How do you check a hard drive if it is failing?

There are a few signs that indicate a hard drive may be failing and steps you can take to test it. Here are some quick answers to common questions about checking hard drives for failure:

What are the signs of a failing hard drive?

Some common signs that a hard drive is failing include:

  • Increased read/write errors – The hard drive has trouble reading and writing data.
  • Strange noises – Clicking, buzzing or grinding noises coming from the hard drive.
  • Slow performance – Programs and files take much longer to open and access.
  • Failure to boot – The computer won’t start up properly or boot to the operating system.
  • Disappearing files – Files seem to disappear or can’t be accessed.
  • BSODs – Frequent blue screen of death crashes.
  • Bad sectors – Portions of the hard drive become inaccessible.

How can I test a hard drive for problems?

There are a few ways to test a hard drive showing signs of failure:

  • Use SMART diagnostics – SMART (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) checks the drive’s health.
  • Run the CHKDSK utility – Scans and repairs drive errors on Windows PCs.
  • Use manufacturer diagnostic tools – Most hard drive manufacturers provide tools to test and diagnose issues.
  • Check the S.M.A.R.T. status – This monitors for reliability problems and predicts drive failures.

How do I use SMART to check a hard drive?

To check a hard drive’s health with SMART:

  1. Open the start menu and search for “Command Prompt”
  2. Right-click Command Prompt and select “Run as administrator”
  3. Type “wmic diskdrive get status” and hit enter
  4. Check that the “Status” column says “OK”
  5. If status shows anything else, the drive may be failing

What information does SMART provide?

SMART checks provide the following information about a hard drive:

  • Read error rate – Rate of unrecoverable read errors.
  • Start/stop count – How often the drive has been powered on/off.
  • Power on hours – Total time the drive has been powered on.
  • Spin retry count – Number of retries to spin up the drive.
  • Temperature – Current temperature of the drive.
  • Bad sectors – Total number of bad sectors.

How do I run CHKDSK to test a hard drive?

To use CHKDSK to scan for drive errors on Windows:

  1. Open File Explorer and right click on the hard drive
  2. Select “Properties” then the “Tools” tab
  3. Under Error-checking click “Check”
  4. Check “Scan drive” to scan for errors
  5. Check “Automatically fix file system errors” to repair issues
  6. Click “Start” to begin chkdsk scan

What does CHKDSK do to test a hard drive?

CHKDSK checks the file system and drive surface for the following:

  • Bad sectors – Scans drive surface for media errors and bad sectors.
  • File system errors – Checks file system data structures for issues.
  • Directory errors – Checks folder structures and file names for errors.
  • Open files – Scans for files left open preventing repair.
  • Cross-linked files – Checks for improperly linked file segments.
  • File size errors – Verifies files are proper size on disk.

How long does CHKDSK take to run?

The amount of time CHKDSK takes to run depends on these factors:

  • Drive size – CHKDSK takes longer on larger hard drives.
  • Errors – More errors mean a longer scan to repair them.
  • File system – NTFS is slower than FAT32 or exFAT.
  • Drive type – Physical drives take longer than solid state.
  • Parameters – A full scan takes longer than just checking file system.

On average, CHKDSK may take anywhere from 5 minutes up to several hours for a thorough scan and repair of a larger hard drive.

Can running CHKDSK damage a failing drive further?

In most cases, running CHKDSK is safe even on a failing drive. However, on drives with severe mechanical problems, a full scan may worsen damage.

Signs CHKDSK could further damage a drive:

  • Won’t power on – If the drive won’t spin up, running CHKDSK could degrade platters.
  • Severe corruption – If corruption prevents boot and access, additional stress could worsen damage.
  • Loud clicking – Clicking noises signal mechanical failure. CHKDSK could further degrade heads and platters.
  • Overheating – If the drive overheats during CHKDSK, it could cause additional failures.

In these cases, it’s best to backup data from the drive and replace it rather than risk further damage from CHKDSK.

Can errors be repaired with CHKDSK?

CHKDSK can repair the following file system and drive errors:

  • File system corruption – Restores file system integrity.
  • Directory errors – Repairs folder structures and paths.
  • Open files – Closes files left open preventing repair.
  • Orphaned clusters – Recovers orphaned data clusters.
  • Cross-linked files – Separates improperly appended file segments.
  • File fragmentation – Defragments files for improved read performance.

However, CHKDSK cannot repair physical media errors like bad sectors. A full reformat is required to repair bad sectors and unreliability.

How can I check S.M.A.R.T. status?

To check a drive’s S.M.A.R.T status:

  1. Open the start menu and search for “Command Prompt”
  2. Type “wmic diskdrive get status” and hit enter
  3. Or, use manufacturer tools to read S.M.A.R.T. data
  4. Tools like Speccy also check S.M.A.R.T. status

The status should read “OK” if no problems are detected. Any attributes reporting as less than “good” may indicate failure.

What does S.M.A.R.T. status indicate?

