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hard drive failureIf there is one piece of equipment in your computer that you would predict to fail first, what would it be? Some might pick the power supply, some might pick the motherboard and even some might pick the video card. Most however, are going to choose the hard drive. So, what can you do to prevent hard drive failure?

The standard IDE/SATA hard drive today is still the most mechanical piece of equipment sitting in your present day PC. And this will continue to be the case until solid state drives become much cheaper and much more compatible for present day hardware. The most unfortunate part of the problems with these drives, is how incredibly critical they are to the state of your computer. A hard disk failure means a dead computer – unless you are lucky enough to be running in some type of RAID environment, which most home users won’t be.

To help predict and protect yourself from these the inevitable circumstances of a hard drive failure, I have come up with four third party diagnostic tools, and a list of the all the major hard drive manufacturer tools. Most of these incorporate the built-in SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) feature with most of today’s hard disks. (Windows Only)

CrystalDiskInfo

CrystalDiskInfo is a S.M.A.R.T. based utility that supports not only internal drives, but both USB and IEEE1394’s as well. It displays an incredible amount of simple and advanced disk information, and may always be running in the background. This includes temperature readings, read/write errors and power management tools, running at all times of the day.

General Information on your drive.

 prevent hard disk failure with CrystalDiskInfo

Advanced Diagnostic of your drive.

smart info

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HD Tune

HD Tune is a much simpler hard drive disk scanning utility that has benchmarking, advanced diagnostics, similar to Crystal and a disk scanning utility, very similar to the Windows version, but can be run in real-time. It also includes real-time temperature monitoring.

HD Tune also uses the SMART based technology and has already been a help to myself. I knew that my hard drive was on the brink, and this was the first utility to confirm that. You’ll see my errors below. I wasn’t even able to run the benchmarking tool on my system drive. The screen shot below is for my data drive. It also supports all connection types.

Benchmarking

hd tune

Disk Scanning

HDD Health

HDD Health is another similar product that can help you predict and prvene hard disk failure. It includes temperature and real-time monitoring, but includes a health indicator, simply by percentage and nothing more. It does include the same advanced diagnostic tools as the other SMART utilities as well.

General Information

hd health

Extended Drive Information

HDD Scan

HDD Scan not only includes many SMART diagnostic utilities, but other disk utilities as well. It includes many advanced testing modes, such as reading, writing and erasing in linear. In comparison to the other products, HDD Scan might get you more bang for the free buck.

Various HDD Scan Tools

Available Surface Tests

hd scan

Manufacturer Specific Products

Some people might trust products designated for their specific hard drive more then any other. So I’ve provided a list of all the major manufacturers with a link to their diagnostic tools. A few of these may even support different manufacturers.

Fujitsu – Supports all forms of internal connection and is capable of doing in depth surface and diagnostic testing.

Hitachi – Several diagnostic tools for Hitachi drives. Analyze, optimize and protect your drive from failure.

Samsung – The Samsung utility will only work with Samsung drives and is an offline bootable disk that can be run no matter what the state of your drive.

Seagate/Maxtor – The Seagate tools, also known as Seatools, are Windows specific tools that can quickly and comprehensively determine the state of your present Seagate or Maxtor hard drive.

Western Digital – In order to determine your appropriate tools, you’ll first have to select your specific product and browse to a compatible ‘Data Lifeguard Diagnostic Tools’. Thorough test and repair utilities for West Digital drives.

All of the tools above may or may not be able to resolve serious disk errors on your drive. But if you are worrisome about the state of your current HDD and you’d like to confirm it, these tools will help to do so. It will force you to clone your hard drive 5 Ways To Clone & Copy Your Hard Drive 5 Ways To Clone & Copy Your Hard Drive Read More or backing up The Best Free Backup Software for your PC The Best Free Backup Software for your PC Read More your data on a regular basis before the inevitable happens. Play with each of tools, and find the best that suits your situation.

The above third party tools are a few of the popular free utilities I’ve found. Do you have another suggestion for protection? If you’ve tried any of the above, get back to us with your favorite.

  1. Windows 7 data recovery
    February 5, 2010 at 2:55 am

    You have provided efficient tool that help predict and prevent data hard drive failure but still it is not completely inevitable, so use of Windows 7 data recovery software sometimes becomes essential in order to get the deleted or lost data back.

