How to Examine the Health of Your Hard Drive

Each hard disc ultimately fails. Here is how to get ready for it to die. And you'll be able to tell when it's getting close.

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How to Examine the Health of Your Hard Drive

Each hard disc ultimately fails. Here is how to get ready for it to die. Every hard disc ultimately fails, and you’ll be able to tell when it’s getting close. Strange sounds, damaged data, boot-up crashes, and glacial transfer rates are all signs of the impending demise. This is typical, particularly if your drive is older than a couple of years.

Moving components, such as the motor, can deteriorate with time on older spinning drives, and magnetic sectors can also fail. Although more recent solid-state drives (SSDs) lack moving parts, their storage cells still deteriorate somewhat with each write, which means they will ultimately fail (though SSD reliability is much better than it used to be).

Unless your drive is physically harmed or exposed to extreme heat, it will generally degrade gradually. This implies that even if your drive isn’t producing any odd noises, you should sometimes check on its health so you can get ready for death before it occurs. This is how to go about it.

Check the S.M.A.R.T. Status of Your Drive

The majority of contemporary drives contain a function known as S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology), which keeps track of several drive characteristics in an effort to identify a failing disc. By doing this, your computer will alert you immediately before any data loss happens, allowing the disc to be changed while it’s still usable.

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From the Command Prompt in Windows, you may manually check the S.M.A.R.T. status of your discs. Simply enter “cmd” into the search box to launch the programme. Run: wmic disk drive obtain model, status in the pop-up box. If your drive is about to die, it will return Pred Fail; otherwise, it will return OK. On a Mac, choose About This Mac by clicking the Apple symbol in the upper-right corner of the screen.

Select Storage from the list after clicking System Report. Make sure the proper drive is chosen (by default, it is referred to as Macintosh HD), then check the window for S.M.A.R.T. Status. Either Verified, which indicates health, or Failing, which indicates a problem, should appear in the status.

Install Utility Software for More Information

The fundamental S.M.A.R.T. data may be deceptive. IT only alerts you when your drive is about to fail, but even if the fundamental S.M.A.R.T. status is OK, issues might arise. For a deeper look, I suggest getting DriveDx ($20 with a free trial) for macOS or CrystalDiskInfo(Opens in a new window) for Windows, both of which will present more thorough S.M.A.R.T. information than your computer on its own.

CrystalDiskInfo and DriveDx also feature more ambiguous labels, such as Caution or Warning, than the built-in utilities, which simply indicate your drive is OK or bad. Read more about how CrystalDiskInfo applies those labels here(Opens in a new window) to learn how these labels are applied to hard drives and SSDs that are beginning to deteriorate but aren’t necessarily nearing the end of their useful lives.

For instance, even if your disc had a few corrupted or reallocated sectors, you might not have experienced any problems—likely because those corrupted sectors weren’t storing any data at the time. However, if even one of those corrupt sectors touches a file you require, it may become corrupt. Therefore, even if you aren’t experiencing any issues just now, a Caution label is typically a strong indication that you should back up the drive and consider replacing it soon.

Check the website of the drive’s maker for a specialized tool if you want an even more detailed, more precise image of your drive’s condition. For instance, Seagate provides SeaTools for its hard drives, Western Digital provides Western Digital Dashboard for its hard drives, and Samsung provides Samsung Magician for its SSDs. These tools occasionally have the ability to consider certain technologies exclusive to their hard drives and SSDs.

In case your drive dies (or Almost Dead)

The status of Caution or Pred Fail does not guarantee failure the next day. They could struggle along for a year or two or they might perish in a week. However, if you’re getting alerts, you should back up your information before your disc dies.

However, it is not yet time to do a full backup because doing so might cause the drive to malfunction while you are backing up. Instead, connect an external drive and transfer your most crucial files—family pictures, job documents, and anything else that is irreplaceable—to it. Once you are certain that they are secure, consider doing a full disc clone using software like Carbon Copy Cloner or EaseUS Todo Backup Free (both available for Windows) (Mac).

Things become much more difficult if your hard drive has already ceased functioning, and you’ll likely require a specialized data recovery service like Drive Savers(Opens in a new window), which may cost $1,000 or more. However, it can be worthwhile to you if the disc contains valuable family images.

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Get ready NOW for drive failure

Your hard disc will fail eventually; the question is not “if,” but rather “when.” All hard drives ultimately malfunction, therefore you must frequently back up your computer, even while the disc is functioning normally, if you don’t want to lose any of your crucial information. You’ve heard it before, I’m sure, but are you genuinely following through?

Spend some time today setting up a cloud-based, automated backup system like Backblaze. One of the finest things you can do to safeguard yourself against future heartbreak just takes 15 minutes. Use Windows’ built-in File History tool or your Mac’s built-in Time Machine function to backup your data to an external drive if you can’t stomach the $7 monthly fee. The piece of mind you get from cloud-based backup is invaluable, while it won’t protect you in the event of a fire or theft.

Yes, a quality backup is expensive, but it is a lot less expensive than having your data properly retrieved. And if you have a backup, you won’t worry about little things. Even if your disc suddenly fails catastrophically, you can quickly resume operations.