How do I check hard drive?

Checking your computer’s hard drive regularly is an important part of computer maintenance. A failing or damaged hard drive can lead to data loss and prevent your computer from working properly. Fortunately, Windows includes some simple tools to analyze and test your hard drive.

Why should I check my hard drive?

There are a few key reasons why you should periodically check the health of your hard drive:

  • Identify potential hard drive errors or failures before they cause serious problems like preventing your computer from booting up or losing files.
  • Check the drive status (healthy, caution, failing) so you can back up data and replace the drive if needed.
  • Monitor hard drive usage and free space.
  • Optimize hard drive performance by identifying and resolving issues.

Checking hard drives regularly allows you to take action before a failure causes major disruption or data loss. Drives can fail as they age, especially if exposed to shocks, high temperatures, or other environmental factors.

How to check hard drive health in Windows

Windows provides the following tools to check hard drive status and diagnose potential problems:

Disk Management

Disk Management provides an overview of your drives and volumes. To access it:

  1. Open the Start menu and search for “Create and format hard disk partitions” and click on it.
  2. In the Disk Management window, the layout of your drives and status are shown.
  3. Healthy drives show a blue bar and 100% for the volume size.
  4. Problematic drives may show a yellow/red bar and reduced volume size.

This gives you a quick visual on the health of your drives. But additional utilities provide more diagnostics.


CHKDSK scans drives for file system errors and bad sectors. To run it:

  1. Open the Start menu and search for “Command Prompt”
  2. Right-click on Command Prompt and Run as Administrator
  3. Type “chkdsk C: /f” and press Enter to scan C: drive (replace C: if checking other drive)
  4. Let the scan run – it may take a while on large drives
  5. CHKDSK will report any errors found and prompt to fix them

Using the /f parameter tells CHKDSK to fix any file system errors it finds. Review the report after it completes for any indications of bad sectors or disk problems.

S.M.A.R.T. Status

Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T) checks your drive’s internal sensors for reliability indicators. To check it:

  1. Open the Start menu and search for “Command Prompt”
  2. Right-click on Command Prompt and Run as Administrator
  3. Type “wmic diskdrive get status” and press Enter

This scans the disk drives and displays their S.M.A.R.T. status. The status should display as “OK” if no issues are detected.

Drive manufacturers’ tools

Most hard drive manufacturers provide their own drive utilities that offer additional diagnostics and tests:

  • Western Digital – WD Drive Utilities or WD Data Lifeguard Diagnostic
  • Seagate – SeaTools
  • Hitachi – Drive Fitness Test

These tools can run specialized tests beyond the basic Windows tests, but are often specific to those manufacturers’ models.

Checking solid state drives (SSDs)

Solid state drives have no moving parts unlike traditional hard disk drives. But similar tools can provide insight into their health and diagnostics:

  • Disk Management – View overall SSD volume health and space
  • CHKDSK – Scan file system for errors
  • S.M.A.R.T. Status – Monitor SSD’s internal health indicators
  • Manufacturer Tools – Provides enhanced tests and diagnostics

SSDs can display deteriorating performance as they age and fill up. Monitoring tools help identify such issues before they become severe.

Signs of hard drive problems

In addition to proactive checks, be on the lookout for these signs of a potential hard drive problem:

  • Unusual noises from the drive like grinding, clicking or screeching
  • Frequent crashes, freezes or slow performance
  • Files taking much longer to open or save
  • Computer booting up slower than usual
  • Programs or files failing to open
  • Unreadable sectors and data errors

If you notice any of those issues, examine your drive health using the tools outlined above. The sooner drive problems are identified, the more likely data can be recovered and a replacement drive installed.

How to monitor hard drive health

Rather than sporadic checks, many monitoring tools can provide regular insight into your drive health:

Hard Disk Sentinel

This utility displays drive status and health metrics on your desktop. A rating identifies any issues or deterioration.

