you have multiple hard disks in your computer, of which one or several might be idle most of the time.

This idea could be beneficial for people who have two or more drives, such as gamers or media enthusiasts. Using a primary boot drive for the operating system and keeping most games or media on a separate, larger hard disk with the power down option, you can ensure that those hard drives enjoy a laxer working life and hence a longer life span.

Conclusion

To sum up, if you are an owner of a Western Digital hard drive, you are in good company. Western Digital is an American founded and based company with real American values.

Reliability and excellence are deeply ingrained in its culture, and it shows. Western Digital hard drives are some of the most durable hard drives available on the market today and they also offer some of the best warranties in the industry. 

While solid-state drives have become far more commonplace in even middle-of-the-road computers and laptops, Western Digital has kept pushing the boundaries of hard-disk technologies.

For example, Western Digital has stepped up and created hard drive capacities to handle the vast amounts of data required by 4k video recordings and gaming consoles. Using internal and external storage is becoming more commonplace.

I believe that Western Digital huge, hard drive capacities will have a more permanent home in database systems. Ultimately, if your hard drive does fail, rest assured that Western Digital hard drive repair is one of the many services that Steve’s Computer Repair is capable of performing for you. 

Keep an eye out for upcoming articles here on our website.

Do you have any issues or questions that you would like answered?  Let us know.

Until next time, have a good day!

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