We live and die by hard drives for music. There’s no substitute for redundancy and backups (hey, you could be Matthew Dear and have a drive stolen during your set). But it is helpful to know whether a drive is healthy or not. S.M.A.R.T. monitoring features built into drives can help.

Lifehacker today points to a free Windows utility for the job called CrystalDiskInfo:

CrystalDiskInfo Monitors Hard Drive Health and Uptime [via gHacks]

But that got me thinking about other tools. There’s quite a range of choices for Mac, Windows, Linux, and even some obscure operating systems. The only bad news: generally you’ll only be able to monitor internal drives, unless your external drive is eSATA rather than USB or FireWire. (eSATA is where I’d like to go generally – it’s quite a lot faster, and frees up your USB and FireWire buses for other things — but that’s a discussion for another day.)

Cross-platform / Linux

The smartmontools package is a powerful ATA/ATAPI/SATA monitoring tool that runs on – well, pretty much everything. There’s a Windows package, plus a *nix version for Mac, Linux, BSD, Cygwin on Windows, Solaris, OS/2, QNX, and so on. This looks like your best choice on Linux.

Mac OS X

SMARTReporter (pictured at top) is probably the friendliest way to get at SMART data for SATA, ATA, and eSATA drives on the Mac. It even includes a handy menu bar item so you can monitor how your drive is doing at a glance. It’s free via Open Source “MIT License.”

You can also use the command line, via something like this:

diskutil info disk0 | grep SMART

Windows

In addition to CrystalDiskInfo, you have a number of options:

SpeedFan is a general-purpose monitoring and management tool for just about everything, including (as the name implies) fans.

HDD Health is a hard disk-only monitoring tool, like the others here. One thing it has going for it: friendly feedback and tidy tabs to view it.

More Information

The good folks at SpeedFan have an article on what SMART is and how to interpret data you get – well worth reading whether or not you’re a SpeedFan user.

  • http://www.tinkeringwithin.com/ muzo

    I've been running SMARTReporter forever, but it doesn't report the status of external firewire drives. I just had a 1TB Western Digital crap out on me.

    Mirrored RAID forever..

  • JD

    Thank you thank you thank you for this post!

    I first learned about checking SMART status for the first time when my Mac's audio drive began to die on me. Unfortunately, it was too late – SMART merely confirmed that the drive was going pear-shaped. After losing two year's worth of compositions (yes, I did cry), I now back up much more regularly.

    I'm going to script/schedule periodic SMART-checkups on all my machines now.