S.M.A.R.T. Monitoring Tools

Many free tools like HD Sentinel for Windows, DiskUtility for Mac and GSmartControl for Linux continually monitor S.M.A.R.T. data.

Performance Monitoring

Task Manager in Windows, Activity Monitor in Mac and other OS tools display overall disk activity and usage. Suspiciously high utilization can indicate issues.

How to test a hard drive

To thoroughly test and diagnose hard drives, dedicated disk testing tools are available:

Windows – WD Data Lifeguard Diagnostic

This free tool from Western Digital provides extensive testing for any brand hard drive. Key tests include:

  • Quick test – Checks for major faults
  • Extended test – Reads entire drive to identify bad sectors
  • Write test – Writes data across the entire disk surface

Victoria for Windows

A popular freeware HDD tester with advanced tests including:

  • Read – Scans drive sectors for readability
  • Cluster – Verifies filesystem clusters can be accessed
  • Random Seeks – Tests randomly accessing thousands of sectors

BadBlocks for Linux

This utility tests all sectors are readable and without errors:

  1. Install badblocks tool – sudo apt install e2fsprogs
  2. Run badblocks on target drive – sudo badblocks -v /dev/[drive]

Allow full scans to run over many hours to thoroughly test the drive.

How to fix hard drive problems

If a hard drive displays signs of failure or errors, here are steps to potentially fix it:


As explained above, CHKDSK will scan and repair file system errors. Many problems can be fixed at this level.

Check connections

If the drive is an external portable model, try disconnecting and reconnecting the USB/SATA interfaces. Loose connections can cause issues.

Update drivers

Outdated disk drivers can lead to performance issues. Update your drivers from Device Manager or manufacturer’s website.

Defragment the disk

High fragmentation lowers performance substantially. Defrag tools rearrange files more efficiently.

Replace cables

Damaged SATA or power cables can cause connection failures. Swap cables before replacing whole drive.

Low level format

Completely erases hard drive and recreates the file system. Fixes file system errors and bad sectors not visible to CHKDSK.

Clean the drive

For internal drives, open the case and gently clean drive platters with isopropyl alcohol. Fixes reading issues.

Replace the hard drive

If the drive has physical damage or exhausting other options don’t work, full replacement may be required.

How to recover data from a damaged hard drive

If a failing or damaged drive contains important data, recovery is possible but should be done quickly to avoid permanent data loss:

Attempt file copy

If drive errors are intermittent, try copying files to another drive. Some data may be retrievable.

Use Recovery Software

Tools like Recuva, Testdisk and PhotoRec scan and reconstruct files from failing drives.

Remove from computer

On an external drive, remove from computer and connect to another system to read files.

Boot another OS

Boot up Linux from CD or USB which may be able to access drive partitions Windows can’t.

Professional recovery service

They dismantle drive in cleanroom and attempt recovery using specialized tools.

Best practices for hard drive health

You can take proactive measures to keep your hard drives healthy and improve their lifespan:

  • Monitor drive health regularly with tools suggested above.
  • Keep less than 50% free space to avoid excessive fragmentation.
  • Securely erase and format drive every few years to clean bad sectors.
  • Maintain drive caches by restarting your computer weekly.
  • Keep drives cool and away from environmental hazards like dust, heat and moisture.
  • Ensure proper ventilation and airflow in computer case.
  • Use a surge protector to avoid electrical damage during storms.
  • Safely eject external drives before disconnecting.
  • Handle drives carefully and avoid physical shocks/impacts.


Checking your hard drive’s health regularly is vital preventative maintenance. Utilize the various tools Windows provides including Disk Management, CHKDSK and S.M.A.R.T. status. Monitor drives for early warning signs of failure. Test extensively with utilities like Data Lifeguard Diagnostic. Attempt drive fixes like CHKDSK, cleaning and software repairs before replacing. Recover important data off failing drives using software or services. And implement best practices to improve drive lifespan and reliability.