SEARCH

How-To Geek

How to See if Your Hard Drive is Dying with S.M.A.R.T.

dead-hard-drive

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.

Image Credit: wonderferret on Flickr

Use CrystalDiskInfo

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.

crystaldiskinfo-installer-junk

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.

crystaldiskinfo[4]

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:

wmic

diskdrive get status

wmic-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.

Read More: What Files Should You Backup On Your Windows PC?

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

Comments (54)

  1. Dreko
  2. Bill B

    Never thought SMART technology was very reliable. Have things changed? Also, for drives with problems, you just can’t beat SpinRite from Gibson Research…. this amazing program can (and has for me) saved drives thought to be dead, saved systems that won’t boot and does an all around GREAT job of protecting your data (I am in NO way affiliated with the company, just a very satisfied customer!!).

  3. mouser

    I love CrystalDiskInfo — the one thing I would suggest though is that you really do leave it running resident in the background. It will alert you to high temperatures as well as smart errors. it is a real piece of mind.

  4. TheFu

    SMART really only works when it is too late. From what I’ve read, seems that consistent monitoring of SMART data over time may be helpful, but even “change data” that is not a good predictor.

    Nothing replaces having good backups. Nothing.

    People are always looking for ways to avoid the “B” word, but there is not and probably never will be another alternative that can do so much good as automatic, versioned, backups. With USB3 or NAS, it isn’t nearly as painful as everyone remembers. Versioned (not simple mirrors and definitely NOT RAID) is critical for backups.

  5. BigTech

    SMART can only detect problems. That said the problem must exist before it can be detected. See how that works? The use of SMART is that it’ll detect the small problems that usually hint at larger coming problems and sort of give you a heads up.

    The issue with backups is. What do you back up to? Another HD. There’s no guarantee that HD won’t have or develop a oproblem between the time you back up and the time you need that backup data. DVD’s A good step but honestly a nightmare thanks to the size of HD’s. ironically the best bet for your backups is one of the oldst techs around. Tape drives.

  6. Robert Stevens

    Tapes suck

  7. SR

    Have to agree with Bill B, SpinRite 6 has saved many a hard disk for me. Chkdsk and other tools are ok for the file system, but at the magnetic level – theres nothing better!!!

  8. kwe

    Your warnings are too dire. If there are SMART errors, run chkdsk or SpinRite from grc.com. Errors that can be corrected indicate that the drive is only slowly failing, meaning it is operating normally.

    Also you can’t see SMART through a RAID array with Windows or any SMART tools I’ve ever seen. RAID is common, you should check for it before you finish your articles on disk drives.

  9. BobbyPhoenix

    What is the difference between the two versions? There is CrystalDiskInfo and CrystalDiskInfo Shizuku Edition. Which one should I use?

  10. BobbyPhoenix

    I think I found my own answer. Shizuku is for Japanese voice.

  11. john yessis

    Would formatting the disk fix problems?

  12. Ryan

    no, format does not fix s.m.a.r.t insues
    —————————————————————

    have 99 reallocated sectors is bad? will it stop working after a few weeks?

  13. Toastiejoe

    There is nothing that matches Spinrite for serious disk recovery and maintenance. CrystalDiskInfo may be fine for running something under the OS just to get an idea – Spinrite requires a boot into an imitation DOS – but if there are any signs of problems, the difference is that Spinrite actually does something about them. Usual disclaimer – I’m a fan of Gibson Research, not a financial beneficiary of their business activities.

  14. LC

    The link to download brings you to Optimum Installer – there is nothing about CrystalDiskInfo

  15. Bob Pachella

    When you use Windows own Disk Management app (through Control Panel) and it lists a drive status as “Healthy” what does it base that on? I always thought it was from the SMART data. No?

  16. Tad Parks

    I just tried downloading CrystalDiskInfo. I got a whole lot of junk, even after I unchecked everything that I could. And in the end no CrystalDiskInfo. Free Applications are nice, but not when they come with a lot of gifts that just clutter up your system, and you spend time finding them and uninstalling them (and do they really get uninstalled totally?). I am going to check out the Gibson offering. Please HowToGeek, don’t recommend things that are more problematic than helpful.

  17. Matthew

    Spinrite!
    As the few others have commented – this has saved my butt so many times. This product has been on the market since the 1980′s and is written in assembly language (so it can fit on a USB thumb drive.)
    Back in the MFM days this tool rescued so many hard drives for me. And the latest version works on NTFS.

