Credit: University of Cambridge
Though SSDs are nearly always used as the primary drive in the best Computers, classic hard drives are still the most cost-effective option if you have a lot of data to store — and understanding how to check your hard drive’s health will help it last longer.
SSDs do outperform their slower predecessors. However, if you’re a digital hoarder like me, keeping a hard drive in your computer or hooked in as external storage is much less expensive than paying for a fancy SSD space.
On the other hand, hard drives are somewhat fragile pieces of technology that aren’t as long-lasting as SSDs, with many failing after only a few years of use. If you suspect your hard drive is nearing the end of its useful life, there are a few options for performing triage on it, allowing you enough time to either prolong its life or back up everything before the worst comes.
How to check your Hard Drive’s Health
1. Make use of the S.M.A.R.T. tool
S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) is a feature on modern hard drives that allows you to rapidly assess their health status. Though this function should alert you if there are any problems with your drive, you may manually check it if you suspect something is wrong.
To do so on Windows, enter the Start menu and type “cmd”; when the Command Prompt appears, click it. Press enter/return after typing “wmic diskdrive get model, status.” Your drive(s) will now be shown, along with a status — “OK” if everything is well, or “Pred Fail” if it’s on its way out.
Open the Disk Utility utility on macOS by navigating to Applications, then Utilities. In the “S.M.A.R.T. Status” section in the bottom-left, or by selecting the I symbol in the top-right, the status of the drive you wish to verify will read “Verified” or “Failing.”
2. Use a disk health checker program
Though the S.M.A.R.T. tool is simple and quick to use, it doesn’t do much more than notify you whether your disk is working properly or is going to fail. This is where independent programs come in helpful, as they may provide more detailed information.
CrystalDiskInfo is a free application for Windows that can dig further into the state of your drive, while macOS users can check out DriveDX, which costs $19.99 but comes with a free trial.
Whether you prefer to use a third-party program, check to see if your disk manufacturer has one, such as Western Digital’s Drive Utilities or Seagate’s SeaTools.
What to do if your hard disk fails
Credit: How-To Geek
What should you do if you notice your drive is dead after conducting checks? The first thing you should think about is how to back up all of your data.
The easiest answer to accomplish this is to use a cloud storage service, which does not require any new hardware and is quite straightforward. It’s also worth checking to see whether your data has already been backed up in the cloud since both Windows OneDrive and macOS iCloud provide these services, which you may not have noticed were enabled.
Alternatively, if your connection isn’t up to the effort, or if you’re in a hurry to avoid a meltdown, you can transfer or clone the contents of your disk to another drive. The simplest option is to copy/paste or drag everything from the first drive to the second, which is the ideal method if your disk just includes media files like songs or movies. If you pick this technique, however, any programs or system information that you’d wish to transfer will most certainly be left out.