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Best SMART tool(s) for hard drive integrity analysis?


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#1 w411

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Posted 21 July 2013 - 04:39 PM

For the past 3 years I have been using Acronis Drive Monitor (v 1.0.566), that is still the most recent version of the tool.  The main purpose I use it for is determining a drive's "health".  I use a SATA dock and any time I am backing up data, scanning for malware or checking for drive errors/defrag I always pull up Acronis and take a quick look at the status of the drive:

 

I have had a lot of times where a system would be exhibiting intermittent problems only to check the SMART stats and see that Acronis is reporting significant degradation on the drive.  There are a few other tools I have seen, but wanted to see if anyone actually has any that they personally are a user of and would recommend.

 

 

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#2 slgrieb

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Posted 21 July 2013 - 08:01 PM

SMART tests are of limited use. Generally, a passing SMART test isn't a reliable result, but a drive that fails a SMART test is probably dying. You could run WD's  Data Lifeguard Diagnostics, but I expect you would get about the same results. A failing drive is still failing no matter what tests you use. Wishful thinking won't cure your HDD.  For a more extensive commentary on the practical value of SMART tests, you might want to read about Google's evaluation.


Edited by slgrieb, 21 July 2013 - 08:03 PM.

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#3 w411

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Posted 21 July 2013 - 08:46 PM

I don't try to use the passing results as an indicator that the drive is good, as you pointed out, I use the failing results as justified reasoning to recommend drive replacement.  At the very least it lets me stress for the hundredth time with the customer why a data backup system is important. 

 

Interesting read about the trends within the article, I always assumed temperature and usage were the two biggest factors on drive life expectancy.  Also interesting that the default settings on most new computers seems to be contributing slightly to drive failure (by 2 percent anyways, according to the article) as the power cycles will be much higher on a system that powers down the drive after 10 to 15 minutes (I think Windows 7 defaults to 15?) of inactivity.



#4 JHMcG

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Posted 21 July 2013 - 08:58 PM

I use TESTHDD which is a freeware program that runs from a floppy. I have found it to be pretty good at checking HDDs for problems. Steve, who is the owner of "Above All Electronics" also uses it, and you could ask Anshad Edavana, (a member here), his opinion of it, because I emailed him a copy of it sometime ago.


Edited by JHMcG, 21 July 2013 - 08:59 PM.


#5 hamluis

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 08:56 PM

IMO...the best tool to use for any recently manufactured drive...would be that devloped by the drive manufacturer, since SMART critieria may vary in importance from one drive manufacturer to another.

 

OTOH...my personal choice for ongoing monitoring and supplementary diagnosis is Hard Disk Sentinel, paid version.  There are multiple alternatives available and I would not say that any one is better than the others...other than saying that the manufacturers' utilities are problably best for a accurate analysis of the functional status of their drives.

 

Louis

 



#6 JHMcG

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 09:10 PM

Well TESTHDD has a number of features you don't find with the HDD manufacturers programs.

1) You can start and finish the test at any point on the drive

2) You get a constant readout of the drives readpeed as said relates to that part of the drive being checked.

3) When the check is finished, if there are any unreadable sectors on the drive, you can "Remap" the drive so as to exclude them from being used or even seen by MS programs.

4) It also creates a graph of the drive showing good sectors as being a flat line, and damaged sectors as being spikes upwards from that line; wherein the higher the spike, the worse the damage. (Slow read speed). So if you run TESTHDD on an HDD and it shows a lot of high spikes on the graph, you KNOW the HDD is JUNK even though it passes other tests.

 

And that's not all it can do. Very good freeware program.



#7 w411

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 10:30 PM

IMO...the best tool to use for any recently manufactured drive...would be that devloped by the drive manufacturer, since SMART critieria may vary in importance from one drive manufacturer to another.

 

OTOH...my personal choice for ongoing monitoring and supplementary diagnosis is Hard Disk Sentinel, paid version.  There are multiple alternatives available and I would not say that any one is better than the others...other than saying that the manufacturers' utilities are problably best for a accurate analysis of the functional status of their drives.

 

Louis

 

If the SMART criteria varies in importance among manufacturers, wouldn't that be a reason to not use vendor specific utilities?



#8 w411

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 10:33 PM

One other thought . . . would anyone think it would make any difference in results of a drive utility if you were using a USB dock vs an actual SATA channel?

 

I would guess the SMART information should be the same regardless of the interface?



#9 slgrieb

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 11:29 PM

One other thought . . . would anyone think it would make any difference in results of a drive utility if you were using a USB dock vs an actual SATA channel?

