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I have a 320GB WD Caviar SATA hard drive on a 2007 desktop machine.

Lately it has taken to randomly spinning down and up again during active usage (streaming a video off it, for example: the disk will spin down and spin up again after a couple seconds during which the video pauses).

This brings back bad memories of many failed drives - however, SMART seems to suggest everything is OK.

This happens on average once every 1-2 hours.

I ran:

 sudo smartctl -t long /dev/sda

And then sudo smartctl -H /dev/sda gives me:

smartctl 6.2 2013-07-26 r3841 [x86_64-linux-3.13.0-63-generic] (local build)
Copyright (C) 2002-13, Bruce Allen, Christian Franke, www.smartmontools.org

=== START OF READ SMART DATA SECTION ===
SMART overall-health self-assessment test result: PASSED

I see a few ATA errors being reported in smartctl -a /dev/sda, but they are from 1000 hours ago:

smartctl 6.2 2013-07-26 r3841 [x86_64-linux-3.13.0-63-generic] (local build)
Copyright (C) 2002-13, Bruce Allen, Christian Franke, www.smartmontools.org

=== START OF INFORMATION SECTION ===
Model Family:     Western Digital Caviar Blue Serial ATA
Device Model:     WDC WD3200AAJS-22RYA0
Serial Number:    WD-WCAPZ3371820
LU WWN Device Id: 5 0014ee 1aaff63b1
Firmware Version: 12.01B01
User Capacity:    320,072,933,376 bytes [320 GB]
Sector Size:      512 bytes logical/physical
Device is:        In smartctl database [for details use: -P show]
ATA Version is:   ATA/ATAPI-7 (minor revision not indicated)
Local Time is:    Mon Feb  8 15:45:51 2016 CET
SMART support is: Available - device has SMART capability.
SMART support is: Enabled

=== START OF READ SMART DATA SECTION ===
SMART overall-health self-assessment test result: PASSED

General SMART Values:
Offline data collection status:  (0x84) Offline data collection activity
                    was suspended by an interrupting command from host.
                    Auto Offline Data Collection: Enabled.
Self-test execution status:      (   0) The previous self-test routine completed
                    without error or no self-test has ever 
                    been run.
Total time to complete Offline 
data collection:        ( 8400) seconds.
Offline data collection
capabilities:            (0x7b) SMART execute Offline immediate.
                    Auto Offline data collection on/off support.
                    Suspend Offline collection upon new
                    command.
                    Offline surface scan supported.
                    Self-test supported.
                    Conveyance Self-test supported.
                    Selective Self-test supported.
SMART capabilities:            (0x0003) Saves SMART data before entering
                    power-saving mode.
                    Supports SMART auto save timer.
Error logging capability:        (0x01) Error logging supported.
                    General Purpose Logging supported.
Short self-test routine 
recommended polling time:    (   2) minutes.
Extended self-test routine
recommended polling time:    ( 106) minutes.
Conveyance self-test routine
recommended polling time:    (   6) minutes.
SCT capabilities:          (0x103f) SCT Status supported.
                    SCT Error Recovery Control supported.
                    SCT Feature Control supported.
                    SCT Data Table supported.

SMART Attributes Data Structure revision number: 16
Vendor Specific SMART Attributes with Thresholds:
ID# ATTRIBUTE_NAME          FLAG     VALUE WORST THRESH TYPE      UPDATED  WHEN_FAILED RAW_VALUE
  1 Raw_Read_Error_Rate     0x000f   200   200   051    Pre-fail  Always       -       282
  3 Spin_Up_Time            0x0003   196   123   021    Pre-fail  Always       -       3175
  4 Start_Stop_Count        0x0032   096   096   000    Old_age   Always       -       4032
  5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct   0x0033   200   200   140    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
  7 Seek_Error_Rate         0x000e   200   200   051    Old_age   Always       -       0
  9 Power_On_Hours          0x0032   068   068   000    Old_age   Always       -       23426
 10 Spin_Retry_Count        0x0012   100   100   051    Old_age   Always       -       0
 11 Calibration_Retry_Count 0x0012   100   100   051    Old_age   Always       -       0
 12 Power_Cycle_Count       0x0032   097   097   000    Old_age   Always       -       3682
192 Power-Off_Retract_Count 0x0032   199   199   000    Old_age   Always       -       1044
193 Load_Cycle_Count        0x0032   199   199   000    Old_age   Always       -       4136
194 Temperature_Celsius     0x0022   103   080   000    Old_age   Always       -       44
196 Reallocated_Event_Count 0x0032   200   200   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
197 Current_Pending_Sector  0x0012   200   200   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
198 Offline_Uncorrectable   0x0010   200   200   000    Old_age   Offline      -       0
199 UDMA_CRC_Error_Count    0x003e   200   200   000    Old_age   Always       -       6209
200 Multi_Zone_Error_Rate   0x0008   200   200   051    Old_age   Offline      -       0

