How to Monitor and Improve Your Hard Drive’s Health

By Tek-Tools on March 23, 2020

A hard drive is made up of several sensitive and complex components working on the scale of nanometers. While manufacturers try to make these devices resilient, sometimes they fail to work as expected. They may get physical damage or undergo a mechanical shock. Regular usage of hard drive causes wear and tear leading to disk errors, logical corruption, and hard drive failures. Taking a backup of your hard drive is the first thing you should do as it helps in recovering lost files and folders. Besides this, monitoring your hard drive’s health using commercial tools helps. These tools proactively detect issues and improve the reliability of the overall system. Outlined below are some effective methods and tools to help check your hard drive’s health.

Monitoring Vital Disk Stats

Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART)

Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART) is a disk monitoring system to determine your drive’s health. It alerts you by showing warning signs in case of imminent drive failure or error. Most of the modern storage drives, including eMMC, storage media, and solid-state drives support SMART, so they can perform necessary self-monitoring tests. In case you’re using Windows which doesn’t provide an easy-to-use built-in tool to view the SMART data, you can see the status from Command Prompt. However, it would be best if you use third-party tools like Stellar Data Recovery Premium software, CrystalDiskInfo, and Storage Resource Monitor (SRM) to get a detailed report of SMART disk info. These tools include a GUI-based Drive Monitor to scan the disk on the go.

Physically Inspect your Drive

The simplest way to inspect your drive is to find out if it makes a whirring, grinding, or screeching sound. It could be a mechanical error if the data on your external or internal drive is often corrupted. To secure your data, you need to duplicate your drive with drive-cloning software and copy all your data in a new hard drive.

Run a Speed Test

Running a speed test is the simplest way to check the performance of your hard drive. Using tools like CrystalDiskMaster and Storage Resource Monitor (SRM), you can efficiently test the read/write speeds of SD card, SSD, hard drive, and USB thumb drive. If the speed test results are lower than the read/write capability of the drive mentioned on the product’s website, it indicates your hard drive is facing underlying issues such as a head stack or motor failure. To ensure your drive is in good health, you should run disk optimization tasks mentioned below.

Run Disk Optimization Tasks

Disk Defragmentation

Regular operations on a hard drive such as read, write, and deletion of data causes fragmentation which leads to slow I/O Speeds. A large number of fragments or discontinuous regions are formed and put more stress on the drive as it needs to move faster and rotate more to access the chunks of data. This causes overheating and drive failure. Disk defragmentation helps to remove those fragments and allow your hard drive to perform its functions smoothly without any damage.

Prevent Overheating

Improper ventilation or obstructed airflow can cause hard drive overheating issues which in turn lead to data loss and component failure. To ensure your hard drive is running smoothly, it needs to expel the excessive amount of heat generated due to regular mechanical and electronic operations. You can also use various applications and tools like drive monitor and open hardware monitor to automatically prompt you in case your drive overheats.

Run CHKDSK Scans

The primary function of CHKDSK is to scan the files on a hard drive and fix logical errors such as corrupt entries, misaligned time stamp, and incorrect file size information. It keeps track of bad errors due to abrupt or force shutdown, improper handling, and power surge.

Update Firmware and Disk Drivers

Firmware and disk drivers play a significant role in hard disk optimization. They help in the interaction of computer hardware (Hard drive) and software (OS). Firmware and driver updates are essential as they help to remove bugs, resolve compatibility issues, improve drive performance, and fix security vulnerabilities.

Commercial Tools to Check Hard Drive Health

Use of commercial tools like Storage Resource Monitor (SRM), Network Performance Monitor (NPM), and Server and Application Monitor (SAM) is the best way to get a detailed overview of your drive’s health. Let’s take a look at how these tools integrate to provide comprehensive hard disk info.

Storage Resource Monitor (SRM)

screenshot of solarwinds storage resource monitor showing an overview of hardware health

Storage Resource Monitor is used to keep a tab on all your storage devices for health, performance, hotspots, and capacity. With its capacity forecasting feature, SRM helps to monitor the storage consumption of hard drive proactively. To ensure your drive isn’t running out of space, you can view the data of each layer, pool, array, and LUN/Volume on easy to understand SRM-integrated dashboards (Nimble and NetApp). You can also set customized alerts to get notified about throughput and latency hotspots. This helps to keep track of overworked devices at risk of failure. The tool also provides excellent capacity trend reports to view predefined and custom storage performance of all your storage devices. You can download SRM free for 30 days.

Server & Application Monitor (SAM)

screenshot of solarwinds server and application monitor showing an overview of application health

SolarWinds® Server & Application Monitor helps to keep track of your server’s overall health. It may include CPU usage, fan speed, temperature, power supply, disk space and memory. You can set custom alerts to get notified on deviations from baseline thresholds of each resource to avoid performance issues. These reminders help relevant team members know when the server needs to be checked. With a graphical representation of resource health overview and virtual server monitoring capabilities, it becomes easier to track disk usage, server storage volumes, and its capacity metrics. To see if SolarWinds SAM can help you monitor hardware health, you can try a free 30-day trial.

Network Performance Monitor (NPM)

screenshot of solarwinds network performance monitor showing an overview of hardware health

Network Performance Monitor helps in checking hard drive’s health. With the help of diverse toolkit, NPM monitors the overall network’s health and keeps a check for issues such as performance, security, and hardware. NPM’s troubleshooting features help to monitor the hard drive’s storage capacity and performance quickly. The tool also offers an advanced alerting feature to check if your system is performing as expected. When the above-mentioned tools integrate with the visualization features of NPM, teams can easily pinpoint the exact issues. NPM is available free for 30 days.

Seek Prevention Over Cure

Knowing how to check hard drive’s health is essential to keep your crucial data from corruption. SolarWinds tools can help you in early detection of logical, mechanical, and physical hard drive failures by simply scheduling disk checks, events, or tasks. The tools send alerts in case of hard drive performance, storage, and speed issues and provide smart suggestions based on the type of events. Besides, the best way to prevent data loss is to have a backup of all your data in advance.

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