How to test a hard drive for failures

Updated: 09/12/2023 by Computer Hope
Computer hard drive

A bad hard drive can cause an assortment of different issues on your computer. Below are some possible issues you may encounter. It is important to remember that the issues below can also be caused by more than a bad disk drive.

  1. Errors when reading, copying, moving, or deleting data on the computer.
  2. Extremely slow.
  3. Operating system unable to boot.
  4. Other random errors or computer reboots.

Software solutions

Below lists diagnostic software designed to test your computer's hard drive for errors and determine if it's faulty.

  • ScanDisk - Users running Microsoft Windows who're still able to get into Windows can utilize the already installed disk checking tool ScanDisk to find and repair any errors on their hard drive.
  • Chkdsk - Another Windows command line utility to test the hard drive. If you're unable to boot into Windows, boot from the Windows CD, enter the Recovery Console, and run chkdsk /f to fix errors.
  • TestDisk - Fantastic, free, and open-source utility to test and fix different hard drive errors.
  • Crucial Storage Executive - Excellent tool for Crucial hard drives and SSDs that gives complete information about the drive, all S.M.A.R.T. information, firmware updates, self tests, and more.
  • Seagate SeaTools - Fantastic and free program used to test Seagate and all other computer hard drives.
  • HDD Health - Another great program that utilizes S.M.A.R.T technology to display a hard drive's statistics, such as the temperature of the drive, it's overall health, and every other SMART attribute.
  • IsMyHdOK - Great small free tool for benchmarking and testing a hard drive and SSD from SoftwareOk.

Another option is to download the files to make an Ultimate Boot CD. The Ultimate Boot CD contains multiple tools for testing computer hardware, including hard drives, and help fix some of those issues as well.

Replace the hard drive

If the hard drive appears to be bad or is generating SMART errors indicating its bad even after trying the above suggestions, we suggest replacing it.

Often hard drives have a several year warranty. If the drive or the computer the drive is in is relatively new, it may still be under warranty (even if the computer isn't).

If you're concerned about recovering lost data from a defective drive, consider using a company who specializes in data recovery.