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Old 09-07-2006, 01:36 PM   #1
Registered: Oct 2005
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How to tell if a hard drive is good

I am searching for a Linux utility to test hard drive(s) to see if they are working properly and whether they have unrecoverable defects. Such utilities exist in the M$ world but I can find none in the Linux world. The venerable fsck does not seem to be adequate to the task.

Oh, and the tool would ideally be independent of the partitioning and filesystems present on the drive being tested. Spinrite from Gibson Research would be a good example though it is not a Linux tool. My biggest problem with it (which I am licensed to use) is that it has not been updated in years and I think it needs to be. Steve Gibson keeps saying it will be but it does not seem to be happening.

Such a tool for Linux would be a wonderful addition to the toolbox and ideal for system rescue scenarios if it also could do repairs like Spinrite.
Old 09-07-2006, 02:44 PM   #2
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I've found that there is nothing better than the manufacturer's hard drive diagnostic utilities. All the majors have them.
Old 09-07-2006, 03:30 PM   #3
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For linux? I never thought to check the mfgrs separately for this.

BTW, one reason I am so interested in this is that I have a drive which I cannot install XP on or process with any of the Windows/DOS utilities I have. NTL, Ubuntu Linux installed fine and seems to be working properly. Made me want a Linux drive tester in the toolbox. BTW, the drive is a Western Digital Caviar 120 GB drive so is model something like WD1200xxx (can't go look right now). I was trying to put the drive into a Dell Precision 340 with the intention of loading XP and Ubuntu 6.06 in a dual boot configuration. Doesn't matter to the goal of finding a Linux Test Program, but at least gives a scenario where it could be important.
Old 09-07-2006, 05:24 PM   #4
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The manufacturers' hard drive utilities are freely downloadable and run from a bootable floppy or cd-r. The floppy versions are usually windows executables that create the floppy when run in windows but the cd-r versions are just downloadable iso files. If you want to get a whole collection of them on one bootable cd(and many other useful utilities), take a look at the Ultimate Boot CD(ubcd):

By the way, if you are running linux OK on that drive there is probably nothing wrong with it. However, I've sometimes had similar problems on drives that had only been partitioned with linux utilities. Windows refused to install on one I had like that even after deleting all the linux partitions. The only thing that would fix it was a zero fill of the entire drive. Again, that's best done with the manufacturer's hard drive utilities, all of which are capable of doing a zero fill.

Last edited by kilgoretrout; 09-07-2006 at 05:31 PM.
Old 09-07-2006, 06:38 PM   #5
Registered: Aug 2006
Location: Saint Paul, MN, USA
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I've changed my thought / attitude / approach on this topic over the years. This is more of a follow-on to Dazed_75 comments on SR.

I use a frame/carrier system on most of my PC boxes. I try a lot of OSs, so I have a lot of disks -- PATA, SATA, SCSI.

I find myself not so interested in testing the drives per se, but in maintaining them. To do that, I use SpinRite. It's not free, and it's not cheap. It does recognize Linux filesystems.

One boots SR from a CD and it offers you a choice of the disks that it discovers. Then, among the various modes, it processes the sectors and makes sure the sector is readable and writable. It initially saves the content, then does its verification cycle, and then restores the data onto the sector. So it refreshes the data, as the author says. You can read more about the details and theory at the website.

SpinRite is definitely not for everyone, but when you consider that all your stuff is on the disk, you want to be sure that 1) you have a backup (and that you have tested the backup), and that 2) the sectors can be read successfully.

But -- even if SpinRite is not your cup of tea, I agree with kilgoretrout about the UBCD.

Best wishes ... cheers, makyo

Last edited by makyo; 09-07-2006 at 06:41 PM.


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