Data loss is not just something that should concern business users because nowadays the typical home user will keep many important files on the home PC including irreplaceable photos, music files, video clips and important documents such as word documents or spreadsheets.
Unfortunately all hard drives will fail at some point - they consist of several moving parts and a logic circuit board which due to a combination of electrical migration, movement and heat will result in a failure of some kind. The manufacturers average mean time between failure is obviously very high for every major hard drive manufacturer and quite often PCs are upgraded or replaced before this becomes an issue. As is always the case however, sudden hard drive failure and subsequent data loss can affect even a newer PC through sheer bad luck and the resulting loss of data can be catastrophic for the unlucky owner.
There are however a few steps that can be taken to minimise both the chances of, and the impact of, data loss on your home computer:
1) Backup Your Data - This one is so obvious but you would be surprised how many times peoples intend to "back up their data tomorrow or next week" only for the inevitable to happen and suddenly they find themselves with no data. This is the most important thing you can do and you should do it today (not tomorrow, not next week etc). If necessary go and purchase an external hard drive from a computer store and copy all of your important files to it. A data recovery specialist is going to charge you a small fortune to recover your data once your drive fails so consider this if you are concerned about the price of an external HDD.
2) Keep Your System Cool - Warm hard drives will fail much sooner than cool drives so installing a simple intake fan on the front of your PC to blow cool air over your hard drive/s can do wonders for their lifespan. This can make the difference between your drive failing before you upgrade to a newer PC, or not! - For the sake of a few pounds this is definitely a good investment.
3) Install An Antivirus - Every year numerous home PC users experience data loss due to a severe computer virus infection. A particularly nasty virus or other piece of malicious software can wreak havoc with your important files and make them unrecoverable. Make sure you have a decent antivirus, a valid firewall and check your virus definitions on a regular basis to make sure your PC is fully protected.
4) Defragment Your Hard Drive - A drive with fragmented data will have to work much harder to load /run files in your computer. Every few months use the built-in defragmentation tool in Windows (or download a free alternative) to perform this task and prolong the life of your hard drive.