Understanding and troubleshooting your hard drive (HDD or SSD)

Understanding and troubleshooting your hard drive (HDD or SSD)

The following article provides information to help understand and troubleshoot your Hard Drive.

What is a Hard Drive?

The storage device is a key component in your computer. This article gives information and directs you to articles that tell you how to perform maintenance, diagnostics, and other important tasks for the hard drive.

A hard drive is a fundamental part of computers. (Excluding most Thin-Client PCs.) The hard drive is where all the applications, files, and data are stored on your computer:

Note: Click Show All or the Title that you want more information about.

Mechanical Hard Disk Drives are the original HDD used with most desktop and some notebook PCs. These drives are electro-mechanical storage devices that use magnetic storage on a series of physical platters to store and retrieve digital data.

They are commonly used where you want an average lifespan of five years and a large storage capacity is a benefit. Where there is less of an issue with the physical size of the drive:

Internal HDDs are most commonly SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) drives. Sometimes you may see SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) on high-end workstation systems.

The following two links can help you to identify if you have a mechanical 3½" or 2½" drive:

External HDDs are most commonly a SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) drive in an external enclosure. The drive connects to your PC via a USB cable. They tend to be used mainly for extra storage and back-ups of your Data. This is because they can be disconnected and taken to other locations without the PC. They are third-party devices. You have to go back to the manufacturer if you are experiencing any issues. (Having first ruled out the USB ports on your Dell PC.)

Internal Solid-State Drives are the latest technology and are used as boot drives in some desktops and most new Notebooks. SSDs are solid-state storage devices that use Flash memory to store and retrieve digital data.

They are commonly used where you want fast access speeds and the physical size of the drive is a factor. They tend to be smaller in capacity and physical size than HDDs and are often more expensive. (Lifespan, Cost, and Capacity are something that most SSD manufacturers are working to improve.)

Solid-State Drives come in several form factors:

Back to Top

How to troubleshoot a Hard Drive

Performing Hard Drive maintenance can reduce the risk of a hard drive failure, but if you start seeing issues with your hard drive. Then the following instructions should be of use:

Note: Click Show All or the Title you want more information about.

When you suspect your hard drive of failing, you can run an online Hard Drive specific diagnostics, browse to the Online Hard Drive Diagnostics page.

  • The test will start automatically.
  • You may be prompted to install or update the SupportAssist program, if so, follow the prompts.
  • Set aside a large amount of time for the test to run since most Hard Drives have a large capacity.
  • You can also run diagnostics from our support site.
    • "Quick test" - This test of your hardware may take 10-15 minutes depending on the hardware in your computer.
    • "Full Test" - This is an in-depth test. This may take 40 minutes or more depending on the hardware in your computer.
    • Custom Component Test - Select one or more specific hardware tests you want to run.

      To run a specific test, perform the following steps.

      1. Browse to the "Dell Support" website.
      2. You are given three options to identify your computer.


        • Touch or click the listing for your computer under THIS PC.
          Note: When there is no listing for your computer under THIS PC, you can touch or click Download & Install SupportAssist, which will automatically identify your computer for you. Follow the prompts to download and install SupportAssist.
        • Enter the Service Tag, Dell EMC Product ID, or Model, and then touch or click the Search button, and select your computer from the list.
        • Touch or click Browse all products: You must select the type of device you have, the brand name, and then the product model.
          Note: For more information refer to Dell Knowledge Base article, "How to Determine the Model Number of Your Dell Computer."
      3. Touch or click the DIAGNOSTICS tab.
      4. Under Custom Component Test, touch or click Select individual components.
      5. Touch or click to check the box next to one or more components you want to test.
      6. Touch or click the Run Your Test, and follow the prompts.

When your computer is unable to boot into Windows, run the built-in diagnostics. Refer to Dell Knowledge Base article Resolve Hardware Issues Using ePSA or PSA Diagnostics and Guide to Error Codes for more information.

Performing Hard Drive maintenance reduces the risk of hard drive failure and optimizes your hard drives performance.

