Find Out How Healthy And Fast Your Hard Drive Is With These Two Free Windows Applications

Erez Zukerman 29-03-2012

healthy hard driveExcept for fans, the typical hard drive is just about the only piece of a modern computer that still has moving parts. While solid state drives Should You Get A Solid State Drive (SSD)? [Opinion] If you've kept up with some of the latest news about new computer parts, you may have heard about SSDs, or solid state drives. They are designed to replace your clunky, slow hard drive and... Read More are becoming more popular every day, most of us still use at least one regular hard drive, spinning platters and all. Because those platters are spinning around at 5400 or 7200 PRM (and sometimes even faster) for countless hours, you would do well to check on their health every now and then.


Also, even if your hard drive is perfectly healthy, it may still pose a performance bottleneck on your system: Reading and writing files to a regular hard drive are two of the slowest operations computers have to do these days. So how can you tell if your hard drive is healthy, and how can you tell how fast it is?

Health: CrystalDiskInfo

healthy hard drive

First things first – let’s start with health. CrystalDiskInfo is a free tool, which we’ve mentioned 4 Tools To Predict and Prevent Hard Drive Failure f there is one piece of equipment in your computer that you would predict to fail first, what would it be? Read More more than three years ago. Well, it is still around, and it is still an excellent tool. It is under constant development, with the latest version released early March. CrystalDiskInfo lets you see a wealth of information about your hard drive, using the drive’s S.M.A.R.T self-monitoring interface. For example, we can see that the hard drive above (the newest drive in my system) has been operating for 4,411 hours, which are 183 days – during which I restarted my computer 28 times. This is an interesting bit of trivia, but it also lets you estimate how close your drive is to failure: many vendors specify something called “MTBF”, or “mean time before failure” for their hard drive.

Another important metric you can see above is the drive temperature, 43 degrees Celsius (if you prefer Fahrenheit, CrysalDiskInfo can do that too). Much like the MTBF, this information can be used to estimate how well your drive is doing: I searched for the specifications of this hard drive (WD20EARX), and found them on the Western Digital website. WD specifies an operation temperature of 0 to 60 degrees Celsius for this drive, so now I know I’m in range (albeit on its high end).

Other measurements are very technical, but fortunately, CrystalDiskInfo makes life easy by just stating that the drive’s health status is good.


Speed: DiskBench

healthy hard drive

Now that you know how healthy your hard drive is, it’s time to find out how fast it is, and this is what DiskBench does. Unlike CrystalDiskInfo, DiskBench does not contain large color-coded buttons and indicators: You get five very businesslike tabs, and that’s it. Each tabs lets you run a different sort of test on your drive. Above you can see the batch file creation test: This test rapidly creates a number of files, and shows you how long each operation took.

There is one very important thing you should watch for when using DiskBench: As you can see above, the application lets you change the block size used for creating files. For some crazy reason, it also lets you specify block size in gigabytes (GB). When I first started testing DiskBench, I mistook this setting for file size rather than block size, and set it to 2 GB. My computer completely choked – I haven’t seen Windows 7 become stuck so badly in a very long time. I was unable to run Task Manager or do anything else for over fifteen minutes, and ended up hard-booting the computer. Scary.

So again: Block size is not like file size. If you want larger file, you should increase the number of blocks (“Initial number of blocks” and “Block increase” in the particular test above).


That said, DiskBench provides interesting metrics, and can let you decide where you want to place page files and other important files.

Suggest Other Free Benchmarking Tools

When you want to gauge your hard drive’s health, what do you use? Have you made the leap to an SSD yet?

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Hard Drive.

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  1. tim
    January 5, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    One of the best articles iv'e read on this site!

  2. tim
    January 5, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    great article.

  3. Ales Mole
    July 15, 2012 at 11:25 am

    I use Hard Disk Sentinel, which has a lot of features

  4. Bob
    April 16, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Can't believe I've found a thread that's younger than 90 days and accepting comments on this site. Anyway...

    HDDScan, recommended elsewhere on this site only gave inf about my single IDE drive - my 3 SATAs it blanked - they were listed but nothing was offered.

