laptop security

Hard Drive Testing Utilities

It's adviseable to use hard drive testing utilities long before problems emerge. If like 90% of laptop users you don't regularly backup they may give a timely warning.

hard drive testing

The average laptop hard drive has a life span of 2 to 3 years. They are designed to withstand a reasonably tough life of: motion, low level impact and quite high temperatures. It's common for drive death to occur suddenly and without warning, however there are hard drive testing utilities available that will monitor a drive's health and offer remedial advice.

Before getting into hard drive testing utilities, we need to emphasize the importance of regular disk maintenance as the key to preventing an early and untimely death resulting from drive stress.

Step 1 : The basic Windows disk management utilities are: Cleanup and Defragment. These utilities can be accessed via:

START then MY COMPUTER then right click C drive (or whichever drive), then Properties then Tools tab.

Step 2 : CHKDSK is a utility that checks, maintains and restores data integrity. With the passage of time and through normal usage the links and connections on the disk become increasingly fragile. The performance of a laptop will degrade as it spends more time attempting to collect data that is connected via broken and invalid links. Try the following CHKDSK setting and run it regularly: START then RUN then CHKDSK C:/F/R

Step 3: Run a complete virus scan weekly or even more frequently.

Step 4: Windows Registry maintenance. The Registry is Window's central catalog or exchange. It keeps tabs on every application loaded and all the bits and pieces used by each application. It's updated every time a new piece of software is loaded. It maybe compact and well organized when the laptop is initially removed from the box, but within a month it will have become a chaotic mess. It will contain chunks of left over software, duplicated DLL's, pointers that point nowhere and so on; yet another cause of hard drive stress.

We laptop users learn to live with bloated and chaotic registries, where things sometimes happen or fail to happen without any apparent rhyme or reason. Some of us may even assume it's time to reformat the hard drive or even upgrade the laptop because it's getting old, or it's time to upgrade to the next version of Windows. In reality, that's probably not the case. It's simply time to use a hard drive cleaner.

Geeks revel in low level stuff and fixing registry issues definitely qualifies. It's a great excuse to demonstrate technical prowess fiddling with Registry Editor (RegEdit) and hacking directly into the cryptic cause of the problem. For the non-Geek, RegEdit is a high risk tool. Total melt down is just a key stroke away. If you enjoy living on the edge this is the tool for you, but whatever you do be sure to backup your registry before changing "anything."

From the perspective of a non-Geek, we would rather not mess with the nuances of editing the registry. We have other things to do on the weekend. A painless solution is to use Registry Mechanic or CCleaner. Tools that identify issues, conflicts, left overs, duplicates ... , then does a back up before applying the fixes and finally compacts everything. They require no technical knowledge and typically result in a faster laptop.

If you attend to the above housekeeping duties on a regular basis, then all other things being equal your laptop should continue to run smoothly and without degradation for years, or at least until the drive reaches the end of its physical term.

Let's now look at some of the hard drive testing utilities that may help predict when that day will come and hence minimize down time.

Fortunately, all new disk drives are now equipped with S.M.A.R.T hard drive testing utilities, an industry standard for predicting the failure of hard drives. By monitoring critical performance and environmental variables over time the technology can detect approximately 70% of physical disk drive errors. By applying statistical techniques the technology can make predictions about drive life. Some laptops can monitor SMART information and report on disk drive condition at boot up. If you have one of these a status screen will appear when Windows loads.

If your laptop isn't set up to work with S.M.A.R.T hard drive testing utilities all is not lost. There are both commercial and free options available that will provide guidance:

In addition to dozens of other critical variables, S.M.A.R.T hard drive testing utilities will raise a red flag when the temperature of your hard drive gets above the comfort zone. Overheating is the biggest cause of hard drive deterioration and failure. Because of space limitations laptop hard drives need to tolerate much higher temperatures than their desktop counterparts, but there are limits to what they can handle. Overheating can sometimes be a consequence of dust and debris restricting airflow.

Hard disk manufacturers provide hard drive testing utilities specific to each model and brand on their web sites. Typically they're designed for technicians and hence we would recommend that the average laptop user will find HDD Health an adequate solution.

Hard Drive Upgrade

If in doubt upgrade, don't run the risk of disk crash. Installing a replacement drive is not that hard and drives are cheap:

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