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Tools for checking a new hard drive

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libervisco's picture
Joined: 2006-05-04

I've got a new HD since my old one was starting to get crampy and I'm wondering if it'd be a good idea to do some sort of a check up before starting to use it. I intend to redo everything, GNU/Linux install, data partitions, even trying LVM (a friend on Libervis IRC actually offered to do a whole presentation showing how to install Intrepid from scratch with LVM set up Sticking out tongue so that's something I can hardly refuse Eye ).

When I was still choosing which to buy and reading some reviews I've seen some people running tests and checks on HD's to see if it's really ok. It works here (shows in cfdisk), but I'm thinking it wouldn't hurt to do a quick check up before I start pounding data on it.

So.. anyone recommends doing that and if yes, which tools would you recommend using?

Oh.. and if anyone's curios.. I got Western Digital Blue Caviar AAKS 640GB (new Seagates 7200.11 series were getting a little too many bad reviews for dieing lately so I decided to avoid that). Smiling


Whistler's picture
Joined: 2006-01-03
one possible test may be

640GB... wow, mine is only 1/8 compared to that Smiling

one possible test may be just try formating the whole disk to see if there are bad clusters.
smartmontools could also be useful to check if the HD is used or has bad records, as well as some other info like the temperature, etc:

www:/home/whistler# smartctl --all /dev/hda
smartctl version 5.38 [i686-pc-linux-gnu] Copyright (C) 2002-8 Bruce Allen
Home page is

Model Family:     Western Digital Caviar family
Device Model:     WDC WD800BB-00JHC0
Serial Number:    WD-WMAM9U741332
Firmware Version: 05.01C05
User Capacity:    80,026,361,856 bytes
Device is:        In smartctl database [for details use: -P show]
ATA Version is:   6
ATA Standard is:  Exact ATA specification draft version not indicated
Local Time is:    Wed Nov 12 22:07:28 2008 CST
SMART support is: Available - device has SMART capability.
SMART support is: Enabled

SMART overall-health self-assessment test result: PASSED

General SMART Values:
Offline data collection status:  (0x84) Offline data collection activity
                                        was suspended by an interrupting command from host.
                                        Auto Offline Data Collection: Enabled.
Self-test execution status:      (   0) The previous self-test routine completed
                                        without error or no self-test has ever
                                        been run.
Total time to complete Offline
data collection:                 (2460) seconds.
Offline data collection
capabilities:                    (0x7b) SMART execute Offline immediate.
                                        Auto Offline data collection on/off support.
                                        Suspend Offline collection upon new
                                        Offline surface scan supported.
                                        Self-test supported.
                                        Conveyance Self-test supported.
                                        Selective Self-test supported.
SMART capabilities:            (0x0003) Saves SMART data before entering
                                        power-saving mode.
                                        Supports SMART auto save timer.
Error logging capability:        (0x01) Error logging supported.
                                        No General Purpose Logging support.
Short self-test routine
recommended polling time:        (   2) minutes.
Extended self-test routine
recommended polling time:        (  35) minutes.
Conveyance self-test routine
recommended polling time:        (   5) minutes.
SCT capabilities:              (0x003f) SCT Status supported.
                                        SCT Feature Control supported.
                                        SCT Data Table supported.

SMART Attributes Data Structure revision number: 16
Vendor Specific SMART Attributes with Thresholds:
  1 Raw_Read_Error_Rate     0x000f   200   200   051    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
  3 Spin_Up_Time            0x0003   167   165   021    Pre-fail  Always       -       2633
  4 Start_Stop_Count        0x0032   099   099   000    Old_age   Always       -       1519
  5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct   0x0033   200   200   140    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
  7 Seek_Error_Rate         0x000f   200   200   051    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
  9 Power_On_Hours          0x0032   094   094   000    Old_age   Always       -       4812
 10 Spin_Retry_Count        0x0013   100   100   051    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
 11 Calibration_Retry_Count 0x0012   100   100   051    Old_age   Always       -       0
 12 Power_Cycle_Count       0x0032   099   099   000    Old_age   Always       -       1436
194 Temperature_Celsius     0x0022   104   085   000    Old_age   Always       -       39
196 Reallocated_Event_Count 0x0032   200   200   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
197 Current_Pending_Sector  0x0012   200   200   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
198 Offline_Uncorrectable   0x0010   200   200   000    Old_age   Offline      -       0
199 UDMA_CRC_Error_Count    0x003e   200   200   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
200 Multi_Zone_Error_Rate   0x0009   200   200   051    Pre-fail  Offline      -       0