  18. Korki64

    When DLing ANY program, free or not, you should always very carefully look at each window during installation. CrystalDisk wanted to install a toolbar, but by unchecking the box it only installed the base program.

  19. StevenToorey

    I’ve downloaded some of your ‘free’ stuff–and only ended up with a bunch of junk and garbage… Thanks but no thanks… I’ll stick with the command prompt…

  20. RGR

    This looks good. I use Spinrite a lot, but it is nice to have this monitor active.

    One issue, my boot drive is a Plextor SSD. This program doesn’t seem to get SMART data from it.

  21. Robert Boardman

    Defraggler from Piriform will give the SMART data as well as being a good substitute for the Microsoft built-in defrag tool. It alerted me to a failing hard drive in time to replace it.

  22. Indianatone

    Had a Seagate 1TB drive just fail six months before the end of the 3 year warranty. The machine it was in would go on working fine as it was a TV recording drive. I would here a clunk click noise and it had disappeared from explorer and the bios. Was able to power off the machine and reboot and the drive came back up and worked normally. Transferred all the recordings of Big Bang Theory, Nova and Nature from the drive over the network before it went clunk walkabout again. The replacement should be here today!
    In this case SMART was as dumb as a rock, it still states the drive is GOOD. I suppose it is the actuator seems to be the problem. In my limited experience of this failure it will do this a few times and then die completely.

  23. Rick

    Useless to me. I can’t decipher any for the info it DOES show, and the info I WANT to see (the graph) shows no info at all and there is no advice or instructions on what I’m looking at. I got the program from the hyperlink you supplied no problem but it just doesn’t offer ANY assistance in understanding it. I don’t even have a notion of what I’m looking at or how to ask about it. I do see the the big stupid icon says ‘caution’ but that’s it. no causes, solutions- nothing. very much like a fake anti-virus that says you’re infected but won’t let you do anything with the knowledge.

  24. redBug

    Excellent article. Thanks.
    One of my biggest complaints with web articles is that they rarely indicate the date they were written. The date is important. When someone finds your article via a web search, the date helps to determine how relevant and current the information is. Please include the date at the top of your articles.
    With this particular article, one could get an idea of approximate date by scrolling to the bottom and noting the date of the replies. But, it would be better if the date appeared at the beginning of the article.

  25. Craig

    Had three Seagate hds fail…never buy another.

  26. Bob

    The free Acronis Drive Monitor is the way forward. It regularly checks SMART, disk temperature and the Windows log for drive problems and issues a popup if the problem is severe enough. It can also email you a status report. I have it set to send me a report every morning from all of my machines. I am not associated with Acronis.

  27. Lee Thompson

    S.M.A.R.T. is ok sometimes but definately not a perfect solution. The other issue with SMART is it is a somewhat “loose” standard. Different HDD manufacturers use the values differently and that causes inconsistent results.

    Having said that, SMART *can* alert you to potential problems. The bottom line though, as others have said, nothing beats backups (and tape sucks).

    I am rather surprised that the free, open-source, cross-platform, command line, “smartmontools” weren’t mentioned in the article. The popular tool “speedfan” also reads SMART attributes.

  28. Bj

    Unfortunately for us, Dell computers ship with SMART reporting turned off. And our techs don’t spend the extra few seconds to turn it on.
    We’ve lost a ton of HDs over the years at our hospital. I usually turn it on first when working an HD. And often it tells me right away if there is an issue.
    And it isn’t something that can be fixed later. But make an image now, image a new HD, and everyone is happy, including this underpaid tech…

  29. Richard

    HD Sentinel is better as it can detect smart info through most raid controllers, understandably not free though.

  30. Romberry

    Here’s another shoutout to Gibson Research Corp’s SpinRite. When all else fails, SpinRite may save your arse. And if SpinRite doesn’t bring it back, it’s just about time to give up.

    On SMART, I want to remind people of the big Google drive study from a few years back. One of the findings in that study basically boiled down to “SMART is worthless.” The vast majority of drives that failed during the Google drive study never threw any warnings or errors via SMART. In more than a third of cases, completely borked drives were never offered any SMART reports saying anything besides “All is well!”

    I expect the results of Google’s drive study (Failure Trends in a Large Disk Drive Population) are as valid today as they are when the study was released in early 2007. People wanting to read it can just search for “Google Drive Study.” If you’d like to read some takes on what Google found with respect to SMART, just add SMART to the search.