S.M.A.R.T. status checks monitor drive health by tracking:

  • Used reserved space – High usage indicates wear.
  • Spin retries – High retries signal issues spinning up.
  • Reallocated sectors – The number of remapped bad sectors.
  • Read/write errors – Amount of errors reading and writing.
  • Drive temperature – Higher temps affect reliability.
  • Drive self-test logs – Records issues from internal testing.

If any S.M.A.R.T. attributes cross reliability thresholds, failure may be imminent.

What manufacturer tools test hard drive health?

Major hard drive manufacturers provide tools to diagnose drive issues:

Manufacturer Tool
Western Digital Data Lifeguard Diagnostics
Seagate SeaTools
Toshiba HDD Diagnostic Tool
Samsung HDD Utility

These tools perform drive tests and scans to diagnose issues. They often provide more detailed SMART drive health data than standard Windows utilities.

What types of tests can manufacturer tools perform?

Manufacturer diagnostic tools can perform tests like:

  • Short Drive Self Tests – Quickly checks drive health.
  • Extended Drive Self Tests – Thoroughly examines drive sectors.
  • Read Scans – Checks ability to read data from drive.
  • Write Scans – Verifies ability to write data to sectors.
  • Random Seek Scans – Tests random access times.
  • SMART Check – Monitors SMART health parameters for failure prediction.

These tools provide in-depth analysis of mechanical performance and health beyond simple SMART status checks.

Should I continue using a drive if tests show possible failure?

If hard drive tests reveal signs of failure like bad sectors, errors, or SMART parameters exceeding thresholds, continuing to use the drive is not recommended.

It is best to immediately backup data and replace the drive. Failure could be imminent, and continued use risks permanent data loss if the drive stops working completely.

However, in non-critical applications where complete failure does not pose a major risk, the drive may continue working for a short time in a degraded state.

Can faulty drives be repaired without replacement?

Most hard drive failures requiring replacement of the drive. However, in some cases, repairs may be possible:

  • Loose connector – Reseating cables can fix connection issues.
  • Stuck spindle – A stuck drive platter may start spinning after tapping it lightly.
  • Drive logic board – Logic board failure can be repaired by specialists.
  • Heads clogged – Drive heads can sometimes be cleaned to restore function.

These repairs should only be attempted by specialists. DIY repairs often make the problem worse and result in unrecoverable data loss.

How can data be recovered from a failing drive?

To recover data from a failing drive, try:

  • Connect as external drive to another computer and copy files.
  • Use recovery software to copy data despite errors.
  • Remove drive and connect to another PC internally.
  • Use a specialist data recovery service for mechanical issues.

If the drive is still detected, immediately make copies of critical files before attempting any repairs. However, serious mechanical failures require professional data recovery services.

What are the signs of an SSD failure?

Some signs of a failing solid state drive (SSD) include:

  • Slower performance – Increased latency and declining transfer speeds.
  • Bad sectors – Unresponsive blocks and sectors detected by S.M.A.R.T.
  • Read/write errors – I/O errors and retries during file operations.
  • Drive disappearing – SSD intermittently not detected by BIOS or OS.
  • Failed operations – Files fail to open, save, or copy.
  • Blue screens – Frequent crashes and operating system errors.

How are SSD failures different than hard disk drives?

SSD failures differ from hard drives in several ways:

  • No mechanical parts – So no head crashes or motor failures.
  • Silent – No clicking noises or spin downs indicate failure.
  • Gradual performance decline – SSDs slowly lose capacity as cells wear out.
  • All data lost on failure – No residual magnetism retains data after circuits fail.
  • Limited repair options – Most SSD failures require replacement.

The most common SSD failure is NAND flash memory cells wearing out after excessive write cycles.

How can SSD health and lifespan be monitored?

SSD health can be monitored by:

  • Checking S.M.A.R.T. status – Provides wear level data and lifespan estimates.
  • Monitoring bad sectors – Sudden growth may signal failure.
  • Watching for slower speeds – Performance drop indicates cell deterioration.
  • Manufacturer tools – Provide detailed usage data and diagnostics.
  • Self-tests – Run drive self-checks to detect developing issues.

Monitoring these metrics provides early warning so failing drives can be replaced before data loss occurs.

How can data be recovered from a failed SSD?

Recovering data from a failed SSD is difficult but sometimes possible by:

  • Using recovery software – To access data despite read/write problems.
  • Checking connector – Loose cable can cause detection issues.
  • Trying different PC – Another computer may still detect drive.
  • Replacing logic board – Electronics failures can be swapped.
  • SSD data recovery service – Expensive but may recover data.

If the flash memory circuits in an SSD are damaged or worn out, the data is likely unrecoverable unlike hard drives.


Checking for hard drive failure requires watching for performance changes and errors. Tools like S.M.A.R.T., CHKDSK, and manufacturer diagnostics can detect emerging drive issues before catastrophic failure results in data loss. Monitoring SSD wear levels provides advance warning since failures tend to be gradual. With early detection, drives exhibiting signs of failure can be replaced, and data backups allow recovery when failures do occur.