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Old 04-13-2012, 01:13 AM
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Default Crystaldiskinfo is a great SMART monitoring tool, not a diagnostics tool

The reason why I am posting this is because I see many techs who use Crystaldiskinfo for diagnostics, rather than a monitoring tool as intended. This is obviously not news to some of you more seasoned techs, but I thought I would clarify this for the newer techs who may not know the difference. This will not be an extensive explanation of SMART data or tests, but it will be a quick overview of how crystaldiskinfo is intended to be used and how you should run a real HDD diagnostics.

For more information on SMART data click here

Crystaldiskinfo is a great tool for monitoring your HDD over time and ensuring your systems stability. It's main function is to monitor SMART data and report anything that may fail or reach a certain threshold. It can also quickly identify problems with severely failing HDDs if you suspect that a HDD is in fact failing.

So does that mean that if a HDD checks out in crystaldiskinfo that we should stop there and call it a day? No. While crystaldiskinfo is a great tool for monitoring SMART data, it is not intended for SMART diagnostics. In most cases, unless the hard drive is severely failing or has several bad sectors, it will not trigger any alarms or warnings for HDD failures. That said, if crystaldiskinfo does say that your hard drive is failing or has failed in the past, it is a good bet that it's time to replace that HDD.

So what HDD diagnostics should you use? I personally use gsmartcontrol along with a few other SMART diagnostics tools for a second opinion. I am not going to go into why I use this program, but I do want to stress the importance of finding a good reliable program that will allow you to run a short and extended test. Typically when I run a HDD diagnostics, I always check the SMART data first for known bad sectors or past failures. If the count is too high or if there has been major failures in the past, then there is no need for further evaluation. If its border-line, then we immediately run a short SMART test. If it fails the short test, we are done. If not, then we run the extended diagnostics. In most cases, the a short SMART test will not be enough and you will have to run an extended test which will take about 2 to 4 hours to run depending on the size of the drive.

In summary, the short diagnostics checks for major issues and is not very accurate or reliable. The extended diagnostics scan runs a lot more tests to include surface scans and checks for read errors which are the most important and most common errors you will see. If you are solely relying on SMART data or short SMART tests, then you are potentially wasting your time troubleshooting issues that could be related to a failing HDD and or quite possibly wasting your customers time and money.


DISCLAIMER: I understand that many of you are mobile or remote techs who do not always have the ability to run a full extended diagnostics on HDDs or any other piece of hardware for that matter. I suggest that you at least check the SMART data, run a short test and start an extended test for about 10 minutes. If you are in a shop setting, you have very little to no excuse not to run a full extended test if the HDD does not fail the short test.
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Last edited by PCX; 04-13-2012 at 01:17 AM.
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Old 04-13-2012, 01:41 AM
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I have to agree with you on running thorough diags on parts. I've seen people go as far as to NOT test the HDD then nuke the drive only to find out its toast after installing, updating and fully configuring windows. I've also seen just this past week a 1 TB Western Digital drive pass a smart and show 0 signs of trouble only to fail the manufacturer tool 5 minutes later. I know you have to make a judgement call based on the info you have but at least make sure you have the best info you can get because your name is on the line.
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Old 04-13-2012, 01:44 AM
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Originally Posted by venist View Post
I have to agree with you on running thorough diags on parts. I've seen people go as far as to NOT test the HDD then nuke the drive only to find out its toast after installing, updating and fully configuring windows. I've also seen just this past week a 1 TB Western Digital drive pass a smart and show 0 signs of trouble only to fail the manufacturer tool 5 minutes later. I know you have to make a judgement call based on the info you have but at least make sure you have the best info you can get because your name is on the line.
Absolutely. With the method that we use for diagnostics, we rarely if ever get any call backs after repairs. In fact, I can think of maybe 3 times that its happened in the last few years. It pays to be thorough.
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Old 04-13-2012, 07:35 AM
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Brands like Dell and HP come with diagnostic tools loaded onto the computer. For those who don't have a go to tool or need a quick diag, this is useful. I personally use PC-Check or QA+Win32(quick) on everything.
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Old 04-13-2012, 09:32 AM
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Good info PCX, thanks.

Just out of interest, do you usually run the extended tests on a brand new hdd before installation?
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Old 04-13-2012, 12:45 PM
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Good info PCX, thanks.

Just out of interest, do you usually run the extended tests on a brand new hdd before installation?
I'm curious also if you run the long test on drives with zero bad sectors, new or used.

Lately I've been doing a full format on new drives. It takes longer, but it seems like a good way to test the entire drive before you put it into service.
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Old 04-13-2012, 02:40 PM
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Honestly I typically do not test brand new hard drives past a short test. I know if anyone does it, you guys would expect it to be me, but it's brand new. If during the installation I notice issues, then absolutely I test it. I have only had one out of hundreds of hard drives ever come back, so until I notice a trend of new hard drives come back more consistently I will not be testing new hard drive with an extended test.

As for used drives. I alway alway always test with an extended test as long as it does not fail the short test.
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Old 04-13-2012, 04:31 PM
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LOL... And I happen to be the one that does run a extended test on all new hard drives. Its only because I got burnt once from it. Actually it happen to two drives that I received for a server. Ran short tests and everything passed. A couple weeks after installing... sh@t hit the fan. Both drives were bad...and my only conclusion was that they were damaged during shipping. Anyways, I now always do a full test on hard drives especially critical ones.
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