Most hard drives with a long history contain erroneous writes and so called bad blocks. Some of them have unfortunate consequences: loss of important /files, corrupted photos and videos; when it will happen to your hard drive is only a matter of time.
The Windows operating system provides basic tools to find HDD errors (scandisk, chkdsk) but they are not suitable for diagnosing and testing, checking your storage device for validity. We suggest you to read much more powerful tools (some of them are free).
Check your hard disk for errors with the following Utilities:
- Seagate Seatools
- HDD Health
- WDD Lifeguard Diagnostic
- HD Regenerator
If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments. You may also want to read the answers to the frequently asked questions.
Hitachi Drive Fitness Test (WinDFT) - hard disk test and health checker
Hitachi Drive Fitness Test is a hard disk diagnostic and read error checker. It provides quick health check of internal and external G-Technology HDDs.
- Fast or Extended Test.
- Access or Fail marks are provided in TestLog against each test.
- Read SMART attributes.
- Bootable CD image. If you cannot boot the OS from the HDD, you may run WinDFT in LiveCD mode.
- Hitachi Drive Fitness Test performs the test without rewriting data on the disc.
Download Hitachi Drive Fitness Test
Hitachi Drive Fitness Test utility interface
Seagate Seatools for Windows: Disk Health Test
Seatools from Seagate provides free HDD diagnostic tools for Windows and DOS. This tool enables you to diagnose some HDD issues before contacting your warranty service to have the drive repaired (In our scenario, you may opt to have the drive replaced, losing all your hard drive data).
Note. This program is not compatible with every HDD and is only valid for Seagate HDDs.
Troubles the software is able to detect:
- D HDD /filesystem structure malfunction;
- Bad sectors and reading errors;
- Driver errors and Windows system problems;
- Uncompliant hardware;
- Disrupted Windows boot loader (MBR) on HDD;
- Malware, keyloggers and other malware.
How Seatools works is as follows: The user selects the tests to be diagnosed and runs them. The result is a detailed test report. If the test passes it shows a PASS mark, otherwise it shows a FAIL. Note that HDD testing may take up to 4 hours. In order to save the time, you can choose from 3 test modes.
Seagate Seatools can also be used to "cure" a hard disk drive. That is, the program is able to detect bad blocks and try to repair or overwrite with zeros (this method allows you to further ignore problematic blocks when reading/writing the disk structure).
The Victoria program has long been considered reliable, proven, but also outdated. However, an update was released in September 2019 (the latest version is 4.76b) that introduced several interesting features. Let's mention some of them.
- Testing the HDD surface - Victoria allows you to set the timeout for the scanner as well as the block size. The program reads sequentially the data and displays the current state of the disk surface in the form of a colour scheme, graph.
- Full USB-SATA support - on notebook and PC. Health can be checked using SMART tests, cache and noise level can be managed. Also Victoria displays in a very detailed way the data sheet of a HDD.
- S.M.A.R.T-monitoring of the medium. Allows to evaluate the HDD for the serviceability, wear degree and the HDD stock - for how many more resources it has.
- Fast deletion of any information on the disk without possibility of recovery by means of multiple "overwrite" and overwrite with "zeros".
Victoria works on Windows, including Windows version 10, you can download it here.
HDHD Health Software: Check the disk and read the SMART attributes
HDD Health is another free software to test the hard disk and check its health. This utility checks the hard disk for errors (SSD / HDD) and makes a prognosis (Health percentage indicator).
Instantly check the hard disk for errors using the basic SMART attributes. Interface of HDD Health
The following information is displayed in the main window:
- Manufacturer, model, firmware version
- Current HDD (SSD) temperature (accessible via the system tray)
- General structural condition of the disc
- Other attributes (via the Extended info menu)
Alike the other diagnostic tools, HDD Health reads the S.M.A.R.T indicators allowing to precise the current hardware performance. It does not include any other error-calculation tools or bad block checks.
HD Health 4.2: SSD-State Check
Such as these, the HDD Health toolbox is useful for those for whom S.M.A.R.T. values are sufficient (also if the state of the device is not critical). Fortunately, the newest HDD/SSD disks have the S.M.A.R.T. technology implemented.
Download HDD Health free
HDDScan - software for checking your hard disk for BIT sectors
HDDScan - free software for diagnosing your hard disk, reading S.M.A.R.T. and other parameters. By performing the test, you receive a detailed log-file detailing the condition of the disk.
HDDScan allows you to check your HDD and other storage devices:
- RAID arrays,
- HDD drives with IDE/SATA interface,
- SATA / ATA SSD,
- USB flash drives.
Let us mention the most useful features of HDDScan:
- Check the hard disk for errors that are not detected by standard Windows utilities: bad-blocks and bad sectors
- Test hard disk (Read/Clear)
- Check temperatures for all hard disks connected to your PC
- Export any information as a customized report
CHKDSK - hard disk error correction
Check your hard disk for errors without installing third party programs. Windows operating system (XP, 7, 8, 10) allows you to do so with the utility Check Disk.
The CHKDSK utility has been around since DOS. It not only looks but also provides solutions for basic file system errors. Bear in mind that it is not intended to search for all types of errors and it is not a tool for HDD diagnosis.
But nevertheless you can use CHKDSK to check various storage devices: not only the hard disk but also USB sticks and sd-cards. Starting with Windows NT, it fixes bad blocks (physically damaged sectors) by marking them appropriately. Afterwards these sectors are bypassed by other programs when reading/writing.
How to use chkdsk
HDDDLife - hard disk monitoring program
Usually the processor or the motherboard is called the heart of the computer. But after years of dependable service, all of a sudden your hard drive crashes. No other computer component suffers as much damage as a hard disk.
