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I am aware that the current standard method of drive redundancy and backups would be a better solution, but I would be interested if there was a software that could be installed on workstation computers that could monitor hard drive health and give a warning if the drive looks like a failure is imminent. I have tried hdd health but it does not give me very useful information. I am not interested in drive space, just want a heads up before a drive failure. Anyone know anything like this?

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Anything that can read SMART statistics should do the trick. You don't mention which OS you're running on, so I'd start with SMART in your favourite search engine. Remember that SMART should be enabled in the BIOS as well. –  user3914 Jan 16 '11 at 5:34
    
Thanks Randolph, I have several machines on different platforms doing different tasks (windows 2000,xp, 7, 2008 server, home server, osx, ubuntu, arch) but my windows home server is the one I would most like to apply this to. I have another TB hdd I want to add and could use the space as this computer holds all backups from all machines. I will likely add it as a mirror for the existing one. If there was an option for a reliable drive monitoring software that could actual predict failure that i did not know about and was actually worth trusting that would have been very worth it. –  RandyMorris Jan 18 '11 at 5:01

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The standard mechanism for hard drive health reporting is called SMART. This Google Labs Report (PDF) makes a strong case that the SMART data is mostly worthless.

'hdd health' probably extracts SMART data from drives, that's what all other hard drive health tools do as far as I know.

Thus I believe the only effective way to guard against drive failure remains the use of redundant drives.

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Great answer, I am going to agree with you at this point and go with redundancy. –  RandyMorris Jan 18 '11 at 5:04

With the greatest respect to Phil, I've heard this mis-statement of the Google Labs report too many times to let it pass again. They do not say the SMART data is "mostly worthless".

What they say is that "several parameters from the drive’s self monitoring facility (SMART) ... correlate highly with failures", specifically that "some SMART parameters (scan errors, reallocation counts, offline reallocation counts, and probational counts) have a large impact on failure probability". But "given the lack of occurrence of predictive SMART signals on a large fraction of failed drives, it is unlikely that an accurate predictive failure model can be built based on these signals alone."

What this amounts to is that:

  1. if SMART tells you your drive is failing, then it almost certainly is, and you're an idiot if you don't get your data off it as soon as possible. But,

  2. just because SMART doesn't tell you that your drive is failing, that doesn't mean it's not on the way out.

The Google Labs report also makes no mention of the SMARTctl test modes (smartctl --test=), many of which can be run with the drive in service. My experience has been that regularly running smartctl tests (once a month, say) is enough to bring to SMART's attention most errors which wouldn't otherwise be reported; certainly since making a practice of this, the rate at which I've been surprised by drive failures has dropped off by (I'd estimate) around 50%.

I should add that I completely agree with Phil about the use of redundant drives. With the exception of laptops, I would never put a single HDD in service any more. Discs are so cheap that you should buy and deploy them in pairs (preferably from different vendors, to avoid putting two drives from a single manufacturing batch in a RAID-1 together).

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+1 to MadHatter for an excellent rebuttal. I definitely glossed over the facts of that google report. –  Phil Hollenback Jan 16 '11 at 22:18
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Kudos to you too, Phil, for being so gracious in receipt. –  MadHatter Jan 16 '11 at 22:47
    
Thanks to both of you for excellent responses and top notch communication skills. –  RandyMorris Jan 18 '11 at 5:07
    
+1 for points 1. and 2. –  techie007 Feb 26 '11 at 17:33

Drive Health is a Windows program that helps you to estimate your hard disks Life Resource. This tool allows you to predict possible HDD failure and prevent losing the critical data. To estimate hard disk life our program uses special S.M.A.R.T. technology that is supported by the most of hard disk manufacturers.

For download this just go to following url:

http://www.helexis.com/download/dhsetup.zip

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Given what Google Labs have to say about SMART's ability to predict drive failures, you may wish to take your own position on the wisdom of using this software as your sole early-warning system. –  MadHatter Jan 16 '11 at 22:50

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