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As an experienced user, I sometimes notice that things are not going well with my computer. For example, my backup drive recently started cycling up and down, so I guessed it was probably dying, and replaced it. I detected this with my ears. Windows did not seem to notice or care.

There ought to be software that monitors overall system health by keeping track of things like this, so that unusual events or increasing error rates will not be shrugged off. Among other things: disk errors that are recovered, corrupt network packets (at above the baseline expected rate) and crashes of trusted programs are early warnings.

Is there any software that tries to use this kind of monitoring to warn of impending trouble?

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Chceck if you have enabled SMART in bios, if you drive is fault that might be the reason why you have no errors in logs.

Check drive with HD Tune. You can scan surface for errors and also verify SMART tables.

For live monitoring consider using HDDlife, there is a free edition on the dev site.

If smart and surface is clean, your drive probably is fine. Chceck and eventually replace calbes. Recently i have had this problem with 2tb seagate drive, very strange clicking were coming out of housing. Smart didnt show nothing unusual. The 'problem' was very big amount of files stored on ntfs volume and very small sector - 512 bytes, after formatting with 4K sector, drive is proforming well.

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Be aware that SMART is not an indicator of drive reliability. If it says a drive is bad, it's bad, but if it says a drive is still good, it may also be bad. Something to keep in mind. –  user3463 Mar 27 '12 at 6:59
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You may want to look at the Windows 7 Reliability Monitor for a start. It notes most key system events for your review.

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