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How to Test a Hard Disk

Accurate hard disk monitoring and diagnostic tools are an essential part of every IT admins toolbox. So, we’ve put together a short list of hard disk monitoring and testing tools along with some best practice tips on their operation.

Hard Disk Monitoring and Diagnostic Tools 2018 

For Windows:

Hard Disk Sentinel – nice simple monitoring tool which indicates disk health and temperature.

HDDLife – another reasonably accurate hard disk monitoring tool. Also comes in an SSD variety (SSDLife).

CrystalDiskInfo – Fantastic benchmarking tool which indicates sector reallocation count and un-correctable sector count.

HD Tune – Offers a nice graphical representation of disk performance and scans for errors. Supports SSDs like OCZ and Samsung.

Computer manufacturers like Dell and Lenovo offer their own built-in disk diagnostic tools. The latter offers their Lenovo Solution Center tools while Dell offers their Pre-Boot System Assessment. Both do a reasonable job of testing mechanical hard disks.

Testing a Seagate, WD or HGST hard disk using manufacturer utilities.

The disk manufactures themselves also offer diagnostic tools like SeaTools (Seagate) and WD Lifeguard (Western Digital). HGST offer their Windows Drive Fitness Test (WinDFT). For some reason, Toshiba offer no disk diagnostic tools at all!

 

Testing an Apple Mac hard disk

There is a huge paucity of accurate disk monitoring or testing tools for Apple’s OS X. Many end-users erroneously believe that the “First Aid” utility provided by Disk Utility can check the health of a disk – it does not! It just checks the integrity of the file system.

If you need to test the hard disk in an Apple Mac, we highly recommend SMART Utility from Volitans Software which really stands out from the pack for its accuracy and reliability

Solid State Disks are different…

Because SSDs are designed using manufacturer-specific schemas, for best accuracy you really need to download their own diagnostic utilities. Most of these can be found on the relevant manufacturers’ website.

SanDisk – SanDisk SSD Dashboard

Samsung – Magician

Crucial – Crucial Storage Executive

Best Practice Tips on running Accurate Hard Disk Tests

1) If your hard disk diagnostic test halts half-way through and appears to have frozen. This can be indicative of a defective hard disk.

2) It is important to remember that a hard disk diagnostic test will not always detect early stage failure. This is because most diagnostic utilities only randomly scan certain sectors of the disk. Even a long-diagnostic test might “pass” a disk in the early stages of failure. This is because under most jurisdictions, manufacturers are obliged to offer an RMA policy (return merchandise authorisation) and most have set quite a high threshold for a disk to be deemed “failed”.

3) Most firmware issues will not be detected by hard disk diagnostic utilities.

4) If you suspect software, malware or OS issues are interfering with the accuracy of the test, slave the disk to another system (using a direct M.2 / NGFF/ mSATA / S-ATA / P-ATA connection to the system’s motherboard or just use a USB dock) Alternatively, you can use a bootable ISO containing hard disk diagnostic utilities.

5) Remember that some bootable diagnostics such as Seagate’s SeaTools for Dos will only run if the system’s BIOS/UEFI is in IDE mode (as opposed to AHCI mode)