The hard disk is the memory of your computer and should definitely be protected. You should regularly back up your data to another HDD or storage media to prevent sudden data loss. However, if you want to prevent the failure of your hard drive, you need to determine its current state. The program HDDLife can help you with this.
The HDDLife has several very useful functions. First of all it monitors the state of your hard drive. The "health" of your HDD is shown in the form of a colour bar. If everything is alright, the bar is green and if the disk has worked a decent life time - the color is yellow. The red scale is a signal of pre-emergency state: the hard disk has worked out and is ready to retire. In such case it is better not to risk and to replace the component. In the pro-version HDDLife it is possible to set notification of the pre-emergency state of hard disks via email. If there are a lot of computers in the network, the diagnostic option comes in handy. Also the status column informs how long the disk has worked. This is worth looking at, especially if you are buying a used disk or just want to make sure that it is brand new.
The second important section is the drive temperature display. Every electronics device will operate, or more precisely, will wear out faster if the temperature is too high. And, as a rule, too high temperature leads to disastrous consequences. If the indicator text is green - everything is fine and the disk is in good thermal conditions. If it is not, you need to buy special cooling or check the ventilation of the slot, where the drive is located. On some HDDs, the software allows you to adjust the noise level and performance. It is done with the help of a slider, which defines correlation between the characteristics. Whether it is a notebook special edition feature or a trial version limitation - but in our case this option was unavailable. Some HDDLife features can not be called unique: for example, available space indicator. If there is not enough space on the partitions a familiar warning is displayed. Free space control is present in Windows, as in virtually any operating system, so the message is more annoying than informing.
The software is distributed in three versions: free, HDDLife Professional and HDDLife for Notebooks. The differences can be found at //www.hddlife.ru/rus/compare.html.
Western Digital Data Lifeguard Diagnostic - Software to check the "goodness of your HDD"
If you have a Western Digital HDD or SSD, this software is useful for general diagnostics.
This product can be used either as a desktop Windows application or as an ISO image to examine your HDD without rebooting the OS,
- Discover self diagnostic indicators - SMART attributes,
- check bad sectors on Western Digital HDDs,
- delete HDD information completely - overwrite "zeros".
The software is available from the Western Digital official Web site at this link.
HDD Regenerator - hard disk test and bad sectors treatment program
WARNING!!! HDD Regenerator does not know how to recover bad sectors and /files. For this purpose DMDE is the best solution. Judging by the reviews of IXBT forum visitors HDD Regenerator functions do not correspond to the declared ones.
HDD Regenerator is a utility for checking your hard disk, a professional HDD diagnostic and troubleshooting tool. The word "Regenerator" is misleading: the program is capable to detect possible defects but it is not capable to fix structure and bad sectors errors.
The interface of HDD Regenerator
First of all HDD Regenerator is a program for checking your hard disk for errors in the sequential block read mode. If the information is unreadable, "regenerator" allows to bypass the bad blocks and to read the problematic /files.
In order to define the HDD state it is necessary to run a special test. S.M.A.R.T-data allows to retrieve additional information. There are corresponding tools in HDD Regenerator.
Other useful features:
- Supports the FAT and NTFS file systems; however during the test the file system format does not matter;
- Displays detailed statistics about the HDD current condition and its operability;
- Creates a bootable regenerating USB flash or CD/DVD disk based on HDD Regenerator;
- Prescan mode: Fast hard disk diagnostics (surface scanning);
- Real-time HDD monitoring;
- Data security: the program works in read mode (except bad sectors overwrite).
The PRO-version of HDD Regenerator costs $79.99/year. There is a free evaluation version, which allows to "regenerate" 1 bad sector for free. However, what is meant by "regenerate" is not clear. You can use this mode at your own risk only if you are not afraid of loosing your data permanently.
Load HDD Regenerator
Frequently Asked Questions
HDD hangs, CPU overload is constant. Experts suggest me to replace HDD, there are many bad (broken) sectors. How to check for errors?
We advise to scan the HDD using applications like HDD Regenerator and Victoria. Read the documentation to learn how to check the hard disk for damaged sectors directly.
Check the HDD for errors regularly if the data is even marginally important to you. The program reads several sectors and then, always in the same place, stops reading: Abort / Retry / Fail. Why can't the utility mark sectors and bypass them? Isn't it the main function of HDD Regenerator?
HD Regenerator does not cure HDDs, but "cripples" them, as many experts say. For diagnostic and troubleshooting purposes, our advice is to use Victoria. It has an option of "fixing" bad sectors and works in the declared way, shifting bad sectors to another hard disk area.
Can HDD Regenerator find a disk, that Windows does not find? HDD is visible in BIOS but not in Windows Explorer. There is a mass of /files on that HDD, I need it badly.
- No, this program is meant for HDD diagnostics. Try to correct the error using diskmgmt.msc. Refer to the article ("What to do if your computer cannot see the HDD").
- Recover the /files on the HDD using the Testdisk console utility.
I have dropped my Samsung HD103SI hard drive and it has a dent in the HDD casing. After the crash a lot of bad blocks were found on HDD. Currently about 3k sectors that SMART has moved to another location. There is no drive warranty, what should I do?
I can create additional partitions on the drive and hide the bad partitions. But this will not help, bad blocks will be generated anyway. All stored data will be at risk. That's why you may use it to store such unneeded, temporary /files you do not mind parting with.
A bad block has been found at the beginning of the partition on the hard drive. No program can fix it. Is there any way to ignore a partition with bad blocks - e.g. create a partition and hide it? Which programs would help?
Use MHDD and Victoria in read+remap mode. After that check for errors at the console with the command chkdsk C: /F /R.