Your PC’s hard disk stores all of your relevant data, and any potential damage to the device has the potential of endangering your data, as well, unfortunately.
On the other hand, a hard disk has a limited lifespan, and it will eventually get corrupted sooner or later. Therefore, letting your data depend on it is not the best option we recommend.
If you are not aware of the condition of your hard drives, you may not be able to save your essential data before it’s too late.
You have to become conscious of the fact that not all hard drive crashes are random and this is why you have to know when it’s time to back up your data before it fails beyond return.
You really have to make sure that all your essential information is backed up before anything nasty might happen to your hard disk.
A recommended solution is keeping tabs on your hard drive’s health so, in case something goes wrong, you will quickly be able to back things up.
Solutions & alternatives for monitoring your hard drives
Here are your solutions and alternatives for keeping an eye on your HDD’s health:
All last-gen drives come with a monitoring technology called S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology). This tool is targeted at continuously monitoring a certain number of parameters on a hard drive.
Various parameters can be efficiently monitored using S.M.A.R.T., and these also include read and write error rates, spin-up time, seek error rates, temperature, and more important elements.
To actually warn you when some of these crucial parameters are degrading or reaching their threshold you need a program that can track down all of these changes and that will also show them to you.
You must get the opportunity to test and see whether your hard drive is capable of safely storing your data, to have enough time to backup essential files and to start looking for a replacement in case it becomes necessary due to various reasons.
A monitoring program alone may be not fully capable of showing you whether the integrity of your files can be preserved on a particular hard drive.
It’s an excellent idea to scan for an unreadable or bad block of data with available tools at least once a month to make sure that your drive is not degrading and your data is not being lost.
S.M.A.R.T. for checking your HDD’s health
S.M.A.R.T. is the embedded monitoring system that comes implemented in most modern HDD or SSD, but unfortunately, it will only let itself be known to users only when an imminent hardware failure is on its way.
All the main HDD manufacturers recommend an occasional check of your disk status and also running some surface tests and benchmarks.
We gathered a list of 14 tools for checking your HDD’s health, as well, as they can best predict and protect from the unavoidable circumstances of hard drive failure.
Anyway, most of the utilities usually incorporate the built-in S.M.A.R.T. feature mentioned above, and it will definitely help them offer more information regarding indicators of disk reliability.
What is the best software to check your HDD health?
- IOLO System Mechanic Pro
- HD Tune
- PassMark DiskCheckup
- Samsung HUTIL
- Seagate SeaTool
- Bart’s Stuff Test
- Fujitsu Diagnostic Tool
- Windows Drive Fitness Test (WinDFT)
- Ariolic Disk Scanner
- Western Digital Data Lifeguard Diagnostic (DLGDIAG)
- Free EASIS Drive Check
- Macrorit Disk Scanner
We recommend: Iolo System Mechanic Pro
Talking about HDD, System Mechanic keeps it safe via its different tools and provides you a maximum of information about it.
You don’t have to bother about taking any actions – the paid version not only scans and provides you information about the errors but also fixes them.
Iolo System Mechanic is one of the 7 software products included in the comprehensive security, privacy and optimization package Phoenix 360. If you are interested, you should definitely take advantage of its current discount from $79.95 to $39.95.
This is a useful benchmark for testing your hard drive performance. The free version of this tool provides a useful benchmark and also a block scanner that works well with both external and internal hard drives.
This utility features a graphical benchmark to bench internal/external hard drive performances, and it will scan for bad blocks of data on internal/external drives with a graphical diagram.
It will also display S.M.A.R.T. attributes, power on hours, and more general info for the internal drives only. You can make the program portable by copying HDTune.exe to the desired folder after installation.
Unfortunately, the free version is not being updated anymore, so you will have to get a paid-for Pro version to get more advanced features.
This hard drive testing software is free for personal use. For starters, you will have to download a small 2MB file, and the install process will be an easy one.
Under the S.M.A.R.T. Info tab in the program you’ll see the current state and the values of attributes such as spin up time, raw read error rate, reported uncorrectable errors, load cycle count, power on time, temperature, current pending sector count, command timeout, total LBAs read, head flying hours and free fall protection.
The option Record SMART attributes for TEC computation from the Configuration window records a history of the characteristics monitored by DickCheckup that can be used to get an estimation on when they will spiral out of control and then potentially fail.
DiskCheckup is also able to run two types of Disk Self Tests: a short one (5 minutes) and an Extended one (up to 45 minutes).
This way, the HUTIL OS is an independent one, and it’s a better testing tool that those which are designed for using them within the Windows OS.
You can also run it from a bootable floppy disk if you are an old-school user.
It is important to remember that this particular tool will only scan Samsung hard drives and if you’re using another one the tool will load but it will not be able to scan and run any diagnosis on your drive.
As the HUTIL is a bootable program, you will need a working hard drive and operating system to burn it to a disk or a USB device.
Seagate SeaTool is a free hard drive testing software. The version for Windows (there is another one for DOS) is a program that will install on your Windows OS.
