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S.M.A.R.T. Drive Monitoring

For a long time, computers had no early warning system to inform you that your hard drive was damaged or close to failure. All this changed with the addition of S.M.A.R.T., an acronym standing for Self Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology. S.M.A.R.T. was developed by a number of major hard disk drive manufacturers with a goal of increasing the overall reliability of their drives. This technology enables your PC or computer to predict the failure of your hard drive with overwhelming accuracy. As a result of this accuracy, the S.M.A.R.T. technology has become standard and is used in almost every hard disk drive built today.


Complete Hard Drive Diagnostics

The S.M.A.R.T. monitoring system contains a suite of advanced diagnostics which monitor various components and operations in order to provide an early warning system of sorts. When a potential problem is detected, the hard disk drive can generally be backed up and replaced before data and files are lost or file systems damaged. The system monitors the drive for non-regular occurrences and then documents the “problem” and analyzes it. When S.M.A.R.T. spots what it sees as a disk problem, it can notify either the user (usually accomplished during boot-up at the bios level) or in larger networks, the System Administrator. The system monitors such important hard disk issues as faulty data sectors, CRC errors, drive spin time, drive head position and movement, drive spin time and speed, disk performance and temperature and other specific internal drive characteristics. The errors the S.M.A.R.T. system can detect can be predicted through a number of ways. As of this note, the systems can detect almost 70% of all hard disk drive errors, with manufacturers constantly looking to improve the system’s accuracy.

Examples Of S.M.A.R.T. Detection In Action
As an example of S.M.A.R.T. in action, consider a drive which has wide variances of drive temperature and disk spin up time. During regular use, the system will note the amount of time or retries it takes the drive to move from stasis speed to full speed. This information is noted, and is a prime symptom of drive motor failure or even bearing difficulties.

A second example might occur when a broken drive head or surface contamination occurs. Typically, this in turn will cause the drive’s error correction system to work “overtime”, thus alerting the S.M.A.R.T. system that there are problems with the drive. Once the S.M.A.R.T. system kicks in, you or your system administrator (depending on the organization) can backup the drive immediately and replace the drive immediately. Better to be safe than sorry, especially in a corporate environment, as hard drive downtime can be very expensive, and data loss a real problem.

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