Test for failing external drives

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by sammy.d, Aug 3, 2014.

  1. sammy.d macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2010
    #1
    Is there a way that I can put an external USB hard drive "through its paces" to test if it is failing? Im after some sort of tool that reads/writes a bunch of data and sees if the drive is doing what it should (I actually have no idea what it should do to thoroughly test the drive...). I tried using gsmartcontrol from terminal but apparently my external USB drives don't support SMART.

    Any ideas on what I can use (preferably free) to test my drives? I have a few that Im a bit unsure about and don't know whether to trust or not...

    Thanks.
     
  2. mooblie macrumors 6502

    mooblie

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2009
    Location:
    The Highlands, Scotland
    #2
    Beyond Disk Utility "Verify Drive" or "Repair Drive":

    If you have access to a Windows PC, and it's a WD drive (inside the enclosure) you can use this:

    http://support.wdc.com/product/download.asp?groupid=612&sid=3

    In fact, most manufacturers have a similar piece of free software, but it's usually Windows.
     
  3. sammy.d thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2010
    #3
    They aren't WD. Generally Seagate drives and a Maxtor one. I have Windows on Parallels, would that work or does it have to be running on an actual machine?
     
  4. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

    Staff Member

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    Jan 23, 2005
    Location:
    California
    #4
    Install this driver and you should be able to use SMART over USB.
     
  5. sammy.d thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2010
    #5
    So every hard drive is able to use SMART, its just a question of whether the computer can "handle" it? Does SMART testing give a thorough test of the drive?
     
  6. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2004
    Location:
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    #6
    The issue is that when the computer talks to an external drive it is talking to the USB or Firewire interface firmware, not the SATA hardware on the drive, and the interface usualy interferes with gathering the SMART info. The DriveDx software tries to get around that by collecting SMART data by a different method, still, some interfaces and drives don't work with it either.

    The definitive way to test a drive is to plug it into a machine directly by SATA and run surface scan and read-write tests.

    Keep in mind that SMART really can't tell how long a drive will last, or whether there will be a catastrophic failure, or a logical failure. It is not a thorough test of the drive, it relies on the self monitoring and testing routines built into the drive firmware. SMART holds statistics on read and write error rates. If the error rates start rising above a threshold level, it can indicate that a predictable failure is possible.
    A smart "PASS" isn't a clean bill of health, but a SMART "FAIL" is usually a positive indication of hardware trouble.
    SMART is more for confirming a drive is dead than pronouncing it troublefree.
     
  7. Wolfpup macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2006
    #7
    SMART itself is pretty worthless (I did have it once helpfully tell me that the drive was dying after it died ;) , it's just that as Canada mentioned, being able to "see" it means the commands are being passed through. There's some stuff you can't do on USB that you can do with SATA.

    Personally I use Spinrite:

    https://www.grc.com/sr/spinrite.htm

    For stuff like this. The 6.1 update (that's free for 6.0 users) is going to add fancier/modern USB/boot support etc., but the 6.0 version will still work through a VM.

    I'd personally want to run the drive through a Level 4 test if I thought it was maybe flaky. From my experience it can't "see" everything over USB but I've still used it to recover stuff for coworkers over USB (mostly I was too lazy to open a PC to stick the drive in directly LOL)
     
  8. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2008
    #8
    Isn't this one of those, "if you have to ask..." situations?

    I have Tech Tool 7, which allows me to get the detailed SMART info to some degree; at least it's better than a red idiot light for "fail." Based on it's info I continue to use one wonky drive for noncritical stuff, so in a sense it paid for itself.

    But these days a new big drive would probably be cheaper than software like Tech Tool to test it.
     
  9. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

    Staff Member

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    Jan 23, 2005
    Location:
    California
    #9
    SMART is imperfect, but I would not call it worthless. Sure you will have drives just up and die with no SMART warnings. But you will also have some that DO give warnings about error rates etc before they die so you can act. Just another tool in the toolbox is how I look at it.
     
  10. Wolfpup macrumors 68030

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    Sep 7, 2006
    #10
    Yeah, it's better than nothing, but I wouldn't rely on it. It's no replacement for having a backup nor having SpinRite.
     
  11. matreya macrumors 65816

    matreya

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    Nov 14, 2009
    #11
    What does SpinRite have to do with Mac users?
     
  12. Wolfpup macrumors 68030

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    Sep 7, 2006
    #12
    I don't understand the question. Macs have mass storage.
     
  13. matreya macrumors 65816

    matreya

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    Nov 14, 2009
    #13
    Isn't SpinRite a PC program?
     
  14. Wolfpup macrumors 68030

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    Sep 7, 2006
    #14
    Well Macs are PCs, but that aside, it doesn't run inside an OS (except under a VM, where it does work and which is probably the best way to use it right now). It works with macs and is the best program of its type.
     

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