You can use it for both basic and advanced testing of any drive (both internal or external) that comes from any manufacturer.
For the users who are looking for SeaTools Desktop, SeaTools Online software or the Maxtor’s PowerMax, you should be noticed that Seagate has replaced all three tools above and it currently owns the Maxtor brand.
The tool is excellent for testing hard drives by professional computer services, but it is also easy enough to be used by anyone else.
This is a user-friendly freeware program that can monitor the S.M.A.R.T. attributes, and that will display drive information and disk temperature.
It comes with various editions that include more themes and multiple language support. The installer may come with more software so be careful as you might want to uncheck it from the installation process.
The program uses a simple interface that will display information concerning the S.M.A.R.T. attributes status of your hard drive, hardware specs, and temperature. In case there is a problem, you will be able to find it in the attributes list.
This is a free Windows-based hard drive stress test.
The tool is a nice addition to your hard disk testing arsenal, and it is the most useful in case you are having problems while testing with an ISO based tool but you would still want something more besides the Windows default tool.
It will scan any drive, and it’s effortless to use. The tool is portable, and you will not have to install it, and it will work with Windows 10 through Windows 95.
The program is ideal for testing the read-write speed and the reliability of any hard drive out there.
This can run various hard drive tests, and it will offer very detailed results, and it will also give you an overall health assessment of your drive.
You will be able to check out the S.M.A.R.T. attributes values such as the calibration retry count, the multi-zone error rate, the power cycle count, and more.
The tool can run three types of test targeted at finding drive faults: the short self-test (it takes 2 minutes, and its goal is to detect a completely damaged hard drive)), the extended self-test (it takes around 70 minutes, and it examines the whole surface of the drive), and the conveyance self-test (it will take 5 minutes, and it is supposed to find damages that occurred during the transportation of the drive).
This is a free hard drive testing tool destined for Fujitsu hard drives as you may have guessed by now. It comes available in both a Windows version and as an independent OS bootable DOS version.
You can use the tool for a quick test which will last for about 3 minutes and for a comprehensive test which is more complex. If you have another hard drive beside Fujitsu, it will not work with it.
The Windows version of the program should work with all versions of the OS from Windows 10 to Windows 2000.
HDDScan is built to support all types of hard drives, no matter who their manufacturer is. The tool is a portable one, and after download, you will be able to run it directly without having to install it first.
It can directly check the S.M.A.R.T. attributes status of your hard drive, or you can access a vast variety of tests and features.
It supports RAID volumes, and it will also be able to run a surface test for them. The surface tests include writing, reading, and erasing in linear.
All the tests that are performed will be added to the Test Manager section, and they will be queued to launch when each of them is completed.
Windows Drive Fitness Test (WinDFT) is a free hard drive diagnose tool available for being used on most drives that are available these days.
Unfortunately, even if this tool is built for the Windows OS, you will not be able to scan the drive which has the Windows OS installed on it. Only USB and the other internal hard drives will be able to get scanned by this software.
If a connected hard drive is not compatible with WinDFT, there will be displayed a prompt saying this, and the drive will not be listed.
This tool can run a scan against multiple drives in consecutive order, it is straightforward to use, and it will also let you erase a hard drive. The tool includes a portable version as well.
This is just a read-only scan of a drive, and it’s used to check for bad sectors.
Its interface is minimal as it only features one button. It is very easy to understand if any parts of your drives contain any bad sectors. It will list the files where the read error occurred.
Western Digital Data Lifeguard Diagnostic (DLGDIAG) is a free hard drive tool for testing only Western Digital branded hard drives. The software is available for download in both a portable Windows software and as a bootable ISO file.
It will allow more hard drive tests and the Windows version work on Windows 10 through Windows XP.
The tool is easy to use and it features an uncluttered interface. It supports both internal and external hard drives, and it will display basic hard drive information. It can also function as a simple data destruction tool.
Free EASIS Drive Check
This hard drive tester has two main testing utility built-ins: a sector test and a S.M.A.R.T. value reader. The S.M.A.R.T. test can display more than 40 values about a hard drive, and the sector test will only check the surface of the media for a few reading reports.
The reports from all tests can be read straight from the software when the tests are complete, and they can also be configured to be sent to the user’s by email or to get printed.
It is effortless to use, and it supports both external and internal hard drives. It works best on Windows 10 and Windows 8 OSs.
This simple program looks for bad sectors on a hard drive, and it’s very easy to use. You can install it pretty quickly, and it is also available as a portable program.
You will see that most of its screen will be utilized as a visual representation of the progress of the scan and it will indicate very precise where the damage is. You will also be able to see how much time is left before the scan is finally over.
You can choose any of the tools mentioned above for checking your hard disk health on your Windows PC.
If you don’t need extra details then the Windows built-in tool should be able to do the job, if you want more advanced results, that a third party hard disk health checking tool will turn out to be your best bet.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2016 and has been since revamped and updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness. We want to be sure that our list has the best products that will fit your needs.