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I recently bought a new 1TB USB mounted external hard drive (a Western Digital My Book Essential Edition 2.0, to be exact). Before putting it into use, I would like to perform some rudimentary testing on it. Is this possible? Can anyone suggest a free software to do this? (I can use either Windows or Linux software, but prefer the latter.)

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If you are talking about testing the performance of the drive, you can use HD Tach for running some low-level tests.

On the other hand, if you are looking for something to test the integrity of your drive, check out SeaTools from Seagate. You do not need to have a Seagate HDD to use this tool.

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The SeaGate tool seems nice. I'll give it a try and report back. – user27565 Feb 8 '10 at 11:09
HD Tach is no longer supported by Simpli Software. – Oliver Salzburg Feb 28 '12 at 13:40

The best tool on the market is called SpinRite by Steve Gibson of He also give you a money back guarantee. I can say hand on heart there is no other hard disk checking and recovery program better than this one.

If you run SpinRite on your drives once every three months, it will never have a problem at all. This is because when its doing a level 4 (maintenence) check, it checks ecc (error correction) on each sector. As a sector starts to have to use ecc a lot, it swaps out the sector before it goes bad.

If there is a problem with your drive and it won't boot or it can't recover data, run at level 2. When recovering data, it moves the hard disk head at different speeds from different distances in order to make the hard disk head move to slightly different positions on the disk platter. Also, SpinRite is the only tool that can do partial sector recovery.

The best money you'll ever spend!

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Thanks, but spending $90 on testing a $130 drive is a bit much... (Regardless, I must admit that SpinRite's use of FreeDOS is pretty cool.) – user27565 Feb 8 '10 at 11:05
Be weary of spinrite, a lot of slashdot members seem to think it hasn't aged well:… – Adam Naylor May 15 '13 at 18:33

It depends on the type of test you are interested on :) Since what people usually assumes is a 'test' is just responsiveness to troubles and resilience to hard use, any test can be replicated by shell scripts and by simulating what you are interested in testing. For example,

  • speed? You can use hdparm for that
  • reliability? Usually forum posts and statistics help to determine such disk average lifespan
  • temperature? it depends on the disk but (on non-usb) it is usually monitored by acpi

Since you mentioned 'rudimentary' tests I would suggest to go with those. But again if you want something more you should be more specific on what you are afraid of.

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I have nothing particular in mind... Except, of course, data loss. It's just that if there's anything wrong with the drive, I'd like to know this as soon as possible (before any data has been lost, and long before the warranty has run out). – user27565 Feb 8 '10 at 11:01
Quality Controls usually spot defective drives first. So nothing you can do here. If you're paranoid about the quality of the quality controls, you can run a few test write/reads and check for the consistency of data (start writing larger files and checking their hash with md5sum). But sht happens, hard drives break, and you *want to rely on a backup strategy if you care about data loss. – lorenzog Feb 8 '10 at 14:29

Western Digital also releases software for testing their drives (I don't believe it will work for nonWDC drives). Data Lifeguard Tools, runs under Windows, DOS, and has a self booting CD.

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