While the processor and memory have a bearing on the usability of your computer, a major factor is the data transfer speed of your storage device. For this reason, it is common to use an SSD for installing your operating system and program files, but the common recommendation is to store your user files on a traditional rotating hard disk drive. This does not however, eliminate the issue of slow disk access which can sometimes make the performance of your computer seem excessively slow.
The common reason for hard disk drive access to become slow is a hardware issue, but logical issues can cause serious problems, even on an SSD drive. Logical problems can include excessive file fragmentation, file system corruption and malware issues. If you ignore the issue, it will most likely become worse especially if it is caused by a failing drive. If you are unsure of the problem, it is best to seek advice and for hardware issues, the drive should be sent to a professional data recovery company.
Failing Hardware Issues
Many modern computers feature silent cases, making it more difficult to notice if the drive is making some strange noises, such as clicking, scraping sounds or a high pitched squeal. Should you hear such sounds, it is highly likely that a failure is imminent, although some drives have been known to making strange scraping noises for years without a problem occurring. When the problem is caused by a physical failure, by the time that the warning signs are noticeable, important data may have already been damaged.
This is why regular backups are essential, but for many users they are rarely done if ever. Attempting to make a backup from a failing drive may be a risk depending upon the issue, as accessing the file system may need to repeatedly read data from a damage area of the drive. The operating usually makes several attempts to read any unreadable bad sector, which could result in the damage becoming worse.
File and Operating System Problems
All operating systems rely on a set of drivers for accessing the data on your hard disk drive, which in rare cases can become corrupt, resulting in corruption of data, such as file system data structures or file contents. Any driver error, which may result from a system crash, power failure or malware must be fixed as soon as possible to avoid total corruption of the file system.
File fragmentation, where the data blocks from a file are not stored contiguously can cause slow file access if it is stored in many locations across the disk. The Microsoft file system NTFS has been particularly prone to fragmentation, especially when file computer is enabled. The introduction of Windows 10 has seen automatic file system defragmentation included, which should not be turned off as it not only helps the health of you the file system, but in the event of data recovery, makes the process easier. It should be noted that an SSD should never be defragmented, but they can suffer another issue, until the TRIM process is run, which is not always automatic.
How to Avoid Problems
It is important to avoid any malware being installed, one of the biggest risks to the data on your drive, as well as regularly defragmenting non SSD drives. These will of course, not guard against failure, but will keep the drive operating optimally and increase the chances of a successful data recovery if required. It is therefore essential to make regular backups of your data, especially if you have important files.
Should your drive start to make unusual noises, it should be powered down before the drive can become too severely damaged. It should then be sent to a professional data recovery company, who will probably need to dismantle and clean the drive. Continuing to use a failing drive will almost certainly result in further damage, which could rapidly cascade and lead to a total loss of data.