Probably the most common cause of data loss I see is the lack of data backup coupled with failure of the storage drive, either hard disk or SSD. I’ve covered backups a few times in the past, but it is also worth checking the health of your system disk proactively every now and then.
Windows does provide some basic test capabilities, but they are not very effective and not the easiest to use. Fortunately, there are a few free and paid-for alternatives; one of the free ones that I can recommend is HDDScan.
HDDScan is a freeware software for hard drive diagnostics (Flash USB and SSD drives are also supported). The program can test storage device for errors and can show the inbuilt S.M.A.R.T. disk health data where supported by the drive.
The current version of HDDscan is v4.0 and it can be downloaded from http://hddscan.com/
Once downloaded it will be delivered as a ZIP file so you will have to extract it (right click on the file and click on Extract). Once it has been extracted double click the HDDSCan.exe file to run and install the tool.
You can now run HDDSCan to test your drive.
Click on the drop down arrow to select your disk drive (in the example I have a hard drive, and SSD and an SD card slot which is empty (no media).
The quickest and most basic check is to query the SMART data that is held on the disk drive itself.
Click on SMART
You will now see a summary of the health data held on the disk for that drive.
What you want to see here is all green buttons, no amber or red which may indicate degradation and potential failure.
For more in depth testing you can use the TESTS button.
CAUTION!: The ERASE option does what it states and will ERASE all the data on the drive. Do not use this unless this is what you intend.
The final button is Tools which provides a handful of disk related tools. There are some tools included here that you should only use if you know what you are doing, so I’d keep out unless you are technically savvy.
An additional benefit of HDDScan is that it will run standalone off a USB drive. This means that if you can’t boot to Windows desktop then you can still use the tool to test your disk drive.