Best Free Hard Drive Health Monitoring and Diagnostic Programs

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Introduction

If you aren't aware of the condition of your hard drives, you may not be able to save your valuable data before it's too late. Not all hard drive crashes are random, so you may have time to backup your data before it fails completely.

All modern drives have a monitoring technology called S.M.A.R.T. (Self Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) that continuously monitors a number of parameters on a hard drive. Many parameters can be monitored by S.M.A.R.T. including read and write error rates, seek error rates, spin up time, temperature and much more.

To effectively warn you when certain parameters are degrading or reaching their threshold you need a program that can track these changes and show them to you. Allowing you to test and see whether a hard drive is capable of storing your data safely, giving you time to backup your important files and start looking for a replacement drive should you need to.

A monitoring program alone is not fully capable of showing you whether the integrity of your files can be maintained on a particular hard drive. It's a good idea to scan for bad (unreadable) blocks of data with either HDDScan or HD Tune at least once a month to ensure your drive is not degrading and data isn't being lost.

See also Why Your Hard Drives Health Matters for a more indepth look.

 

Rated Products

CrystalDiskInfo  

A great program to monitor the temperature and health of your drive


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free (Open source)
Resident monitoring, alarm for temp and health, shows temp for each drive in system tray, S.M.A.R.T. and general info about internal/external hard drives, settings to adjust AAM /APM.
Must set it up to be a resident and to startup in the system tray for constant monitoring, no surface (block/sector) tests or S.M.A.R.T. tests.
Read full review...

HDDScan  

An exceptional piece of software for storage device diagnostics


Our Rating: 
4.5
License: Free
Resident monitoring for temp only, alarm for temp, shows temperature for each drive, S.M.A.R.T. Offline Conveyance and other tests, surface scan, information about internal/external hard drives, settings to adjust AAM, APM and PM.
No installer, temperature monitor must be selected for each individual drive for constant monitoring each time program is started, no option to show temp icons only.
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HD Tune  

A useful benchmark to test your hard drive performance


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free (Private/Educational use)
Graphical benchmark to bench internal/external hard drives performance, scans for bad blocks on internal and external drives, S.M.A.R.T., Power On Hours and General info.
Free version offers no external USB hard drive S.M.A.R.T. monitoring, info, or temp, no longer updated.
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DiskCheckup  

A capable tool to monitor the SMART attributes of a hard disk drive


Our Rating: 
2.5
License: Free (Private/Educational use)
Resident monitoring with settings adjustment, alarm for temp, alert when S.M.A.R.T. threshold is passed, S.M.A.R.T. and general info about internal and external hard drives.
No individual drive temps in tray, drive temp is not easily seen, strictly a monitor, no surface tests or S.M.A.R.T. tests, TEC throws up ever changing dates and largely inaccurate.
Read full review...

Summary

For continuous monitoring I recommend CrystalDiskInfo for its well rounded set of features and HDDScan which is an exceptional diagnostic program. Both are excellent pieces of software. To ensure your drive isn't degrading in ways that may not be readily apparent with a monitoring program alone, I recommend testing the surface of your drive with HDDScan or HD Tune.

 

Other Hard Drive Health Monitoring and Diagnostic Programs

  • CrystalDiskMark is an Open Source hard drive benchmarking program. The installer has the options to install PC Matic (trialware) and the ASPCA browser addon. The portable zip doesn't include anything extra. It's updated regularly.

  • HD_Speed  is a benchmark program that measures both sustained and burst data transfer rates of your hard drives, CD/DVD-Rom, flash cards/sticks, floppies, etc. with a real-time graphical display. It's updated regularly.

  • Disk Bench is a benchmarking tool that is designed to be a real world benchmark rather than a synthetic benchmark. It requires .NET Framework 2.0

  • SpeedFan is a program that monitor voltages, fan speeds, and temperatures as well as S.M.A.R.T. information. It only detected my internal drive.

  • S.M.A.R.T. Assistant is designed to monitor the S.M.A.R.T. status and the temperature, as well as manage AAM (Automatic Acoustic Management) and APM (Advanced Power Management). It could not detect my external HD.

