Best Free Hard Drive Health Monitoring and Diagnostic Programs

 
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. 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, HD Tune, or Ariolic's Disk Scanner at least once a month to ensure your drive is not degrading and data isn't being lost.

See Why Your Hard Drives Health Matters for a more in depth look.

 
In a Hurry?

Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
Discussion

CrystalDiskInfo 3.7.0aCrystalDiskInfo is a great monitoring program that can warn you if the temperature or the health of your drive is deteriorating. Its default temperature warning is set to 50 °C/122 °F which can be adjusted. It offers graphs of the accumulated S.M.A.R.T. information. It had no problems telling me almost everything about my external USB hard drive. I like that it lists the Power On Count as well as the total Power On Hours. This is Open Source software. There is a portable version as well as an installer. Overall this is one of my favorites. If you choose to use the Installer you can choose to install the ASPCA browser add-on. The Portable Zip does not include anything extra. Editor's Advisory Note: CrystalDiskInfo is now bundled with OpenCandy. See this article for more information.

 

HDDScan 3.3

HDDScan is by far an exceptional piece of software. The interface takes a little getting used to. One feature that got me excited was the Graph when you're scanning the surface for bad (unreadable) blocks of data. It lists the blocks by response time so you can see how many blocks are getting close to unreadable before the data in those blocks is lost. Even though it warns you about unchecking the box that disables the maps dynamic update. I unchecked it anyway and my system became unresponsive and even though it was still chugging along, I had to press the button.

It's also recommended not to have any other programs running at the same time you're scanning. There is also the Conveyance (travel damage) test. Excellent for when you receive a new or old internal/external hard drive in the mail or even from the store. I also liked the PM (Power Management) setting. I was able to adjust the PM on my external USB hard drive. Overall this is definitely one for my goody bag.

 

HD Tune 2.55

The free version of  HD Tune provides a useful benchmark to test your hard drives performance as well as a block scanner which works with both external and internal hard drives. It also lists S.M.A.R.T. and general information for internal drives only. The free version is no longer updated.

 

 

 

 

DiskCheckup 3.0 Build 1002

DiskCheckup is a capable tool. It lists information about the drive as well as S.M.A.R.T. information. It has a temperature warning should your drive get to 60 °C/140 °F which can be adjusted. It can also warn you if a S.M.A.R.T. threshold has been passed. You can configure it to display a popup or it can send you a notice via email. It detected both my external as well as my internal hard drive with no problems.

On my healthy hard drives it gave me a TEC(Threshold Exceed Condition) date when the temperature got to a certain point. TEC is mostly useless because a drive has to maintain a constant in order for the date to even be valid. My hard drive does not normally stay very hot so it was largely inaccurate. A hard drive that is starting to wear out could potentially fail at any point before or after the TEC date. So in my opinion it may spook people more than anything else.

 

For continuous monitoring I recommend CrystalDiskInfo for its well rounded set of features. HDDScan 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, HD Tune, or the simplistic Ariolic's Disk Scanner.

 
Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

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

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

  9. 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.

  10. There is an Open Source Project called S.M.A.R.T. Monitoring Tools that offers two programs to control and monitor storage systems using S.M.A.R.T. I tried GSmartControl which is a graphical user interface for S.M.A.R.T. Monitoring Tools. It couldn't detect my external USB hard drive.

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

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

  13. I can't recommend Acronis Drive Monitor because it requires you to register to download it.

  14. Active Hard Disk Monitor is no longer in this list because it's no longer freeware.

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

  16. GB vs. GiB -- an explanation of storage capacity

 
Quick Selection Guide

CrystalDiskInfo
4.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Resident monitoring with setting adjustment, alarm for both temp and health, shows temp for each drive in system tray, option to show temp icons only, S.M.A.R.T. as well as general information about internal/external hard drives, settings to adjust AAM (Automatic Acoustic Management)/APM (Advanced Power Management) and more.
During install the ACPCA browser add-on is optional, portable Zip does not include anything extra, must set it up to be a resident, as well as to startup in the system tray for constant monitoring, no surface (block/sector) tests or S.M.A.R.T. tests.
5.6.2
1.76 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Open source freeware
A portable version of this product is available but not from the developer.
Windows 2000 to Windows 8

Now bundled with OpenCandy - see note above.
View changelog (history) here

HDDScan
4.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Resident monitoring for temp only with setting adjustment, alarm for temp, shows temperature for each drive in system tray, S.M.A.R.T. Offline Conveyance (travel damage) test, other S.M.A.R.T. as well as surface (block) tests, Graph/Map of the surface (block) scan, S.M.A.R.T. as well as general information about internal/external hard drives, settings to adjust AAM (Automatic Acoustic Management), APM (Advanced Power Management) and PM (Power Management).
No installer, temperature monitor must be selected for each individual drive for constant monitoring each time program is started, shows program icon in system tray, no option to show temp icons only.
http://hddscan.com/
http://hddscan.com/
3.3
3.7 MB
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available but not from the developer.
Windows 2000 to Windows 7

Must double click a scheduled task to see more details, not designed to be a constant monitoring program.

