By James Wallis

Hard Disk Drive Crash

Take the case of computer systems. We become so used to working on the computer on a regular basis that we are rarely ready to face the consequences if things go wrong. This is truer of a computer hard disk drive crash than of anything else. It comes like a bolt from the blue and disturbs our entire way of functioning.

It might be that when one tries to switch on the computer it simply refuses to boot. All efforts in that direction come to no avail and the screen remains blank. Besides this an ominous scratching sound may start to emanate from the disk. This is a serious problem. It is indicative of nothing less than a crash of the hard disk drive.

Functioning of a Hard Disk Drive

In order to understand the problem of a hard disk drive crash, it is important to first understand the mechanism of a hard drive. Only after knowing how the disk drive functions can one understand the nature of the problem.



Hard Disk Platter: A hard disk platter is a circular disk within the hard disk drive. It is circular in shape and the magnetic media of the disk drive is stored on it. Generally multiple platters are mounted on a single spindle of the hard disk drive.

Read-Write Head: The read-write heads of the hard disk drives are those mechanisms that, as the name suggests read or write the data from the magnetic fields of the platters.

Lubricant Layer: This is the topmost layer of the platters and is made of a substance similar to Teflon.

Carbon: There is a layer of sputtered carbon just below the lubricant layer.

Magnetic Layer: This is below the layer of carbon.


The magnetic layer of the hard disk drive stores all the data. The two layers of carbon and the lubricant like material saves this magnetic layer from coming into accidental contact with the read-write head of the disk.

The platters move at an exceptional speed and the data is read from, or written on to, the magnetic layer by the read-write head which flies above the surface of the platter. As the read-write head flies over the platter surface its height is controlled by a thin film or layer of air entrapped between the platters and the slider surface of the read-write head.

If the read-write head comes into direct contact with the surface of the disk platters then the head can scratch through the protective layers of sputtered carbon and the lubricant material. This is called a head crash or a hard disk drive crash.

Cause of a Hard Disk Drive Crash

The cause of a head crash can be a minute particle causing the read-write head to bounce against the platter disk. The head is made of hard materials that can scratch through all the protective layers. If the head bounces against the platter while the latter is rotating at a speed equivalent to thousands of revolutions per minute then the head is bound to scratch the platter surface.

This destroys the magnetic layer of the platters. If the head begins to drag over the platter then the data loss can be tremendous. Besides this the head will end up overheating making at least parts of the hard disk drive temporarily unusable. Even the possibility of further head crashes increases as particulate freed on account of one head crash are scraped on to the platter surface.


The only remedy to this untoward incident will be to switch off the computer system immediately. Having shut the system, a professional data recovery company should be contacted without any further delay. Trying to reboot the system is bound to complicate the matters further. One should always keep in mind that in case of a hard disk drive crash, there is little, in fact nothing that can be done by an untrained individual. Any delay in contacting the professionals or attempts to remedy the situation may destroy data permanently.

About the Author: James Walsh is a freelance writer and copy editor. If you are concerned about data loss and would like more information on Data Recovery see


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