Hard drives use S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) to gauge their own reliability and determine if they’re failing. You can view your hard drive’s S.M.A.R.T. data and see if it has started to develop problems.
Unfortunately, Windows doesn’t have an easy-to-use built-in tool that shows your hard disk’s S.M.A.R.T. data. We will need a third-party tool to view this information, though there is a way to check your S.M.A.R.T. status from the command prompt.
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CrystalDiskInfo is an easy-to-use, open-source program that can quickly display the S.M.A.R.T. status reported by your hard drive in Windows. You can download it for free – however, be sure to uncheck the browser widget when installing it.
Once it is installed, all you have to do is launch the CrystalDiskInfo application to view the S.M.A.R.T. status information for your hard drives. If everything is working properly, you should see the status Good displayed.
CrystalDiskInfo also displays other information about your hard drive, including its current temperature and hardware specifications. If there is a problem, you can identify what exactly is wrong with the hard drive.
If you are particularly paranoid, you can enable the Function –> Resident (to keep CrystalDiskInfo running in your system tray) and Function –> Startup (to have CrystalDiskInfo automatically start with your computer) options to leave CrystalDiskInfo always running in the background. If your S.M.A.R.T. status changes, CrystalDiskInfo will pop up and alert you.
Checking S.M.A.R.T. Without Third-Party Tools
To do a quick S.M.A.R.T. check without installing any third-party software, you can use a few commands included with Windows. First, open a Command Prompt window. (Press the Windows key, type Command Prompt, and press Enter.)
In the Command Prompt window, type the following commands, pressing Enter after each:
diskdrive get status
If everything is working properly, you should see the status OK displayed. Other statuses can indicate problems or errors retrieving S.M.A.R.T. information.
Help, My Hard Drive Is Dying!
If you have used either of these tools – or another reputable program – and have seen an error, this does not mean your hard drive is going to fail immediately. However, if there’s a S.M.A.R.T. error, you should assume that your hard drive is in the process of failing. A complete failure could come in a few minutes, a few months, or – in some cases — even a few years. However long it takes, you should not trust the hard drive with your data in the meantime.
Ensure you have up-to-date backups of all your files stored on another media, such as an external hard drive or burned discs. You should always have up-to-date backups anyway, as hard drives can fail at any time.
With your files properly backed up, you should look into replacing your hard drive as soon as possible. A hard drive that fails a S.M.A.R.T. test should not be considered reliable. Even if your hard drive doesn’t die completely, it could corrupt portions of your data.
Of course, hardware isn’t perfect – hard drives can fail without any S.M.A.R.T. warnings. However, S.M.A.R.T. often gives you some advance warning when your hard drive is starting to fail.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 01/25/13