SMART and chkdsk: Protect and check a PC’s hard disk or SSD drive

SMART and chkdsk: How best to protect and check a PC’s hard disk or SSD drive from sudden failure

Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART)

Windows computers use chkdsk, a tool provided by Windows, to check file and hard disk and SSD drive integrity and SMART technology, built into hard disk and SSD drives, to monitor drive health.

Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART) is built into almost all hard drives in use today. It is able to predict if a hard drive or SSD drive is about to fail. If the PC’s BIOS monitoring the hard disk or SSD drive is able to read what SMART is reporting, it will produce a warning message during the Power-On-Self-Tests (POST tests) at startup, such as “Hard Disk: SMART Status BAD. Backup and Replace.”

That means that the PC’s hard drive is close to having an irrecoverable failure and should be backed up and replaced as soon as possible. The warnings produced by SMART, which can also come via free and paid-for software designed to monitor it, should be taken very seriously because hard and SSD drives are very sophisticated devices that can correct errors due to wear effectively. SMART monitors what error-correction is taking place and when it becomes serious produces a warning such as the example provided. When SMART produces a warning, the PC’s owner should backup and replace the affected drive as soon as possible.

S.M.A.R.T. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.M.A.R.T.

Free or paid-for tool are available to make sure that there is software monitoring the hard disk or SSD drive of a particular desktop or laptop PC that can bring SMART messages to a computer user’s notice.

Comparison of S.M.A.R.T. tools – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_S.M.A.R.T._tools

For example, here is what a paid-for utility says about itself on its website: “HD Tune Pro is a hard disk / SSD utility with many functions. It can be used to measure the drive’s performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), securely erase all data and much more.”

CHKDSK in Windows

SMART monitors the physical health of hard disk and SSD drives. The built-in tool provided by every version of Windows since Windows XP called chkdsk (Check Disk) runs checks on the logical health of the files on the drive and can mark bad unusable areas of he drive as bad so that Windows does not use them.

To run the basic version of chkdsk, open Windows Explorer (to find an option to do that in Windows 7 right-click on the Start button), right-click the drive you want checked and select the Properties option in the menu that comes up. Opening the Tools tab provides the Error-checking option. Just click on the “Check now” button to run its routine maintenance tests. Use File Explorer in Windows 10.

The longer process to run the basic version of chkdsk in Windows 8.1 is shown in the following video.

Most powerful version of chkdsk is run as administrator from the Command Prompt

There is a much more powerful version called chkdsk.exe that is run from the Command Prompt in Windows 7/8.1/10.

The command-prompt switches (commands) that chkdsk provides vary from one version of Windows to another due to the fact that it is continually being improved, but the chkdsk c: /f switch performs error correction of the C: drive that Windows is installed on by default for all versions of Windows since Windows XP.

To run the checks on any other partition or drive just change c: to the drive letter of that drive partition or separate hard drive. Laptop PCs normally only have one hard disk or SSD drive but a desktop PC can have as many installed as there are sockets for them on the PC’s motherboard itself or from special adapter cards installed in its card slots.

Run chkdsk as Administrator – Windows 7/8.1/10

To find out what all of the switches that chkdsk provides your copy of Windows, for example, in Windows 7 and 10, enter cmd in the Start => Search box, right-click the cmd.exe link that is provided by that search and click “Run as administrator”. Type chkdsk /? at the prompt and press Enter. You’ll see a complete list of all of available chkdsk switches, such as chkdsk /f that fixes errors and chkdsk /r (also implies /f) that checks for errors and locates bad sectors of the drive or partition and recovers readable information.

In Windows 8.1, place the mouse pointer over the Start button and left-click on it. Start typing command prompt. A Search box appears on the right side of the screen with the words command prompt in it. Right-click on the boxed link called Command Prompt and click on the option called Run as administrator. Now you can enter the chkdsk /r command at the prompt.

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