    Problem: Got a drive that's iffy. From fresh format it's fine. Use it a bit and it crashes, and tests say it's faulty. Reformat it and then retest it, and it tests fine again. I have used all the manufacturer programs - Seagate, Maxtor, Fujitsu, WD. Those that can actually recognise the drive follow the above pattern. It's obviously faulty in some way, but none can tell me how or where. If I was given a list of bad sectors I could partition to avoid them, but just a useless FAIL or PASSED. Useless. These are programs from drive manufacturers, and none of them even offer basics such as formatting, and most are inadequate at recognising installed drives. One, I forget which, doesn't even recognise its own drives, of which I have two!

    I don't want to diss it without KNOWING what's up. Is there a program that will tell me exactly what's up? Years and years ago we had Norton Utilities which included a surface test that went deep, discovered bad sectors, marked them so in the FAT, and all was fine forever after. Can nobody write such programs nowadays?

    This article is fine, but this drive's SMART is read as good by all, so SMART is meaningless, obviously. The drive's definitely iffy, but SMART says everything is OK. Sorry, but that deserves a Doh! for SMART. Meaningless and useless, as are the disk utilities produced by the manufacturers. At least we know that the manufacturers don't care and just want us to buy new drives, but you'd think technology - SMART - would work. It doesn't in any meaningful way.

    Temperature OK, (Heads and surface mashed due to collision which SMART cannot measure, and so useless) So everything is OK. Drive is in good health. Do you want to buy it?

    We really do put up with an awful lot of tenth rate garbage, and are often asked to pay for it. Anyone got a gun?

    • Erez Zukerman
      April 19, 2012 at 9:02 pm

      Hi there,

      I do understand your frustration!

      If I were you, I'd consider having the drive evaluated at a data restoration facility. These guys have utilities that dig deep into the drive at the physical level, and can tell you beyond any doubt if it's physically broken.

      Good luck!

    • Warren
      June 1, 2012 at 1:21 am

      Try spinrite from GRC

  5. Sharon Thoms
    April 4, 2012 at 5:32 am

    Hi thanks for the tips, exactly what I've been looking for. will be back to find out tonnes more and happily it looks as though this will be the only place i'll have to look for it. Thanks.

    • Erez Zukerman
      April 4, 2012 at 7:39 am

      Very happy to hear you like the site, Sharon. :) Yup, we always have interesting stuff going on!

  6. George
    April 1, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Check out SMARTReporter for a free Mac alternative.

    • Erez Zukerman
      April 2, 2012 at 7:45 am

      Thanks for the suggestion, George!

  7. TheHob
    March 31, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Thanks for this article. One of my hard drives been making some strange noises, this help identify one as 'Caution'.

    • Erez Zukerman
      April 1, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      Happy to help! :)

  8. Jerry Berry
    March 30, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    HD Tune & Hard Drive Sentinel, not forgetting SeaTools & WD Diags

  9. M to the B
    March 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Is there anything like this for a mac user?

    • Erez Zukerman
      March 30, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      Good question! I don't know the first thing about Macs -- you might want to ask on MakeUseOf Answers. :)

    • Tim
      March 30, 2012 at 4:49 pm

      Yes.. It's called "Buy-a-PC"

  10. Ravi Kishor Shakya
    March 30, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Well I m a Linux User and the default 'Disk Utility' that comes with Ubuntu is good enough with all the essential data(e.g. SMART test data, notifications about bad sectors) about the HD.

    • Erez Zukerman
      April 1, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      I agree: Ubuntu definitely rocks. Quite a slick OS.

  11. Josh
    March 30, 2012 at 2:40 am

    I'm just going to put this out there - I had a higher power on count then your power on hours xD
    4811 count, 7188 hours...

    • Erez Zukerman
      March 30, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      LOL, that's just my newest hdd! :) Oldest one is over 20K hours, unfortunately (this is one ancient rig I have here).

  12. Kaggy
    March 30, 2012 at 2:09 am

    HDTune works quite well for this as well.

    • Erez Zukerman
      March 30, 2012 at 4:43 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation!