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.

 
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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 Philo Vance on 31. July 2014 - 21:31  (117682)

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.

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...

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