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Monitor your Hard Drive’s Health with Acronis Drive Monitor

Are you worried that your computer’s hard drive could die without any warning?  Here’s how you can keep tabs on it and get the first warning signs of potential problems before you actually lose your critical data.

Hard drive failures are one of the most common ways people lose important data from their computers.  As more of our memories and important documents are stored digitally, a hard drive failure can mean the loss of years of work.  Acronis Drive Monitor helps you avert these disasters by warning you at the first signs your hard drive may be having trouble.  It monitors many indicators, including heat, read/write errors, total lifespan, and more. It then notifies you via a taskbar popup or email that problems have been detected.  This early warning lets you know ahead of time that you may need to purchase a new hard drive and migrate your data before it’s too late.

Getting Started

Head over to the Acronis site to download Drive Monitor (link below).  You’ll need to enter your name and email, and then you can download this free tool.

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Also, note that the download page may ask if you want to include a trial of their for-pay backup program.  If you wish to simply install the Drive Monitor utility, click Continue without adding.

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Run the installer when the download is finished.  Follow the prompts and install as normal.

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Once it’s installed, you can quickly get an overview of your hard drives’ health.  Note that it shows 3 categories: Disk problems, Acronis backup, and Critical Events.  On our computer, we had Seagate DiskWizard, an image backup utility based on Acronis Backup, installed, and Acronis detected it.

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Drive Monitor stays running in your tray even when the application window is closed.  It will keep monitoring your hard drives, and will alert you if there’s a problem.

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Find Detailed Information About Your Hard Drives

Acronis’ simple interface lets you quickly see an overview of how the drives on your computer are performing.  If you’d like more information, click the link under the description.  Here we see that one of our drives have overheated, so click Show disks to get more information.

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Now you can select each of your drives and see more information about them.  From the Disk overview tab that opens by default, we see that our drive is being monitored, has been running for a total of 368 days, and that it’s health is good.  However, it is running at 113F, which is over the recommended max of 107F.

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The S.M.A.R.T. parameters tab gives us more detailed information about our drive.  Most users wouldn’t know what an accepted value would be, so it also shows the status.  If the value is within the accepted parameters, it will report OK; otherwise, it will show that has a problem in this area.

One very interesting piece of information we can see is the total number of Power-On Hours, Start/Stop Count, and Power Cycle Count.  These could be useful indicators to check if you’re considering purchasing a second hand computer.  Simply load this program, and you’ll get a better view of how long it’s been in use.

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Finally, the Events tab shows each time the program gave a warning.  We can see that our drive, which had been acting flaky already, is routinely overheating even when our other hard drive was running in normal temperature ranges.

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Monitor Acronis Backups And Critical Errors

In addition to monitoring critical stats of your hard drives, Acronis Drive Monitor also keeps up with the status of your backup software and critical events reported by Windows.  You can access these from the front page, or via the links on the left hand sidebar.  If you have any edition of any Acronis Backup product installed, it will show that it was detected.  Note that it can only monitor the backup status of the newest versions of Acronis Backup and True Image.

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If no Acronis backup software was installed, it will show a warning that the drive may be unprotected and will give you a link to download Acronis backup software.

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If you have another backup utility installed that you wish to monitor yourself, click Configure backup monitoring, and then disable monitoring on the drives you’re monitoring yourself.

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Finally, you can view any detected Critical events from the Critical events tab on the left.

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Get Emailed When There’s a Problem

One of Drive Monitor’s best features is the ability to send you an email whenever there’s a problem.  Since this program can run on any version of Windows, including the Server and Home Server editions, you can use this feature to stay on top of your hard drives’ health even when you’re not nearby.  To set this up, click Options in the top left corner.

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Select Alerts on the left, and then click the Change settings link to setup your email account.

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Enter the email address which you wish to receive alerts, and a name for the program.  Then, enter the outgoing mail server settings for your email.  If you have a Gmail account, enter the following information:

Outgoing mail server (SMTP): smtp.gmail.com
Port: 587
Username and Password: Your gmail address and password

Check the Use encryption box, and then select TLS from the encryption options.