To view instructions on general maintenance of your computer, refer to the following articles on the Microsoft site (in English):

Note: Read up on the subject before running Defrag on your Hard Drive. Some earlier SSDs did not react well to scheduled defragments.

You can access a comprehensive set of troubleshooting steps along with the appropriate reference articles, all to help resolve common hard drive issues:

Resolving Hard Drive Noise on a Laptop, Microsoft Windows Locks Up or an Error Occurs and Computer Does Not Boot to Microsoft Windows.

You might want to remove your drive from your system as part of your troubleshooting, to fit a replacement or upgrade to a better drive. Dell has a history of making this as simple for you as possible. (However, some SSDs on some of our smaller form factor chassis are best left to a service engineer.)

You can identify how simple it is to remove your hard drive by checking out the removal instructions Dell provides for all its products:

Go to the Dell Support Site and enter your systems Service Tag to access a lot of specific information about your system. (If you do not want to enter your system tag, you can select your system from the products list. You will access more generic information about your PC.)

If you click the Documents section of your systems product page, you can open the systems Service Manual either online or in a PDF format. You will find step-by-step instructions (including pictures) on removing the various parts of your PC.

Back to Top

How to get a Replacement or Upgrade for your Hard Drive

If your hard drive has failed or you are looking to fit an upgrade, then the following information should be of use:

Note: Click Show All or the Title you want more information about.

Backing up your files is critical, and running a regular backup is the best way to prevent data loss on your PC. (It also helps if you are replacing a drive, either through it having failed or your fitting an upgrade.)

Note: Dell best practice recommends that you always back up your data before performing an operating system reinstall. You work on your operating system or before you start troubleshooting your storage media.

Click one of the following links for English-only videos on how to back up and restore important files and data for your Operating System:

Save Your Data Online (3:00) - English Only.

How to back up your data (3:10) - English Only

System Backup (1:36)

Click the following link for information about how to How To Restore or Reinstall Microsoft Windows on a Dell Computer after you have backed-up your data.

If you have identified that your hard drive has failed, then you have little choice but to replace it with a working drive:

To check if your warranty is active, refer to Dell Knowledge base article How to Check When Your Warranty Expires.

If you have a Dell diagnostic error code for your drive, you can submit the Service Tag, ePSA error and validation code at the SupportAssist Pre-Boot System Performance Check page, to learn how to proceed.

If you are having issues and require further help, then Contact Us.

If your warranty has expired, a new Hard Drive can be purchased at the Dell Storage, Drives, and Media web site.

An upgrade HDD/SSD can be purchased from the Dell Storage, Drives, and Media web site.

Or you can look at Buying a Replacement Hard Drive from Dell.

Note: You can fit upgraded and third-party parts into a Dell PC. Third-party parts do not take on the warranty of the system. Upgraded parts that are sourced from Dell do not take on the warranty of the system. You may be asked to return the system to the hardware it shipped with. Dell technical support can only help you to troubleshoot any issues you may be experiencing when they have ruled out the parts you have installed.

Study the available ports, technology, and software on your PC. Ensure that the part is compatible and will do the job that you want it to do before you purchase it.

The Dell Product Page for your systems model with your Service Tag is the best source of this type of information. View System Configuration shows you the hardware that shipped with your PC. The Documentation page supplies the Setup and Specification details for your model, and the information in the Service Manual.

Back to Top

If you require further assistance, please contact Technical Support.
Contact Us

Out of Warranty support Out of warranty? No problem click here, enter your Service Tag and view our offers.
Currently, offers are only available for US, Canada, UK, and France PC Customers. Server and Storage not applicable.

Article ID: SLN146180

Last Date Modified: 08/21/2020 01:20 PM

Rate this article

Easy to understand
Was this article helpful?
0/3000 characters
Please provide ratings (1-5 stars).
Please provide ratings (1-5 stars).
Please provide ratings (1-5 stars).
Please select whether the article was helpful or not.
Comments cannot contain these special characters: <>()\
characters left.