    One last bit…

    According to the Google study, there are four SMART errors that do have a strong correlation to drive failure. From an article on another site:

    How smart is SMART? Not very, as Google found, and many in the industry already knew. SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) captures drive error data to predict failure far enough in advance so you can back up. Yet SMART focuses on mechanical failures, while a good deal of a disk drive is electronic, so SMART misses many sudden drive failure modes, like power component failure. The Google team found that 36% of the failed drives did not exhibit a single SMART-monitored failure. They concluded that SMART data is almost useless for predicting the failure of a single drive.

    So while your disk drive might crash without warning at any time, they did find that there are four SMART parameters where errors are strongly correlated with drive failure:

    -scan errors
    -reallocation count
    -offline reallocation
    -probational count

    For example, after the first scan error, they found a drive was 39 times more likely to fail in the next 60 days than normal drives. The other three correlations are less striking, but still significant.

  31. LadyFitzgerald

    No media is fail safe, be it HDDS, optical disks, tape, cloud, etc. That is why multiple backups are vital. Backups should be made as soon as data is added to a drive before problems arise to minimize data loss when (note I said when, not if) a HDD fails. The bare minimum should be two backups with one being kept offsite. If all backups are kept with or near the computer, the disaster—theft, fire, flood, etc.—that takes out the computer will also cause the loss of the backups. Having one offsite helps protect against that.

    I keep backups on three HDDs for each HDD in use; two at home and one in a safe deposit box at my credit union (which gets swapped out at least once a month). That way if a backup fails when I need it, I have at least one more. I also run Carbonite on my desktop (I normally don’t keep anything critical on my notebook for very long).

  32. danny

    Here’s a stupid question. Can crystaldiskinfo and the window command prompt trick work for externald hard drives or SSDs??

  33. Tony

    nice thanks i d-loaded this ran the installer and got this ad-aware Win32/OpenCandy how lovely i wont be installing things recommended here again.

  34. Jim

    Hi
    I just tried the commands used to check the SMART status and I get an error msg.
    diskdrive – Alias not found.

    Any ideas why?

    Jim

  35. Erik

    LOL at the photo – imagine that, a DEAD Maxtor!

    One way I found to determine if a drive is ‘going bad’ is to listen to the spin-up and spin-down. If there’s a prolonged spin-up sound or if the spin-down sound sounds like the disk is still spinning seconds after the drive is powered down, it’s a sure sign. Also, picking up the drive and _gently_ rotating it back and forth by its edges is another way to check – if you hear excessive movement, it’s wearing out.

    My experience has been horrible with Seagates. Conner was garbage back in the day, too. Experience has been good with the higher-rated Western Digital models and with Samsung.

  36. PacMan

    The best program for detecting with S.M.A.R.T in my opinion is AIDA64Extreme edition (trial version) (http://www.aida64.com/downloads) and free tool Speedfan ( http://www.almico.com/sfdownload.php) ,this tool is totaly free, anather alternativ’s are Speecy ( http://www.piriform.com/speccy) that detect a basic temperature info. A advanced user’s can use a SiSoftware Sandra lite that is free (www.sisoftware.net) and for diagnostic and repair or disabling bad sector Hard Disc Sentinel (http://www.hdsentinel.com/) with price of 28 euro’s.

  37. Libeccio42

    For your information, the setup.exc downloaded for CrystalDiskInfo was found riddled with malware and tracking buggers by all my detection programs (ESET online scanner, AVG and Malwarebytes). Needles to say, I deleted immediately.

  38. Taha

    @RGR

    SMART is only for Hard drives…. Mechanical drives. It reports any possible mechanical failure which may come up.

    SSDs do not have any mechanical part.

  39. Patrick Outhier

    In my experience as a tech, smart will only help confirm your suspicions but never rely on it.
    Some other things to keep in mind.
    Always have a backup.
    For the love of god clean out your computer every 4 to 6 months!!!
    If you think you might have a bad or failing HDD try replacing your SATA cables and switching SATA ports.
    If your spidey sense is still tingling replace the HDD. If it’s still under warranty RMA it if not put it in a redundant NAS and if it fails no loss.

