HOW-TO: Monitor Hard Drive Health

If there is one thing I know for sure as a system administrator -- it is disaster strikes when you least expect it. This is true for just about every aspect of the sysad job. But this is likewise very true for life outside the professional arena. Your computer can have a disaster when you least expect it. This is why it is important to monitor your own computer. And if monitoring is not enough, ensure that it alerts you as well.

I decided to post this article due to a recent experience that saved me from what could have been a potentially big headache. I started noticing my computer freezing at odd times when I'm in the middle of doing something. It irritated me a lot of times but I was just busy finishing up some work to really mind the problem. So I ended up ignoring it to focus on more important things that I need to finish.

Just last week my computer froze and it just simply will not respond for a while. The drive activity LED was flashing indicating a busy drive. I wasn't doing anything so initially, I suspected it to be a virus. Nothing suspicious was running on the task manager and it would happen from time to time -- frequent enough to warrant my attention this time.

I had Acronis Drive Monitor (download here) installed before. I simply stopped it from starting since some startup analyzer suggested I disable it. I decided to run it this time.

I was a bit surprised at what I saw as the drive monitor alerted that something was critical about the health of my hard drive. The screenshot below has the details.

As you can see from the screenshot, it rated my drive health at 60%. The S.M.A.R.T. attributes of my drive triggered the drive monitor alerting me of the criticality of the situation.

As checked, the "Reallocation Event Count" on my hard drive was through the roof. Further research on this attribute indicated my drive had a lot of bad sectors (thus the reallocation events). And it indicated the imminent failure of the hard drive. The same drive monitor has the S.M.A.R.T. parameters tab. See below.

As seen from the status, it indicated that my drive was failing. So without further ado, I commissioned another drive and copied the contents of the failing drive to it. The drive monitor saved me from a potentially difficult situation. I wasn't much concerned about losing the hard drive, but more of the data in it.

If you have not installed the Acronis Drive Monitor, download the software and install it on your computer. It is freely available from the Acronis website as indicated above. Just let it run in the background and it will alert you of potential problems before they happen. You will not regret using this software.


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