 

I would guess the SMART information should be the same regardless of the interface?

 

One other thought . . . would anyone think it would make any difference in results of a drive utility if you were using a USB dock vs an actual SATA channel?

 

I would guess the SMART information should be the same regardless of the interface?

As long as you are using the drive manufacturer's diagnostics, the interface shouldn't be an issue.  All the same, I agree with hamluis that third party tests are less reliable than your MFG's native tests. I'll admit that there are some exceptions; Hitachi Global Storage isn't updating Drive Fitness Test to work with their newer drives, but I think this is just another reason to avoid Hitachi drives. All the same, you really shouldn't need third party software to test a HDD.


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#10 w411

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 01:40 AM

I appreciate the opinions everyone has offered, I guess my main question now is what are people basing the preference for manufacturer utilities on?  If a third party utility is using the smart stats to come up with a health/fitness analysis . . . and the results indicate a drive in rough shape, wouldn't the manufacturer utility be using the same data?

 

slgrieb:

 

All the same, you really shouldn't need third party software to test a HDD.

 

I don't really understand that statement, if one third party software was able to show you that drives from multiple manufacturers were in bad shape, my thought would be "why would you want a separate utility for every drive manufacturer when a single software can potentially give you the information that a drive is on the decline"

 

The next time I come across a degraded SATA drive I will have to do some investigating and utility comparison, and of course I will post my findings.



#11 hamluis

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 11:24 AM

FWIW:  Hitachi has two utilities :).  The DFT relates to drives by Hitachi, while the HGST Drive Fitness Test...relates to drives manufactured by HGST (not Hitachi).

 

The DFT which is not updated...is for Hitachi drives made before the HGST entity  came into being.  HGST has its own utility for its drives, ,http://www.hgst.com/support/downloads/

 

Just to add to the confusion :).

 

Louis



#12 chromebuster

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 11:54 AM

Do either Seagate or Toshiba have good utilities for their drives?  Because I use HDDHealth to monitor my drives in all of my computers, and just afterr a few months of showing 100%the seagate drive that's in my Dell Latitude E6530 laptop has dropped to 85 percent while the Toshiba MQ drive that's in the modular bay has remained at 100%. 


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#13 hamluis

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 01:32 PM

Seagate, HGST, and Western Digital...on the only major manufacturers of hard drives these days.  Well...that's not correct, see http://www.tomshardware.com/news/wd-toshiba-hdd-hard-drive,14858.html .

 

So it seems that you may have hard drives which ostensibly were manufacturerd by one entitiy...but it's actually something totally different and may not be supported by new owner as far as hard drive diagnostics :).

 

The Toshiba support page, http://storage.toshiba.com/storage-services-support/warranty-support/software-utilities#diagnostic , reflects outdated info and appears as if it is about 5 years behind current events, IMO.

 

Louis


Edited by hamluis, 23 July 2013 - 01:33 PM.


#14 JHMcG

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Posted 24 July 2013 - 06:26 PM

Not so long ago I bought 5 brand new Western Digital 320 Gig Caviar Blue drives for the new machine I am building. I tested them with TESTHDD and one drive had minor secor damage scattered here and there but was otherwise fine. The second one I tested was dead, the bios could not pick it up. The remaining three when tested with TESTHDD had major sector damage. One had high spikes on the whole front third of the drive, another had medium high spikes all over the drive, and the third had high spikes all over the rear third of the drive.

 

Now out of the five of them, One had a starting read speed up around 145,000 -- and the other working ones had starting read speeds down around 95,000 to as low as 75,000.

 

I sent them back to the seller and got my money back then bought five more, and tested 3 of them They didn't test any better than the three working junk ones in the first set.

 

Question : Would Western Digital's HDD checking software have Passed these drives or Failed them ?


Edited by JHMcG, 25 July 2013 - 06:33 AM.


#15 hamluis

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 02:13 PM

There's only way to answer that...run the appropriate diagnostic from WD on the drives...mystery eliminated.

 

FWIW:  SMART is only a predictive tool...and we all know the margins for error in any prediction of anything.  As such, SMART is only an indicator, while I believe that the diagnostics prepared by hard drive manufacturers include SMART factors...those utilities are also used as the standard basis of any attempted RMA for customers claiming drive dysfunction.  If a drive fails the diagnostic...it goes back to the manufacturer with no problem, under warranty provisions (normal warranty period is 3 years, I believe)..

 

Louis


Edited by hamluis, 25 July 2013 - 02:18 PM.





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