Testing for Bad Sectors

In my last post titled Recovering Data from a Hard Drive with Bad Sectors, I mentioned that I had recently recovered data from a hard drive that had bad sectors. In that post I also talked about what bad sectors are and what happens when they appear.

One thing I didn’t talk about was detecting bad sectors. In this post I will touch on some tools you can use that can help identify if your computer has bad sectors.

Detecting Bad Sectors

As hard drives age they can develop bad sectors over time. Bad sectors are physical damage to a hard drive that can’t be repaired. When a hard drive is new, it usually includes additional sectors that can be used to replace bad sectors. This is done by the hard drive hardware itself, so it is transparent to the operating system.

Once these additional sectors are used up, the hard drive can’t move the data in the bad sectors to a new sector, so it keeps the data in the bad sector. By this time, however, the operating system will attempt to read this data and could  have difficulty reading the data.

When data is stored in bad sectors you may start to see a few things happen with your computer: loss of data, the system becoming unresponsive, or the system crashing. To avoid this situation it is important to check your hard drive on a regular basis, probably weekly but a least monthly, to ensure there is no problem.

There are many tools that can easily check for problems with your hard drive. The hard drive vendors have tools that can easily read the diagnostic data of your hard drive and alert you to any problems. For example, the hard drive I worked on in my last post was a Western Digital 20GB hard drive. Knowing that, I went to the Western Digital web site and downloaded their Data Lifeguard Diagnostic for Windows tool. I then ran this tool against the hard drive and was told that there were bad sectors. I always prefer the vendor’s tools over any other tool.

If you can’t find your hard drive’s vendor’s tool, you can run Windows disk checker tool:

  1. Double-click My Computer on your desktop.
  2. Right-click a drive letter, and select Properties
  3. Click the Tools tab.
  4. Click the Check Now button.
  5. Check the Scan for and attempt reovery of bad sectors checkbox.

Regardless of which process you choose, checking your hard drive can take a long time. If it does find bad sectors, you should copy any data that isn’t backed up and replace the hard drive.

To avoid any loss of data, it is important to implement a good, robust backup process even before your hard drive fails. I provide information about my backup process in the post titled Is Your Data Safe?.

Have Your Say

  • Do you have a backup solution for your data?
  • Have lost data because of a hard drive failure?
  • Do you check your hard drive for errors on a regular basis?

Related Posts

Recovering Data from a Hard Drive with Bad Sectors
What is Your Archiving Workflow?
Is Your Data Safe?
Using Mozy for my Online Backups

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