HD Tune
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Graphical benchmark to bench internal/external hard drives performance, scans for bad blocks of data on internal and external drives with graphical diagram, S.M.A.R.T., Power On Hours, General info listed for internal hard drives only.
Free version offers no external USB hard drive S.M.A.R.T. monitoring, info, or temp, no longer updated.
http://www.hdtune.com/
2.55
628 KB
Feature limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 2000 to Windows 7

Copy HDTune.exe to make portable.

DiskCheckup
2.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Resident monitoring with settings adjustment, alarm for temp, can be configured to either popup or send an email when S.M.A.R.T. threshold is passed, S.M.A.R.T. as well as general information about internal and external hard drives.
Must change the settings to allow it to minimize to the system tray, 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 (Threshold Exceed Condition) throws up ever changing dates and is largely inaccurate.
3.1 (Build 1007)
1 MB
Free for private use only
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP to Windows 7

Copy DiskCheckup.exe, DiskCheckupLog.txt, and DiskCheckup.cfg to make portable.
v3.5.1007 released 09/05/2013

 
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

by RussAdams on 8. June 2014 - 14:22  (116687)

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.

by Jonrock on 7. February 2014 - 5:58  (114295)

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.

by MidnightCowboy on 7. February 2014 - 6:42  (114296)

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

by a_rich_ on 6. September 2013 - 21:38  (110566)

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!!!!

by MidnightCowboy on 6. September 2013 - 23:32  (110568)

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...

by BearPup on 24. December 2012 - 20:28  (103949)

[Commercial reference removed] I've tried Acronis Drive Monitor (December, 2012 version) and it flagged my system (boot) drive based on the Windows Event Log (Shadowcopy problem) - the only program to do so.

Given this, I don't know if I should be worried or not.

by Stuckey (not verified) on 8. December 2011 - 5:17  (84630)

I am using Crystal Disk HD Info. After a few hours of computer use it indicates my HD temp at between 87 and 93 degrees. Is this still a safe range?

by MidnightCowboy on 8. December 2011 - 7:06  (84631)

Is this Fahrenheit or Celsius?

by Stuckey (not verified) on 8. December 2011 - 16:18  (84658)

Sorry-it is Fahrenheit.

by MidnightCowboy on 8. December 2011 - 17:12  (84659)

No problem. In which case this looks about right although I would still recommend a couple of extra things.

First, I'd check out the recommended operating temperature range for the model you own as will be stated on the HD manufactures website.

Second, I'd obtain a second opinion by installing SpeedFan.

http://www.almico.com/speedfan.php

Remember too that the operating temperature will vary depending on the nature of the rest of the system including processor, case, cooler type etc. I have two Samsung HD's for instance. The one in my old medium range machine runs at around 75F whereas in the dual core machine everything runs hotter and the HD averages 97F.

by Stuckey (not verified) on 11. December 2011 - 3:22  (84791)

Thanks MC. I now have Speed Fan as well.However how do I know if all the different temps being displayed are within safe range or if one or more is higher than desired?

by MidnightCowboy on 11. December 2011 - 5:44  (84801)

There's just a couple of points to bear in mind here. First, depending on the nature of your motherboard/sensors, it is possible that one or more of the readings you are being presented with is incorrect. One of mine for instance constantly reads at 127c which is not right. You'll also find your ears are a good guide because if something really does start to run at a high temperature, your fans should increase velocity accordingly. On most systems this is noticeable audibly without having to see a fan speed readout. The only way to get the proper operating temperature ranges for your individual components is via the technical specs on the manufacturers websites.

by Charles Pedley (not verified) on 3. November 2011 - 2:25  (82631)

Acronis Drive Monitor is still free. Who cares if we get ads from Acronis for upgrading. They are easy to delete and I have found Acronis products to be very high quality. Free is free even if registration is necessary.

by Anonymous 43 (not verified) on 15. October 2011 - 4:34  (81424)

No Script warned of "Click Jacking" on the Acronis link listed above!
You have to answer a few simple questions by clicking on the answer given!

by Anonymous 44 (not verified) on 15. October 2011 - 4:35  (81425)

I mean below!

by Jae (not verified) on 20. June 2011 - 0:53  (74007)

Win 7 x64 SP1, latest acronis drive monitor was causing error id 55 ntfs, telling me to run chkdsk on volume shadowcopy-somethingsomething. Running chkdsk would show no errors. This problem was supposed to be fixed by SP1. Tried all sorts of things and, after uninstalling acronis, no occurance of this problem so far.

by Beddhist (not verified) on 10. May 2011 - 22:22  (71749)

DiskCheckup: I have run this for a long time on my laptop. It runs very hot (nothing much I can do about that), which causes DC to throw up warning all the time. This warning can't be configured, i.e. increasing the temp warning level has no effect.

