I have a PowerEdge 1850 running two SCSI Ultra 320 drives (10k 73gb). I am looking for recommendations on boot disks / methods to run a boot time surface scan. I would like to do this at boot time because I have lots of drives to test and don't want to install an OS on all of them.

I am also looking for a fairly generic solution that is not tied to a particular drive brand.


If you don't want to spend any money, download a Linux livecd (my favorite http://www.sysresccd.org/), and run badblocks.

  • Non destructive read and write test, badblocks -c 2048 -sn /dev/sdi
    • this will re-write every block.
  • Destructive read and write test badblocks -c 2048 -sw /dev/sde
  • Read only test badblocks -c 2048 -s /dev/sde

The -c option tells it to operate on more then 1 block at a time, which allows it to run faster. If you have lots of memory then larger values will help. On my 1GB system I typically use -c 10240.

  • Agreed 'badblocks -s -w $THE_DISK' is a great way to test storage before deploying it. – sciurus Aug 31 '11 at 19:18
  • badblocks is a good tool for doing a quick & dirty scan of the disk, but if it identifies something bad, it doesn't try & recover the underlying data. It just marks the block as bad & moves on. (which may be all you want) – TheCompWiz Aug 31 '11 at 19:20
  • If you wanted to get the underlying data, then you would fire up dd_rescue or other recovery tools, also available on the most linux livecds. – Zoredache Aug 31 '11 at 21:08

There's always a chance for issues with raid-controllers... in that without an OS and drivers, there is no way to access the disks. Sometimes, (on good controllers anyway) the raid-controller will operate in some sort of simple-mode until the drivers are loaded, and then you will be able to use the full feature-set of the raid controller. If this is the case, you can use almost any bootable disk tools to do almost anything to the disks.

I highly recommend looking at GRC's spinRite as it's probably the best tool for doing surface scans & recovery. It's completely OS agnostic, so it doesn't matter if you're using windows or linux or whatever flavor of OS/file-system/whatever on that disk. They have ISO bootable images as well as thumb-drive based images you can use to boot directly into the tool without an existing OS on the machine as well.

  • I wouldn't recommend SpinRite. groups.google.com/group/comp.dcom.xdsl/msg/… – sciurus Aug 31 '11 at 19:13
  • @sciurus You really shouldn't read the rantings of one uninformed user that really doesn't understand what the tool does. It's not magic... there's actual practical science behind how it works. – TheCompWiz Aug 31 '11 at 19:18
  • There are many sources online that document why Steve Gibson lacks credibility. allthatiswrong.wordpress.com/2009/10/11/steve-gibson-is-a-fraud is a good starting place. – sciurus Aug 31 '11 at 19:35
  • 1
    @sciurus Not really a good starting place for anything other than an argument leading to nowhere. Your comments are off-topic, and unrelated. Your only comment about SpinRite is more than 10 years old, and was made by a single person who has already demonstrated that he has a personal vendetta against Steve Gibson. – TheCompWiz Aug 31 '11 at 19:43
  • 1
    In that first link, it states that SpinRite is 10% legitimate, and I believe that for the purposes of what the OP wants to do (scan for bad sectors) is something that it can do credibly, even 10 years ago. – Mark Henderson Aug 31 '11 at 20:31

Try SpinRite from http://www.grc.com

  • lol... beat you to it :D – TheCompWiz Aug 31 '11 at 19:01

Have you tried using the PowerEdge diagnostics from Dell? These are usually accessible from the POST screen, and can also be downloaded as a CD image from Dell's support site (double-check the version and its compatibility with your server).

Otherwise SpinRite is a great generic tool as others have already suggested.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.