How do I fix bad SMART status error?

A bad SMART status error indicates that your hard drive is failing or has failed. SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) is a system built into hard drives that monitors various attributes related to drive health and reliability. If SMART detects issues with these attributes, it will return a bad status, warning you that drive failure may be imminent.

What causes a bad SMART status?

There are a few common causes of a bad SMART status:

  • Mechanical failure – Issues like a failed read/write head can trigger a bad SMART status.
  • Electrical failure – Electrical problems with the drive’s components can also cause SMART errors.
  • Logical failure – Corruption of the drive’s firmware or file system can lead to detection of SMART errors.
  • Excessive bad sectors – If the drive has too many bad sectors that cannot be read/written to, SMART status will fail.
  • Too many reallocated sectors – SMART monitors sectors that have been remapped due to errors. Too many remapped sectors will result in a bad SMART test.

So in summary, both physical problems and logical corruption can lead to your hard drive triggering a bad SMART result during self-testing.

Can a bad SMART status be fixed?

Unfortunately, once a hard drive has a bad SMART status, it typically cannot be fixed or recovered. Since the bad SMART status means the drive itself is failing and having physical or logical issues, these problems cannot be resolved or reversed through software tools.

Some of the attributes SMART monitors that could trigger errors include things like servo issues, read/write head failures, and excessive bad sectors. These types of mechanical and electrical problems generally cannot be remedied through DIY solutions.

About the only potential fix for a bad SMART status would be to attempt to replace the drive’s controller board with one from an exact same model drive. However, this is unlikely to work and does not address any physical damage to the platters or heads themselves.

Steps to attempt recovery of data

While the drive itself likely cannot be recovered, there are some steps you can attempt to try to rescue any important data on the drive before it completely fails:

  1. Use disk cloning software to create a full image backup of the drive.
  2. Use a utility like ddrescue to copy data from the drive, working around bad sectors.
  3. Look into advanced data recovery services if the data is extremely important.
  4. Always power the drive down before moving it to try to prevent further physical damage.

Creating a clone or disk image when the drive is still somewhat functioning can allow you to work with the data on a separate healthy drive. This avoids causing further damage to the original failing drive.

Tools like ddrescue can help copy the data efficiently even when bad sectors are present by retrying reads and working around unusable areas. This can rescue portions of data that are still accessible.

If the data is mission critical, you may need to look into professional data recovery services. They have specialized tools and clean room facilities to physically repair and recover data from damaged drives.

Replacing the failing hard drive

Once you’ve exhausted your options for recovering the existing data, the only real fix is to replace the failing drive entirely. There are a few choices for replacement drives:

  • Identical hard drive – Replace with the exact same make and model. This will ensure compatibility.
  • Similar specification drive – Match key specs like RPM, cache size, interface type.
  • Higher capacity drive – Upgrade to a larger drive if supported by your system.
  • SSD – Replace the HDD with a solid state drive for better performance.

If possible, replacing with the exact same drive is ideal to prevent any compatibility issues. But you may opt to upgrade to a higher capacity or faster drive if desired.

Be sure to properly format the new drive and reinstall the operating system before restoring any data back to it. This will prep the new drive for use in your system.

Steps for replacing a failing hard drive

Here is a typical workflow for replacing a drive that is triggering bad SMART errors:

  1. Image the old drive – As mentioned, create a full clone or image backup first.
  2. Purchase replacement drive – Get the specs needed for your system.
  3. Install new drive – Physically install the new drive in your computer or external enclosure.
  4. Format replacement drive – Partition and format the new drive properly.
  5. Install OS – Do a fresh OS installation on the newly formatted drive.
  6. Restore data – Migrate your data from backups to the new drive.

This will ensure you don’t lose any data in the transition, while fully migrating to the new reliable replacement drive after identifying the SMART failure.

Recovering data from the old drive

If you were unable to fully image or clone the failing drive before replacement, all hope of recovering data is not lost. You can still attempt data recovery from the old drive using a few methods:

  • Connect the old drive externally using a USB adapter or enclosure.
  • Attempt to access any files that are still readable from the drive.
  • Use data recovery software to rescue files from damaged portions of the drive.
  • As a last resort, engage a professional recovery service.

With the right tools and techniques, you can often recover at least some data from old drives with bad SMART status errors.

Preventing SMART errors in the future

To help avoid bad SMART status errors going forward, there are some preventative steps you can take:

  • Monitor drive health – Periodically check SMART attributes using drive tools.
  • Manage drive temperature – Ensure proper airflow and cooling.
  • Update firmware – Keep the drive firmware up-to-date.
  • Handle drives properly – Avoid drops, bumps, static, etc.
  • Keep your system clean – Prevent dust buildup which can cause overheating issues.
  • Consider enterprise drives – They have higher reliability ratings and workload tolerances.

While there is no way to guarantee a drive will never fail, proactively monitoring health, managing temps, handling carefully, and choosing enterprise-class drives can all significantly improve your chances of avoiding SMART failures.

Recovering data from advanced format drives

Many newer hard drives use what is called the Advanced Format. This changes the physical sector size from 512 bytes to 4,096 (4K) bytes per sector.

This format change can cause compatibility issues if you place an Advanced Format drive into an older system or try to access it from an older operating system like Windows XP. The OS may not understand the larger 4K physical sector size.

To recover data from these Advanced Format drives, it’s recommended you connect the drive to a newer system running Windows 7/8/10+ or a Linux distribution from 2010 or later. This will ensure the OS has support for the 4K sectors.

You also may need Advanced Format aware data recovery tools in order to properly read data from the aligned 4K sectors. Most major data recovery suites have been updated with Advanced Format support.

So while the process is very similar to recovering data from a traditional 512 byte sector drive, you just need to be sure your system’s OS and tools understand the new 4K physical sector layout used on Advanced Format drives.

Diagnosing noise issues with hard drives

Unusual noises coming from your hard drive can be a sign of impending mechanical failure. Here are some common noises and what they may indicate:

  • Clicking – Typically indicates issues with the drive’s read/write heads or actuator arm. Heads may be stuck or unable to move properly.
  • Grinding – Usually caused by drive platters coming into contact with heads or internal components. Indicates severe mechanical issues.
  • Buzzing – Often due to problems with drive motors or spindle. Can signal motor failure.
  • Screeching/Scratching – Friction between drive heads and platters. Indicates heads have failed or crashed into platters.
  • Humming – Increased noise coming from drive motors. May point to motor overheating or increased effort to spin up faulty platters.

Isolate the drive if possible to confirm the noises are definitely coming from the hard drive itself. Check SMART attributes and run diagnostics to confirm health issues. Back up data immediately if possible.

Unusual physical noises from a hard drive almost always indicate mechanical problems that will progressively get worse. Ultimately catastrophic failure is likely if drive operation continues.


In summary, once a hard drive is displaying bad SMART status errors, it typically means the drive is mechanically or logically failing and data loss is imminent. Replacing the drive and restoring from backups is the main solution. You may be able to temporarily recover some data using cloning tools or data recovery software. But the drive will continue degrading so replacement is inevitable. Be sure to take preventative measures like temperature control, firmware updates, and regular health monitoring to try to avoid bad SMART errors in the first place.