  2. windows 7 tutorial
    June 23, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Very helpful! Very helpful!

  3. windows 7 tutorial
    June 23, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Very Very Help full!!! thanks

  4. Many
    May 13, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Very helpful!

  5. Spuffler
    March 26, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Sad to say this, Seatools USED to fit on a floppy disk.
    Then, it seems that in what may have been one major revision, Seagate, in a moment of sheer insanity, not only abandoned the small sized executable to create a larger Windows program, but Seagate also forces you to have a fully functional .NET environment as a prerequisite for using the new Windows executable. The change to Windows executable was, by itself, enough of a major blow against storage on floppies, but also forcing twenty odd megs of .NET as well? Where am I going to fit THAT monstrosity? On my hard disk? How many PCs have more than one hard disk? Not too many, so the very drive that is going to be tested is going to host this huge test suite because Seagate 'updated' these tools. And what consumer starts testing BEFORE the drive starts acting up? So lets put this scenario in order: I wait until I suspect hard disk is acting up. I download Seatools because I own a Seagate drive. Seagate says I also have to install Microsofts .NET framework, so I install .NET first, then install Seatools. By now, the hard disk has over 60 megs additional software (2 downloads, then 2 installed programs), and NOW I can start testing. Used to fit on a floppy.

  6. Gabriel
    March 26, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Thanks for the info

  7. Daniel
    March 18, 2009 at 11:48 am

    that's to dumb
    just do a a checkdisk and pay atention to the results, that's all
    do it every week and your hdd will be happy and run a bit faster
    you can also use it in dos just do chkdsk drive letter:\

  8. MrJim
    February 23, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    SpinRite works really well for offine maintenance and recovery. Intended to run from boot meda and small enough to fit on a floppy. Runs on any x86 based system. (Win, Linux, OSX, TiVo, ...) Doesn't even need to understand the filesystem. Been around for years and it just works.

  9. Serge
    February 8, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    S.M.A.R.T technology uses threshold values to softarea51.com/blog/how-to-predict-a-hard-disk-failure Predict hard disk failure and estimate the health status of a hard disk. The estimation of a failing date is like a trend estimation on how attribute value will change based on past values, it's just a statistical algorithm.

  10. Richard
    February 3, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    As an administrator of a small network, I can only agree with the others saying, back-up, back-up and back-up the data. Till SMART returns info that something is going bad, the data stored there is already in danger. A good paper to read is the study google has preformed on it's servers.

  11. nixakki
    January 29, 2009 at 11:10 am

    thanks for this information.. gonna try one of it..

  12. manu
    January 29, 2009 at 4:35 am

    Nice article.
    What sprung to my mind is that those report could be useful in an lan environment.

    Does anybody know a product which monitors harddrives in lan-clients?

  13. Steve
    January 27, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    I think there was a lot left out of this... S.M.A.R.T. seems to be important in the discussion and it is not always something that is featured on many drives. The fact that Windows Vista relies on it for certain system information puts Vista down a long way in my book. Someone mentioned Spinrite, which in my opinion should have been at the top of the list, along with HDD Observer whose product is now in version 3.0 and supports 64 bit.

    • T.J. Mininday
      January 27, 2009 at 3:04 pm

      No doubt Spinrite would have been #1. These are all free products. Here at MakeUseOf, you'll find 99% of our reviews are free.

      If you don't want to fork out the $90.00 for Spinrite, you have some options that I provided for you.

  14. imoDOTcom
    January 27, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Petr,
    Many thanks!

  15. Preston L. Bannister
    January 27, 2009 at 2:11 am

    First, more important than anything on your list:

    grc.com/spinrite.htm

    Can detect and correct disk errors.

    Second, if your computers are on a UPS then you will get far fewer hardware failures. Motherboards seem the first to go. Hard disks seem to last until they are hopelessly obsolete. (I threw out a pair of perfectly-working 340MB Western Digital hard disks a few years back.)

    • imoDOTcom
      January 27, 2009 at 12:48 pm

      Hello Preston,

      Re. UPS, good observation! I can now remember that my failed Disk PCs were NOT on UPS.

      Can anyone RECOMMEND UPSs from LOW Range to HIGH Range, or Brands (because I have Servers as well as Client PCs in a medical office.)