SMART Error Log Version: 1
No Errors Logged

SMART Self-test log structure revision number 1
No self-tests have been logged.  [To run self-tests, use: smartctl -t]

SMART Selective self-test log data structure revision number 1
    1        0        0  Not_testing
    2        0        0  Not_testing
    3        0        0  Not_testing
    4        0        0  Not_testing
    5        0        0  Not_testing
Selective self-test flags (0x0):
  After scanning selected spans, do NOT read-scan remainder of disk.
If Selective self-test is pending on power-up, resume after 0 minute delay.

www:/home/whistler# smartctl -H /dev/hda
smartctl version 5.38 [i686-pc-linux-gnu] Copyright (C) 2002-8 Bruce Allen
Home page is

SMART overall-health self-assessment test result: PASSED

I'm not sure if this could be helpful, as I don't have much experience on hardware testing/benchmark/etc.

libervisco's picture
Joined: 2006-05-04
Thanks for pointing it out.

Thanks for pointing it out. I've since set everything up and so far the drive is working good, but as I've been doing this set up I fell into one of my paranoid frenzies about hardware health so I'm wondering about my old drive and the noises it's making.

It's been making a buzzing kinda fast rhythmic noise ever since I know about it (or at least probably in about a year) and it seems to have been working fine (and continues to) all along, but I don't get why it's making that noise and what it's doing. It doesn't relate to reads and writes because it does so even when completely idle.

Anyway, I ran smartctl on both drives and they both pass, and the values are good (as I've read elsewhere the "value" column must always be greater than the "threshold" column or else the drive may be failing.

I might decide to try and replace the old drive making a claim about those weird sounds just to be sure (as sure as one can be about hard drives anyway), because I want to use it for backups...


libervisco's picture
Joined: 2006-05-04
This is quite interesting.

This is quite interesting. I finally got to the bottom of this little thing I got obsessed about, that weird noise in my old Seagate drive. It's apparently a feature called "STIR" or "Seek To Increase Reliability". What it does is when the drive is idle it starts moving the head in a preprogrammed fashion in order to prevent it from heating while resting in a single place. This creates this "chirping" or buzzing noise heard when it's pretty quiet (and my box has mostly fairly silent coolers).

This also explains why I've seen this happen now more than before. I started using the old drive only for backup, no longer for main OS and so it's idle more often therefore making this "STIR" thing kick in more often.

At least it means there's nothing wrong with the drive, but to prevent the noise the solution is to write a script that writes something to disk every 40 seconds or so. This would basically achieve the same objective of STIR, but with much less noise. Sticking out tongue

Now I just need to figure out how to get bash to do something every 40 seconds by itself..

a thing's picture
Joined: 2005-12-20

Why not just make a simple cron job that goes off every minute?

libervisco's picture
Joined: 2006-05-04
The STIR thing goes off

The STIR thing goes off every 40 seconds or even less. Sometimes it turns on even with this script running in background meaning it takes even less time so 1 minute cron probably wouldn't work.

I did this little script and it's working for days now. Smiling

#! /bin/sh
# The purpose of this tiny script is to replace Seagate's STIR (Seek to Increase Reliability) feature with small write to disk.

cd /mnt/backup/.stopstir &&
until [ 6 -eq 9 ];

do echo $(date) > date;
sleep 1;

echo Stop stirring! >> date;
sleep 1;

echo $(date) >> date;
sleep 1;

echo Stop stirring! >> date;
sleep 1;

echo $(date) >> date;
sleep 30;

I put it to .stopstir directory in the old drive's partition and in /etc/rc.local so it starts on every boot. Sticking out tongue

So it writes to the "date" file every 30 seconds 5 times removed from each other by one second so it moves the head a little more than just enough to write once. I think that should substitute well for the STIR thing.

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