SMART Error Log Version: 1
ATA Error Count: 319 (device log contains only the most recent five errors)
    CR = Command Register [HEX]
    FR = Features Register [HEX]
    SC = Sector Count Register [HEX]
    SN = Sector Number Register [HEX]
    CL = Cylinder Low Register [HEX]
    CH = Cylinder High Register [HEX]
    DH = Device/Head Register [HEX]
    DC = Device Command Register [HEX]
    ER = Error register [HEX]
    ST = Status register [HEX]
Powered_Up_Time is measured from power on, and printed as
DDd+hh:mm:SS.sss where DD=days, hh=hours, mm=minutes,
SS=sec, and sss=millisec. It "wraps" after 49.710 days.

Error 319 occurred at disk power-on lifetime: 22101 hours (920 days + 21 hours)
  When the command that caused the error occurred, the device was active or idle.

  After command completion occurred, registers were:
  ER ST SC SN CL CH DH
  -- -- -- -- -- -- --
  40 51 00 78 36 07 e5  Error: UNC at LBA = 0x05073678 = 84358776

  Commands leading to the command that caused the error were:
  CR FR SC SN CL CH DH DC   Powered_Up_Time  Command/Feature_Name
  -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --  ----------------  --------------------
  c8 00 08 78 36 07 05 00      01:10:48.804  READ DMA
  c8 00 08 90 05 fe 04 00      01:10:48.803  READ DMA
  c8 00 08 88 05 fe 04 00      01:10:48.803  READ DMA
  c8 00 08 80 05 fe 04 00      01:10:48.793  READ DMA
  c8 00 08 78 05 fe 04 00      01:10:48.793  READ DMA

Error 318 occurred at disk power-on lifetime: 22101 hours (920 days + 21 hours)
  When the command that caused the error occurred, the device was active or idle.

  After command completion occurred, registers were:
  ER ST SC SN CL CH DH
  -- -- -- -- -- -- --
  40 51 00 78 36 07 e5  Error: UNC at LBA = 0x05073678 = 84358776

  Commands leading to the command that caused the error were:
  CR FR SC SN CL CH DH DC   Powered_Up_Time  Command/Feature_Name
  -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --  ----------------  --------------------
  c8 00 08 78 36 07 05 00      01:10:46.699  READ DMA
  c8 00 08 90 03 fe 04 00      01:10:46.697  READ DMA
  c8 00 08 88 03 fe 04 00      01:10:46.697  READ DMA
  c8 00 08 80 03 fe 04 00      01:10:46.697  READ DMA
  c8 00 08 78 03 fe 04 00      01:10:46.696  READ DMA

Error 317 occurred at disk power-on lifetime: 22101 hours (920 days + 21 hours)
  When the command that caused the error occurred, the device was active or idle.

  After command completion occurred, registers were:
  ER ST SC SN CL CH DH
  -- -- -- -- -- -- --
  40 51 00 78 36 07 e5  Error: UNC at LBA = 0x05073678 = 84358776

  Commands leading to the command that caused the error were:
  CR FR SC SN CL CH DH DC   Powered_Up_Time  Command/Feature_Name
  -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --  ----------------  --------------------
  c8 00 08 78 36 07 05 00      01:10:44.673  READ DMA
  27 00 00 00 00 00 00 00      01:10:44.673  READ NATIVE MAX ADDRESS EXT [OBS-ACS-3]
  ec 00 00 00 00 00 00 00      01:10:44.664  IDENTIFY DEVICE
  ef 03 46 00 00 00 00 00      01:10:44.657  SET FEATURES [Set transfer mode]
  27 00 00 00 00 00 00 00      01:10:44.657  READ NATIVE MAX ADDRESS EXT [OBS-ACS-3]

Error 316 occurred at disk power-on lifetime: 22101 hours (920 days + 21 hours)
  When the command that caused the error occurred, the device was active or idle.

