I just had an external hard drive fail. This is an old disk, in fact it’s the oldest one on my LAN. It’s an Iomega 500MB (a huge capacity when I bought it!) which was connected to my router as a network drive. This morning it crashed while I was copying a file from it. Later, when I had time to investigate further, it failed in a major way. I tried some “first aid” using Disk Utility but I already knew it was a dead-un. I managed to copy some important photos off it before it ground to a complete halt and that was it!
Luckily there wasn’t anything important on it, mainly duplicate backups and copies of OS updates, patches, etc., to save me downloading them again if needed. Even the photos were just just local copies of ones that I am also storing online and elsewhere. I say “luckily” but it was more by design than luck.
So although it was annoying, I shan’t spend any serious time on recovery operations. I wouldn’t feel I could trust the disk afterwards anyway.
What this event has done though is reminded me that it is not a question of whether a hard disk will fail but when.
So not only do you need to backup and backup often, keep those backups on more than one hard drive and keep a copy somewhere on a cloud-based storage service. Check that you can actually restore from said backup. Keep an eye on the age of your main backup drives and replace them when they get a bit long in the tooth.