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It will now send a test message to your email account, so check and make sure it sent ok.

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Now you can choose to have the program automatically email you when warnings and critical alerts appear, and also to have it send regular disk status reports.

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Conclusion

Whether you’ve got a brand new hard drive or one that’s seen better days, knowing the real health of your it is one of the best ways to be prepared before disaster strikes.  It’s no substitute for regular backups, but can help you avert problems.  Acronis Drive Monitor is a nice tool for this, and although we wish it wasn’t so centered around their backup offerings, we still found it a nice tool.

Link

Download Acronis Drive Monitor (registration required)

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!

  • Published 06/16/10

Comments (12)

  1. Anne

    Thanks – very helpful….(I hope). I just gave this a test run. After nearly having a stroke over the reallocated sectors count (2147483647) and bracing myself for the imminent death of my hard drive, I wandered off to the Acronis knowledge base to find there are some known hard drive conflicts – Fujitsu especially. In fact, they indicated that the SMART report often returned a sector count of ….2147483647. So – check here before you panic. http://kb.acronis.com/content/11418 Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any issues there.

    This gave me pause for thought…I’m not concerned about losing *most* of my stuff; I regularly back up my data, but …what about downloaded programs, for which there is no disk alternative? I’m not a newbie, but not a pro either. So, how do I “back-up” or copy downloaded programs? More specifically, how do I identify all the relevant files?

  2. Bobby Phoenix

    @Anne

    The best way to “back up” all your programs is to do a disc image. If your running Windows 7 it has one built in. When you run the back-up utility you have the option to do a disc image. You can also do one by itself. That way if your drive ever does die you can replace it, and use the image you saved to “re-install” everything as if the drive never did die. If you don’t have Windows 7 you can find great thrid party software. Just search for it, and read some reviews to see what one fits your needs. For me the built in one is great. Saved me once already.

  3. Matthew Guay

    @Anne – Another good way is to just save a copy of your downloaded programs to an external drive or DVD. Make sure to keep up with your keys for purchased software, and then you’ll always be able to reinstall everything. Plus, you can often redownload the stuff when you need it, so just keep a list of what you like, and your keys, and you should be good :)

  4. Erik

    That it asks for your gmail password in order to simply send it an email seems disconcerting to me. I’m not so sure about this program.

  5. Anne

    Thanks very much for the help, guys. Bobby – I don’t see anything in Windows 7 (Home Premium 32-bit) on disc imaging – maybe the Ultimate or Pro versions only?

  6. Anne

    Final update – found the disc image and all backup up. Thx.

  7. awraynor

    Just my opinion. I tried the build in backup program in Win7 and when I tried to restore from it, it didn’t work. So, save a backup and try to restore from it if you can to make sure it will work when you really need it.

  8. Matthew Guay

    @Erik – This is no different that your email program, such as Outlook or Thunderbird, asking for your email. It’s just using it to authenticate with your email server, but hey, if you don’t want to use the email feature, you can always just not enter your email address information!

  9. jrsyangl

    A few things I do not understand:
    1) In the example(and on my system) under SMART parameters, the seek and read error rates are high, over the threshold, but the status is OK. How come?
    2) The “airflow tehperature” value is 55, presumably in C, is over the thrreshold of 45, but again the status is OK. Also, 55C is 131F which is not the same as as the reported disk Temp of 113.
    3) A good explanation of the meaning of the SMART column headings might alleviate the confusion.

  10. Franny Zupancic

    It says both of my hard drives are not supported. Did I hook something up wrong when I built my computer…?

    Where can I find scripts to get them to work?

  11. Matthew Guay

    @Franny – No, it could just be that your hard drives and/or motherboard do not support SMART monitoring. You could try looking up your hard drives and/or motherboard online to see if there is a custom script for them, but I don’t know of a central place that would have scripts for drives. The help menu in Drive Monitor has more information about custom scripting, so you try to make your own script if you want.

  12. Tom

    Thanks Matt,
    Really appreciate this article. The s/w is exactly what I was looking for. Thank You.

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