  After command completion occurred, registers were:
  ER ST SC SN CL CH DH
  -- -- -- -- -- -- --
  40 51 00 78 36 07 e5  Error: UNC at LBA = 0x05073678 = 84358776

  Commands leading to the command that caused the error were:
  CR FR SC SN CL CH DH DC   Powered_Up_Time  Command/Feature_Name
  -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --  ----------------  --------------------
  c8 00 08 78 36 07 05 00      01:10:42.727  READ DMA
  27 00 00 00 00 00 00 00      01:10:42.727  READ NATIVE MAX ADDRESS EXT [OBS-ACS-3]
  ec 00 00 00 00 00 00 00      01:10:42.719  IDENTIFY DEVICE
  ef 03 46 00 00 00 00 00      01:10:42.719  SET FEATURES [Set transfer mode]
  27 00 00 00 00 00 00 00      01:10:42.719  READ NATIVE MAX ADDRESS EXT [OBS-ACS-3]

Error 315 occurred at disk power-on lifetime: 22101 hours (920 days + 21 hours)
  When the command that caused the error occurred, the device was active or idle.

  After command completion occurred, registers were:
  ER ST SC SN CL CH DH
  -- -- -- -- -- -- --
  40 51 00 78 36 07 e5  Error: UNC at LBA = 0x05073678 = 84358776

  Commands leading to the command that caused the error were:
  CR FR SC SN CL CH DH DC   Powered_Up_Time  Command/Feature_Name
  -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --  ----------------  --------------------
  c8 00 08 78 36 07 05 00      01:10:40.786  READ DMA
  c8 00 08 90 ff fd 04 00      01:10:40.786  READ DMA
  c8 00 08 88 ff fd 04 00      01:10:40.785  READ DMA
  c8 00 08 80 ff fd 04 00      01:10:40.785  READ DMA
  c8 00 08 78 ff fd 04 00      01:10:40.785  READ DMA

SMART Self-test log structure revision number 1
Num  Test_Description    Status                  Remaining  LifeTime(hours)  LBA_of_first_error
# 1  Extended offline    Completed without error       00%     23425         -
# 2  Short offline       Completed without error       00%     23409         -
# 3  Extended offline    Aborted by host               90%     23409         -
# 4  Short offline       Completed without error       00%     23403         -

SMART Selective self-test log data structure revision number 1
 SPAN  MIN_LBA  MAX_LBA  CURRENT_TEST_STATUS
    1        0        0  Not_testing
    2        0        0  Not_testing
    3        0        0  Not_testing
    4        0        0  Not_testing
    5        0        0  Not_testing
Selective self-test flags (0x0):
  After scanning selected spans, do NOT read-scan remainder of disk.
If Selective self-test is pending on power-up, resume after 0 minute delay.

I tried switching both power and SATA cables, to no avail.

I have, of course, no important data on that disk, but I am not especially looking forward at the downtime that might result from a disk failure.

How likely is it that my hard drive is about to kick the bucket?

Could it be the power supply instead?

Is there any other diagnostic I can run?

  • Due to the nature of the question, only conjecture can be offered, which cannot be an answer. A mid-read spindown could be caused by, or indicative of many problems not reported via SMART, so in my opinion the drive should be replaced. – Floofies Feb 8 '16 at 17:52
  • Posterity: it lived for another 1-2 months. Then it kicked the bucket. – Tobia Tesan Sep 26 '18 at 19:15
2

SMART is good for an overview of the drive health, but it is by no means perfect or 100% reliable for detecting a failing drive. On the contrary, I've had some drives with a perfect SMART reading, but barely able to keep a connection to the machine for over a minute.

What you've described does sound like a failing hard drive, at least, certainly not a healthy one. A drive should certainly not be spinning down often enough it causes skipping in a video you are watching from it.

You also ask whether it could be the power supply - whilst this is not impossible, it's somewhat improbable if this is the only issue you are noticing. If the power supply was dropping significantly enough to cause the drive to fluctuate, I would expect more drastic issues in the running of your machine (unexpected reboots, blue screens, general failures). These issues do seem more due to old age of the drive, and your SMART output suggests your drive has been powered on for nearly 3 years, which is a fair life span.

I'd suggest backing up any data that is important, I know you've already stated you don't have much of value on there but be sure of that. Run an extended self test (I believe you've already ran this, looking in your question), and keep an eye/ear on the drives activity (whilst in the middle of an extended test it has no reason to spin down at all). Perhaps initiate some large file copies and monitor the behaviour also, again, it should only spin down when it's inactive, and even then it should stay spinning for a duration after that.

In the end, SMART is only a guidance, and I do think you may need to be looking at a replacement drive soon if this behaviour continues.

  • Thanks Jonno. Note, however, that I mentioned that the spin up/down happens about once every 1-2 hours, not intermittently. – Tobia Tesan Feb 8 '16 at 15:13
  • 1
    @TobiaTesan If it's happening whilst you're actively reading data (in your watching a video example), it's certainly not a good sign. Unfortunately it's impossible to guess how much longer the drive will last, but if it's actively causing problems every 1-2 hours, I'd bite the bullet and replace it, and get it out of the way :) – Jonno Feb 8 '16 at 15:18

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