  • Ariolic Disk Scanner is a portable and simplistic block scanner. No longer updated.

  • ATTO Disk Benchmark is a benchmarking program that can be obtained from MajorGeeks instead of registering on the main site.

  • HD Tach is a benchmarking tool. They're in the process of completely rewriting it.

  • Seagate SeaTools requires .NET Framework 2.0. It has surface and S.M.A.R.T. tests as well as other features. There is also a DOS version.

  • S.M.A.R.T. Monitoring Tools offers two utitlity programs (smartctl, smartd) to control and monitor storage systems using S.M.A.R.T.

  • Hard Drive Monitor is a simple monitoring program. It hasn't been updated in a while. Doesn't detect my USB HD.

  • HDD Health is a monitoring program. It only detects internal hard drives and hasn't been updated in more than a few years now.

  • A few all-in-one diagnostic tools that boot directly from a CD/DVD are the Ultimate Boot CD(UBCD), UBCD4Win, and the SystemRescueCd.

 

Related Products and Links

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Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Glyn Burgess. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Comments

Do thumb drives have sensors for temperature ?
Do any of the above programs display the temperature ?
The reason I ask is the SanDisk Ultra Fit range (also their OTGs) can get hot enough to burn flesh.
I don't care about the burns, but I am concerned that stored data could be lost (also write/transfer speed suffers when they get very hot)

The author of CrystalDisk has put up a comment on the download page (http://crystalmark.info/download/index-e.html) concerning OpenCandy:

[2016/02/10] Removed Ads (OpenCandy) from Installers of CrystalDiskInfo & CrystalDiskMark.

Please check this up and update your information if appropriate.

Thank you for the information. The product details have now been updated. MC - Site Manager.

I just downloaded HWMonitor from the same people who do CPUID. It seems pretty good. It gives you information on lots of "stuff" inside your computer: disk drives, your CPU, fans, power supply, etc. Specifically, HWMonitor provides info on temperatures, electrical measurements, fan speeds, CPU frequencies, and core utilizations. It updates the display every 1/2 second or so. The free version does not see my USB-connected drives. The app is actively being maintained. The current version was released a few months ago. The installer didn't try to foist any unrelated software on me (yay!). Go to http://www.cpuid.com/softwares/hwmonitor.html to download.

HDDScan would not run at all on my Vista Business machine. To add insult to injury, I had to reboot in order to erase it. If you look at the user forum for the product, it's full of spam. Clearly, no one is watching. Looks like abandonware to me.

I just hope it wasn't a virus.

8 Jun 2014

Just tried HD Tune again for the first time in a couple of years.

Works fine with 500gb Toshiba laptop internal drive, and Seagate 1tb usb drive.

3TB Seagate - No joy. Won't read the drive at all. Pops up a 'read error' box and quits on the 3tb. Bummer.

Sorry to see it is no longer being developed, it was a nice error checking tool with a nice graphical interface.

Tried both the top two rated tools and they leave me kinda parched. Maybe I'm just too graphical.

The HDDScan and SpeedFan seem like a good combination to have.

The big question is HOW do you interpret the results of these SMART, temperature, and voltage scans etc.. How does one know or find out if the result values (attributes etc.) are okay or at a WARNING/CRITICAL level?

These sites for these programs do not give much guidance in getting that information. More instruction on how to use each of these programs might be helpful too yet I have not found sites that explain them further. Direction in getting this assistance would be helpful.

Interpreting the results correctly depends on the hardware you are monitoring. You can find these details in the vendor's technical FAQ or at sites such as Tom's Hardware. MC - Site Manager. [Example] http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/66706-28-average-temp

WARNING CrystalDisk comes with malware! It installs speedupmypc
it's almost impossible to remove this malware and every time you start up your computer, there is a long and slow down scan. Speedupmypc can't be uninstalled. And it comes free, with crystaldisk. without any warning, and without any option to avoid this maleware!!!!

We already make this clear in the Quick Selection Guide product details and the review text including this link to our information page. MC - Site Manager. http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/controversial-advertising-progra...