Death of a hard drive

The first sign you’re likely to get of a failing hard drive is a SMART warning when you boot your computer. Something like this …


Which is exactly what I got recently on a relatively new 1TB drive.

SMART stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology and there’s really not much you can do except be grateful for the warning, get a replacement drive and start moving data off the failing one as soon as possible.

SMART records all sorts of information about your HDD, some of which is used to predict future drive fails. The most common is the Reallocated Sectors Count fault — which is what my dying drive has.


What that means is that the hard drive has found a read, write or verification error on a part of the disk, marked the dodgy sector as “reallocated” and moved the data to a working sector. As you can see above, this has happened 3,995 times so far. As a predictor of impending failure, it’s a good one.

The BIOS warning doesn’t give you much information about precisely what’s going wrong with your disk. To find that, you’ll need to add some software appropriate to your operating system.

The best package I’ve come across for Linux is simply called Disks. It’s included in Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CentOS, and typically filed under the Utilities menu. If it’s not already installed, just grab it with your usual package manager.


Of course, SMART can’t anticipate all hard drive failures. In the case of a sudden failure, your only realistic recourse is to your backups. If you don’t have any, and the data’s critical, you can get the drive rebuilt, but it’s going to cost in time and $$$s. A quick local Google found one firm with a turnaround of 5-10 working days at a cost of about $600. Considering the price of a new 1TB drive is only about $100, I’m happy to heed the warning!


Top 20 computer quotes

20: “The box said ‘Requires Windows 8 or better’. So I installed Linux.”

19: “Artificial Intelligence often struggles against natural stupidity.”

18: “To err is human. To really foul up requires the root password.”

17: “If at first you don’t succeed, call it version 1.0”

16: “Programmers are tools for converting caffeine into code.”

15: “Yo moma is like HTML: tiny head, huge body.”

14: “Life would be much easier if we had the source code.”

13: “The problem with troubleshooting code is that sometimes trouble shoots back.”

12: “Someone knocked over my recycle bin. Now there are icons all over my desktop.”

11: “The great thing about Object Oriented code is that it can make small, simple problems look like large, complex ones.”

10: “Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.”

9: “I’m not anti-social. I’m just not user friendly”

8: “I went to a gentleman’s cybercafe — and they offered me a laptop dance.”

7: “The internet: where the men are men, the women are men, and the children are FBI agents.”

6: “There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t.”

5: “The difference between a virus and Microsoft Windows? Viruses rarely fail.”

4: “Hacking is like sex. You get in. You get out. And you hope you didn’t leave something that can be traced back to you.”

3: “If debugging is the process of removing bugs, then programming must be the process of putting them in.”

2: “My attitude isn’t bad. It’s in beta.”

1: “You know you’re a geek when… you try to shoo a fly away from the monitor with your cursor. That just happened to me. It was scary.”


What’s your favourite quote?