After the last warning is dismissed the main program window is displayed. Pressing ESC at this point closes the program without further warning.

Not very useful for me.

Cheers,
Peter.

by Epsilon on 3. March 2011 - 2:27  (67341)

Acronis Drive Monitor - I understand your not recommending it due to requirement to register it. However it can be downloaded from some other source like Major Geeks or Softpedia etc., and during installation you can give a temporary email address i.e., one created via 'trashmail dot net, or elsewhere.

About the program:- like Acronis' other software, it is a quality product. It's easy to install and exceptionally easy to understand the information it provides.

Well worth that little bit of effort to get it. And it is absolutely FREE.

Proviso: A guest user here stated that it can't handle drives that are 70% full. This comment has not been verified however.

by Harry Lewis (not verified) on 18. November 2010 - 21:15  (61365)

I downloaded HD_Speed using the link above but the file HD_Speed.exe was found infected by a virus, Win32/Heur, by AVG. This happened on two machines.

by Gabrielw22 on 18. November 2010 - 22:08  (61366)

It's a fairly simple program. I have no problems using it. virustotal.com flagged the zip 6 out of 42 programs and the exe 7 out of 38. Heuristics often have false positives.

by Gator (not verified) on 14. October 2010 - 0:12  (59489)

If you folks are looking for another HDD monitor program to review, I would like to suggest Hard Disk Sentinel. The free version provides a lot of data that I've never seen on other free programs as well as a great UI. I'd like to see a review about this one because you folks will put it through more paces than I could and have better feedback about the overall program. Thanks.

by Gabrielw22 on 14. October 2010 - 2:34  (59492)

Many of the features in the free version require you to purchase the pro version to use them. It constantly nags about this whenever you click on something that won't function otherwise. Much of what it offers is on other free programs.

by Tech (not verified) on 29. August 2010 - 20:06  (56963)

Looking all over the net for a good report. This is what I was looking for. Thanks

by Peter Czenk (not verified) on 28. July 2010 - 11:09  (55034)

Hi,

I'd suggest Hard Disk Sentinel also to the list:

Not only because it is free and has highest hardware support (IDE/SATA/SCSI/SAS and RAID, USB) but because it offers hard disk information detection under legacy OSes (Win98, NT4) in addition to latest Windows and it also displays disk details under Linux.

It's bootable pendrive function helped me so many times as I could diagnose HDDs even without a bootable OS!

Thanks,

Peter

by Anupam on 28. July 2010 - 11:26  (55036)

The freeware version is pretty much limited, and seems crippled. Further, it is stated on the site :
"The free version can be used to 'evaluate' the application and test its functionality and hardware compatibility."

I think there are other better software to be considered than this one.

by MidnightCowboy on 28. July 2010 - 11:40  (55037)

Yep, next to useless with the sole intention of selling the commercial products.

by Anonymous on 10. June 2010 - 10:20  (51816)

Acronis has just released their new hard drive monitoring software
And they're giving it as a free download
website and information here:
http://www.acronis.com/adm

by MidnightCowboy on 10. June 2010 - 14:41  (51830)

I'm always highly suspicious of stuff like this which requires full registration for "free" tools including email address and phone details. I have a sneaky feeling that very soon everyone using this tool will be notified of being "at risk" (which we all are anyway) as a means to promote sales of their commercial backup software.

by Anonymous on 28. August 2008 - 4:56  (7024)

When Google released their report on the failed hard drives in their huge farms, it was interesting to note that there was no significant difference between hard drives that were SMART enabled, and those that were not. Hard drives still failed without warning.

by yankeedam (not verified) on 10. January 2011 - 3:11  (64193)

Anonymous didn't read Pinheiro's report all the way through. Long story short, about half of the 100,000 drives in the Google farm that he tracked failed after one of three significant S.M.A.R.T. counts went from 0 to 1 (one incident only). Seek error, for example: You get one, better find a new drive. AND the other half of the Google drives just failed "spontaneously" without a warning from S.M.A.R.T., like a baseball whistling in from left field while the oblivious runner was trotting into home plate. So S.M.A.R.T. is doing about half what we wanted from it. It has some value.

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