Your hard drive IS probably slower than it used to be.

You might feel like you are going mad. You may even be getting the impression the IT community is conspiring against you but I am here to assure you that yes, your hard disk IS probably slower than it used to be.

Yes, I am sure it has been tested (even perhaps by me) and all the tests come back and say the hard disk is fine. And in someways, this is true but the testing software is being fooled and cannot tell us the whole story.

You see the thing is your hard disk is a mechanical device. It is very intelligent and has lots of science fiction technology built into it but at the end of the day it is still just mechanical. The manufactures of said hard disk have, as disks have become larger and faster, been baking-in technology that hides errors on the disk as they arise. In the beginning these errors are not noticed by a mere human and testing software is told to look the other way. But, just like that little Dutch boy or the US political system, the faults compound and while the software still manages to hide them, performance suffers and your brain notices something is not right. And this merry go-round will continue until the disk fails altogether. In the meantime, you begin to notice that your Mac is taking longer to start up or open applications. So dutifully you run testing software or call out a technician and they, infuriatingly, tell you all is well and that it must be something else.

But the truth is your hard disk could be suffering from what is delicately referred to as Bit Rot and it is a label for something that I have been saying for years. Many times, I am asked to test a Mac because it is slow and and soon as I sit down it I am forced to agree. But I run software, expecting it to come back with a big fat error and, to my amazement, it passes. I am often left with nothing else to say but “This Mac is fine but I know something is wrong with it.”

Unfortunately the only remedy for Bit Rot – in any practical sense anyway – is to replace the disk for something better such as an SSD and while we have been doing that, the reason had no label.

The other thing to remember is that while traditional disk recovery software might not be able to address a disk that is eventually going to be lost to Bit Rot, there are tools out there that just might meet the challenge. So all may not be lost.

Anyway, I thought – by way of a public service announcement – you’d like to know you aren’t going mad and that there is something that can be done.

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