SMART Monitoring

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It is possible to control and monitor storage systems using the Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology System (SMART) built into most modern ATA and SCSI hard disks.

In the hope of anticipating failures, SMART monitors and reports on various indicators of reliability including temperature, number of reallocated sectors, and seek errors.

Some advice:

  • Enable SMART monitoring in your BIOS setup. With SMART enabled, if a write operation fails, bad sectors are taken out of service and the data is immediately written to a spare sector. In other words, the bad sector is reallocated.
  • Use a software program that reports SMART information - this way you get early detection of physical problems. Some examples are:
    • smartmontools — open-source for Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, Darwin, OS/2.
    • SMARTReporter — open-source for Apple Macintosh
  • If your hard disk is connected via USB or FireWire, SMART status may not be reported; if that's the case, a direct connection like IDE, SCSI, SATA, etc. is preferred.

Caution concerning SMART

SMART may not function equally well for all hard disks that it has been installed on and enabled. We suggest you conduct some research on using this system (perhaps for your specific drives) before deciding how much you can rely upon it. Different hard disk manufacturers appear to have various ideas on what to include or exclude for SMART monitoring. Among the data different drives provide there can be different threshold settings for what/when SMART should report changes to the hard drive.

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