      This Topic is very useful!! imoDOTcom

      • Petr
        January 27, 2009 at 1:05 pm

        imoDOTcom - I only use APC UPSs and surge protectors at home and at the office. Only because they offer a complete lifetime warranty on the system. I have had several surge protectors die due to surges (but they did their job protecting the equipment). They replace them no questions asked. So, basically an APC item will be the last one you will ever need to buy. I would guess other manufacturers do the same, but APC's service is great.

    • T.J. Mininday
      January 27, 2009 at 3:01 pm

      Agreed Spinrite is a solid app, but Steve Gibson charges way more then most would want to pay. If you are an Admin though, it's a must have in your arsenal. We try to keep all of our reviews to free products only.

  16. imoDOTcom
    January 26, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    THIS INFO IS VERY USEFUL.

    I manage my wife's medical office computers. To prevent big headaches, I do continuous on-line backups, and weekly removable HD backus, and I have a Raid1 mirror.

    I do all this because over the last decade, 4-5 Hard Drives have died SUDDENLY, without warning. A Few were just MONTHS OLD!

    So, while THIS TOPIC is critical for many, I have to ask:

    (1) What is the range of Normal Temps for the Day-in-the-Life of a Hard Drive? (I am sure it has to heat up at peak load or in summer).

    (2) Every HD has a different behaviour during stress/load right ? Every HD has different RMAs (repair and maintenance) characteristics, right? Do any of these S/W base their analysis off such models? I know each manufacturer has detailed models.

    (3) Is there any such S/w for Mother Board MEMORY/RAM????

    Thanks, imoDOTcom.

    • T.J. Mininday
      January 27, 2009 at 3:10 pm

      1. Most say 35-40 degrees C. Anything above that consistently, you may want to look at other cooling methods.

      2. I can't answer that directly, although I'm sure the answer is yes. I'd try each manufacturer tools and see what kind of feedback they give you.

      3. There are plenty of memory optimization/checking tools out there. Here are couple big ones.

      memtest86.com/
      simmtester.com/PAGE/products/doc/docinfo.asp

  17. jt
    January 26, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Thank for the information, is it possible to use one of these utilities on a bootable cd?

  18. Francisco Costa
    January 26, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    No tools for Linux OS?

    • Vadim P.
      January 26, 2009 at 12:51 pm

      getdeb.net/search.php?keywords=GSmartControl

      • Francisco Costa
        January 28, 2009 at 9:52 am

        Thank you!

  19. Andy
    January 26, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Make sure you just keep a regular backup, you dont need these tools, though may help. I have two drives, one main and one backup. And recently bought an external drive to back everything up lol

  20. Timothy
    January 26, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Awesome! Thanks for the information. Very helpful

  21. venkat
    January 26, 2009 at 9:52 am

    These tools definitely useful to monitor health of hard drive,data i s important whether it is office or Home users.So these tools defintely help us to backup data ,before the harddisk fails.

  22. Albert
    January 25, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Where the HELL is the download link for CrystalDisk, I spent 1 minute too long searching for it on there and it's nowhere...

  23. Peter
    January 25, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    This is all a big waste of time. SMART is notoriously unreliable and drives can fail without warning.
    All you really need to deal with a drive failure is a good, recent backup. (Which you need for a lot of other reasons anyway, so go do it now!)

    • T.J. Mininday
      January 26, 2009 at 8:44 am

      Agreed that backing up regularly is best solution. However, having something to tell you if there are possibly errors on the disk can't hurt. Especially when they are free.

    • Tokey
      July 26, 2009 at 10:26 pm

      Peter, just because hard drives CAN fail without warning, doesn't mean that its at all common. While SMART is indeed unreliable and you should ALWAYS backup, for the most part, hard drives do give warning before failing (clicking, slow response time, etc). The only time, actually, when you likely wouldn't have any warning is in the event the HDD's control board failed. As control board failure is probably the most unusual HDD failure mode, i personally find it prudent to use these tools.

  24. Vadim P.
    January 25, 2009 at 2:17 pm
    • T.J. Mininday
      January 25, 2009 at 7:18 pm

      Never hurts to have some Linux feedback with all of the more common Windows apps. Thanks Vadim

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