While the best computers almost always include SSDs as their primary drive, traditional hard drives are still the most cost-effective choice if you have a lot of stuff to store — and knowing how to monitor the health of your hard drive should extend its life.
Yes, SSDs offer superior speeds than their clunky counterparts. But if you’re a digital hoarder as much as I am (I still have music albums that I refuse to part with, as it took me about a week to download them via dial-up in the 90s…), then you have you also have a hard drive in your computer or plugged in as external storage is a lot cheaper than looking for a load of nice SSD space.
One caveat with hard drives, though, is that they’re relatively delicate pieces of hardware that aren’t quite as durable as SSDs, many of which fail after just a few years of use. Fortunately, if you think your hard drive is on its last legs, there are a few ways to triage it so you have time to extend its life or back up everything before the worst. happens.
How To Check Your Hard Drive Health
1. Use the SMART tool
Modern hard drives have a feature known as SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) that allows you to quickly see their health status. While this feature should automatically notify you if there are issues with your drive, you can check it manually if you think something isn’t right.
To do this on Windows, launch the Command Prompt by means of opening the Home menu and typing †cmd† click on Command Prompt when it appears. Input the text “wmic disk drive model, get status” than press enter/return† You will now see your drive(s) in the list, along with a status for each – “Okay“if it is, well, OK, or”Pred Fail“If it’s on its way.
To do this on macOS, Open the Disk Utility resource continue to Applicationsthan Utilities† Click the drive you want to check, and its status will be either “Verified” or “failed” in the “SMART status” section in the lower left corner, or by clicking the “i” icon in the top right corner.
Remark: This information will not be displayed if you are using a post 2015 machine with an SSD installed.
2. Run a disk health program
While the SMART tool is quick and easy, it doesn’t do much more than tell you if your drive is okay or about to die. That’s where standalone programs come in handy, which can provide more comprehensive information.
for windows, CrystalDiskInfo (opens in new tab) is a free tool that can dive a little deeper into the health of your drive, while macOS users should take a look at DriveDX (opens in new tab)which costs $19.99 but comes with a free trial.
If you prefer to go first-party, it’s worth seeing if your drive manufacturer has their own tool, such as Western Digital’s Drive Utilities (opens in new tab)or conveniently from Seagate SeaTools (opens in new tab)†
What to do if your drive is faulty?
If after performing checks you find that your drive is dying, what do you do? Well, the first thing you want to consider is how to backup all your data.
Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to use a cloud storage service as it requires no additional hardware and is relatively simple. It’s also worth checking to see if your data has already been backed up to the cloud, as Windows’ OneDrive and macOS’ iCloud both offer these services, which you may not have realized were enabled.
Alternatively, if your connection isn’t up to the task, or if you’re racing against the clock before a meltdown occurs, you may want to copy or clone the contents of your drive to another disk. The easiest way to do this would be to copy/paste or just drag and drop everything from the disc to the second, which is the best method if your drive only contains media files such as songs or movies. However, if you have installed programs or system information that you want to view, it will likely be left out if you choose this method.
Instead you should clone your diskusing a program such as EaseUS Todo Backup, which has a free version for Windows (opens in new tab) or a paid version with a free trial for macOS users (opens in new tab)†
Now that you know how to monitor your hard drive health, check out our guide on cloud storage vs. external hard drive to see if dumping your drive is the better option. If you’re a Windows user, learn how to enable God Mode in Windows 11 or 10. Or, if you like macOS, check out How to Use macOS: Essential Tips and Tricks.