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How do I troubleshoot a slow hard drive?

My laptop is running very slow in the last days and sometimes when I turn it on, I get to that Windows 7 system repair screen. I tried to repair it and the repair failed due to a "I/O device error".

Trying to install Ubuntu is also hard (I had a dual boot system, but the filed windows repair mixed Grub up). It freezes after the "system requirements screen".

Because of this I/O error, I am guessing I have some problem in my HD.

How could I diagnose this? I would like to be sure that the HD is my problem before buying a new one.


EDIT: @Chopper3 I've read the FAQ and searched the kinds of topics in super user and server fault. I thought the right place was in server fault because there are a lot of topics and hardware and HDs there. Sorry if I was mistaken.

EDIT2: Sorry I forgot to mention, in the SMART diagnosis it it green and "few bad blocks"

EDIT3: Hey guys, I could do none of these, since My computer stopped working at all. Formatting and reinstalling didn't help, but running from liveCD works, so I think it might be HD. I will have to change it, since the computer is now unusable.

Tks for your help


Do Not continue using the drive until you are sure that it is healthy. The longer you use a failing drive the worse and more unreliable it becomes.

There are a variety of bootable disk utilities to test the health of Hard Drives. One simple but effective tool I like to use is Drive Fitness Test. This will tool will essentially go through the drive checking for bad sectors as well as performing a number of other checks in the process.

If DFT reports that the drive is failing (diagnostics in red box) you should check to see if the drive is still under warranty and if possible file an RMA claim to get it replaced.

If it does not report any problems (green ok) then you don't need to worry for the time being about Hard Drive health and should look elsewhere for the problem.

  • This is windows only, right? Unfortunately my Windows does not boot :( – JSBach Aug 8 '12 at 16:11
  • This is a Bootable CD, you don't need to get into Windows to run it. – jmreicha Aug 8 '12 at 16:13
  • Ah, ok, sorry. Somehow the link redirected to the Hitachi Align Tool download page. I will download the Drive Fitness Test and use it tonight – JSBach Aug 8 '12 at 16:22
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    I apologize, here is the link I was going for. hgst.com/support/index-files/simpletech-legacy-downloads#DFT – jmreicha Aug 8 '12 at 16:24

Try booting into Ubuntu with the Live Disk. Once you are logged in, check the device status and S.M.A.R.T. status. If there is any fault in that, you know you have a damaged hard drive.

Next it would be advisable to run

$ sudo fsck -t ext4 /dev/sdb

or the equivalent for your system.

Next check for bad sectors using:

$ sudo badblocks -v /dev/sdb1

Or the relevant equivalent.

This will give you information about your HDD's status.

  • Sorry I forgot to mention, in the SMART diagnosis it it green and "few bad blocks" I will check these other commands, thanks! – JSBach Aug 8 '12 at 15:58
  • Do check it. Any bad blocks are a bad omen to the remaining life of your disk. – darnir Aug 8 '12 at 16:00

Without specifics about the laptop or hard drive, the best thing you can do is check the manufacturer's website for any diagnostic tools available. For instance, Seagate has SeaTools. These are typically the best because they are drive specific.

If there aren't any available from the manufacturer, here is a list of drive utilities at Major Geeks to help you find something you need.

  • My computer is an acer Aspire 5820tgz, but in the specification website I cannot find anything about its details: support.acer.com/acerpanam/notebook/2010/Acer/Aspire/… – JSBach Aug 8 '12 at 16:03
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    The website will not tell you because they used various drives in that model. You would need the build sheet for your specific laptop. You can check the device manager or run system information utility to get more info. Often the model number is listed there. Conducting an Internet search with the model number can help you find the specific drive manufacturer. Ubuntu can give you the same information, I just don't know specifically how to describe it to you. – CharlieRB Aug 8 '12 at 17:20
  • Ok, I will check the disk utility and get back to you – JSBach Aug 8 '12 at 17:24

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