  40. 11bravo

    I agree with Dreko: use http://www.hdsentinel.com/
    Yes, it’s not free, but most of us have a couple of computers, and how many of us support other family members’ computers. So buying the family license Pro pack (5 licenses) makes it a value pack deal. And they are LIFETIME licenses: lifetime upgrades (and the program is actively maintained – upgrades install automatically) and you can remove program from your old computer, install it on your new using same license. It not only reads, but INTERPRETS the smart data, and provides explanations. Ability to set a desktop gadget to monitor health/temp, and to trigger an audible alarm for failing health/high temps… If you have external hdd’s, and the hdd enclosure controller allows smart data, hdsentinel will show…

  41. Noel Dacara

    @Jim: Check your spelling :)
    At first, I also got the “Alias not found” message.
    It turns out that it was a typographical mistake on my part.
    It’s fine now, it returns an OK status. I’m running Windows 8 Pro.

  42. julea

    great info gyes im wrighting it all down.for us moms at home we need all the help we can get..can i make cds of these and try to use on my vista thats being bad..or thumb thingy..

  43. Jon Lawley

    Do any of these tools support USB Pass-through, thus allowing you to use said utilities to check the health of any external drive?

  44. clamo

    some 3rd party software’s are nice for HDD checking but you really should use the manufactures software for this as its specifically for the drive.

  45. Akiji koiwalakai

    The installer has opencandy, and that is where all of that junk comes from. An ad is an ad, opencandy is adware, cryatal disk info isn’t worth getting that junk installed.

  46. RussellXPD

    I really want to know what went wrong, How-To-Geek. I set off to download Optimizer, with its PLC licence,
    I started the process.

    What I got was predatorware – Games, 7 WONDERS, Shopping Something, rubbish. Also I was pushed through to Optimizer Pro. BUY NOW.

    Just to be clear. When I opted out of these choices I was busted back to the beginning. When I accepted the choices I still ended up with the non-PLC Optimizer PRO.

    I decided to start again. I deleted the accompanied game 7Wonders. – I deleted it 4 times, and still didn’t kill it, either in the program’s Uninstall or In Add Or Remove Programs.

    What are you doing, How-to-Geek? You can’t have intended this outcome.

    This was a bummer. I’m on russeltelfer@netscape.net and it would be really good to hear from you. Have you been taken for a ride? You can’t support this?

    Russ

  47. amith@sharklasers.com

    As the few others have commented – this has saved my butt so many times. This product has been on the market since the 1980′s and is written in assembly language (so it can fit on a USB thumb drive.)
    Back in the MFM days this tool rescued so many hard drives for me. And the latest version works on NTFS.

  48. TimR

    One reason my computer is slow is too many extra programs, and I am not geek enough to know how to clean out the unnecessary. So not wanting to add to the congestion, I tried the Command Line.

    It did not recognize either of the commands you suggested.

    I am running XP Pro, SP3

  49. James

    You can get it from Major Geeks.com, no tool bars added in, I hate tool bars.

  50. Conrad

    This is an excellent article here, enhanced by all those valuable comments. I’ve never tried Spinrite, so ill add that in my program repository to test on a samsung thought-to-be-dead HDD. The comment on the program DEFFRAGLER is encouraging since it does read data from S.M.A.R.T. Good to know that linux has it’s own built-in SMART reader.

  51. Bruce Thomas

    I downloaded and ran the CrystalDiskInfo last night. It came with the Whitesmoke Community Toolbar as a rider. That is apparently a nasty piece of malware, as those who follow you must know.

    Although I was able to prevent Whitesmoke from installing itself, there was no checkbox during the set up that enabled declining it.

    I really appreciate the newsletter and read it daily, but I will no longer regard your recommendations as being safe without further research.

  52. rajzoo1

    very good

  53. Alan

    Can any one give a step by step as to how to install and use spin rite.
    I could not get it to make a usb boot disc i kept getting failed to format error.
    Any tips would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks

  54. Yu

    @Korki64, Bruce Thomas and others regarding Adware: Yes it is a problem. And it gets worse by installers that force you to do unintuitive clicks to prevent the Adware from installing (such as unclicking a checkbox AND clicking abort, or hiding the adware in the advanced setup options). Freeware needs some form of funding and I’m okay with having to uncheck checkboxes during installation, but a lot of free-ware recently goes too far in trying to force the stuff unto you.

    Worst was PDF Creator, where even after declining the install explicitly a toolbar would get installed, that was one hell difficult to get rid of — the toolbar was uninstalled but still firefox kept going back to using the homepage as startup page after every reboot. On a side note, I had the installer from sourceforge.

    Recently even Oracle’s Java updates (!) want me to install “Ask Toolbar”. Honestly, with freeware there no longer seems a way around at least being very careful to deny all extras.

Enter Your Email Here to Get Access for Free:

Go check your email!