In addition to monitoring a variety of parameters related to
mechanical events (disk platter RPM, time to spin up, motor current,
head seek failures, and sudden shock to the drive chassis),
S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) can
report read and write retry attempts necessary due to defective areas
on the disk or head failure or drive temperature. Many
S.M.A.R.T.-enabled drives can also report
how many times they have been turned on and off and the number of
hours the drive has been on.
If S.M.A.R.T. is enabled in your system
BIOS, the BIOS will
check and report any early or permanent signs of disk failure. You
can also monitor your drive's condition with a
S.M.A.R.T.-aware disk monitoring program.
To view all available S.M.A.R.T. information about your drive, try
the free DiskCheck utility from http://www.passmark.com/products/diskcheckup.htm.
DiskCheck is a nonresident utility that will show you exact drive
information and all of the supported S.M.A.R.T. statuses from your
drive. There's also Ariolic
Software's ActiveSMART (http://www.ariolic.com/activesmart/) resident
monitoring tool, which provides a wealth of detail on drive status
and notification of potential failures. If you get a S.M.A.R.T.
warning about a drive failing, back up your data immediately and
replace the drive.
Hacking the Hack
A failing disk drive is no fun. A failed disk drive is even less so.
In my work in various IT shops, I've encountered a
lot of grieving "Have I lost all of my
data?" looks from end users. It is indeed a sad
time, but an opportunity to become a hero. If you can spend the time
with various tools to attempt, and even better succeed, at saving
someone else's work, you can feel like you actually
accomplished something in the course of your day besides resetting
some forgetful user's password or plugging their
mouse back in.
A plethora of disk drive repair and data recovery tools
are available to help you emulate that fictional superhero
"Super DataMan." (OK, he
doesn't really exist, I made him up...)
I've long since given up on the pedestrian Norton
Utilities like Norton Disk Doctor because it does not do enough to
spend the time running it, especially for those really cranky lost
partitions, erratic mechanical problems inside the drive, and when
S.M.A.R.T. says the drive is bad or going to be bad soon.
When it's time to
recover partitions and data I unlock my arsenal of serious disk
recovery tools, which are:
If your own data recovery efforts fail, you can always resort to a
data recovery service like Ontrack (http://www.ontrack.com) or ActionFront