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My SATA drive started clicking and I was unable to access the data. It was not clicking loudly though, like a drive that has already gone bad. After tightening the connections to the hard drive, it stopped clicking and I was able to access the data again. I have started to move files off of the drive, but I think this drive might still be in good health. I didn't find any data corruption and I haven't had any trouble accessing any files. I have never had an SATA drive fail before so I'm thinking that it could have just been the loose connections that was causing the problem. What tests can I run on this drive to find out how healthy it is?

This is the hard drive in question: HITACHI Deskstar T7K250 HDT722525DLA380 (0A31636) 250GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive -Bare Drive

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Oh, when I answered you hadn't mentioned that it was a deathstar. At least some of the Deskstar line has a very bad reputation for longevity and reliability. Bad enough that the failing drives are termed "deathstar". – Slartibartfast Aug 4 '10 at 2:02

10 Answers 10

up vote 55 down vote accepted
sudo smartctl -a /dev/sda | less

This will give you an abundance of information about your hard drive's health. The tool also permits you to start and monitor self tests of the drive.

If you want to do benchmarks / check all of the sectors to find one that is bad, you can find other tools for that, but smartctl is the first place to go for drive health status.

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And Palimpsest (aka gnome-disk-utility) is a slick GUI app that gives the same info. – Marius Gedminas Aug 3 '10 at 9:28
palimpsest is notorious for often giving false positives. – vtest Sep 4 '10 at 3:41
@vtest citation required – mgalgs Nov 5 '14 at 18:32
For anyone who finds they don't have smartctl: it's probably under your package manager as "smartmontools". – Praxeolitic Jun 28 '15 at 17:56
On my HP server I had to run smartctl -a -d cciss,0 /dev/cciss/c0d0p1 | less with RAID – trail_runner Feb 22 at 22:25

badblocks is one more useful utility; it shows the amount and location of bad blocks on your drive:

sudo badblocks -v /dev/sda
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what is the link with a possibly hardware failing hard drive? – lliseil Oct 5 '15 at 1:56
@lliseil Question is How to check the health of a hard drive – Emmanuel Mar 4 at 12:21

If a HD starts to give you physical hints about an upcoming failure, no software will help. Yes, SMART exists and things like smartctl can read its results for you, but you shouldn't bet on it. SMART can be useful for detecting things like high temperatures or bad sectors, but if your HD starts to click or does not start up during the first try, it's time to

  • make sure you have backups
  • rush to nearest computer dealer, buy a new HD and copy everything there

When HD decides to fail, it will do it without a previous warning and Murphy's law says that the failure will happen during the most unwanted moment. So be prepared and backup & replace the disk NOW rather than waiting for the catastrophe.

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Why not bet on S.M.A.R.T., provided it is properly supported by the HDD and its host? @Janne Pikkarainen – lliseil Oct 5 '15 at 1:52

Try using SpinRite (It isn't free) but I have used many, many tools. Most tools make more damage than help, when I say damage, I mean "not taking good care of your information". This tool will check your drive and fix the bad sectors, while moving your information to secure sectors. It also is a preventing method for hard disk catastrophes

I strongly suggest risking on buying a fully tested product with a good background, than losing your so valuable information.

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+1 For SpinRite. It is so fast and light, it has save many hard drives with crucial data. I recommend you give it a go. – Jose Elera Jan 21 '13 at 8:33

HDDScan is a very handy/useful utility for scanning HDDs. It'll show any error most likely. However, you should also try vendor specific tools. (If you tell me your HDD's manufacturers (and model) I can link them here.)

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Posted above. HDDScan looks like a good tool, but is there something like that for Linux? – tony_sid Aug 2 '10 at 23:56
Well.. You didn't add Linux tag, nor what kind of architecture, which package based, etc. You can scan your harddrive with "e2fsck". Try typing "man fsck" / "man e2fsck" or "e2fsck --help" into the console and you'll see how to use it. – Shiki Aug 3 '10 at 6:02
e2fsck stands for filesystem check. – lliseil Oct 5 '15 at 1:53

Besides the already mentioned SMART status it might be important to mention that modern HDDs tend not to fail gracefully. Often from one day to the next you only hear a clicking sound or can't access the disk at all. So while your problem could also be caused by a loose cable be always prepared by having regular backups on a different disk.

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HDTune, the free version can check for HDD health.

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I don't see any version for Linux on their page. – Suzana_K Aug 29 '14 at 20:52

S.M.A.R.T. is a set standard for what you're describing. There are various applications out there to get the information from the HDD.

My favorite (and free) choice is SpeedFan.

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Test environment: Permanent Live Ubuntu 16.04 USB made based on the thread How to Make Persistent Live Ubuntu of 16.04? Connect your HDD on your computer. Boot to the live Ubuntu. The GUI program gnome-disks which shows also bad-sectors and where you can do benchmarking of the discs and its different sectors. It is similar to the tools of smartmontools for sudo smartctl -a .... Example output of benchmarking my 500 GB disc where you see the read/write speed degenerates in time under heavy load

enter image description here

Other view: SMART Data & Self-Tests where I run short self-test. You can find temperature of the drive, and how many years/months/days your drive has had power on

enter image description here

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You are on Linux but you can attach your HDD to a friend's computer running Windows.

You don't need any complicated software to check HDD health. Use Crystal Disk Info for Windows to check if your HDD is in good condition or if there is any damage.

It will also show the S.M.A.R.T data with an indicator beside each value so if you find a red indicator then there is a problem with your hard drive.

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You do realise there's good linux native SMART software right? – Journeyman Geek Jun 6 '12 at 12:25

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