Predicting Hard Drive Failure

Here at Micromat, as you might imagine, we're pretty good at destroying drives in our computer testing lab. The rigors of software development, as well as testing Volume Rebuilds and Optimizations often take a toll. Some of the machines in the office are on their third or even fourth internal hard drives. More often than not, a SMART warning gives us the early warning we need to keep our Macs running.

SMARTSunset

A while back, one of the Mac minis in our lab was starting to boot up more slowly than it used to. After checking the drive in the Mac mini using Drive Scope, we found that it was reporting a SMART warning. On further inspection, the drive was reporting over 100 uncorrectable ATA errors and a number of pending relocated sectors, indicating that the drive could soon begin reporting bad blocks. And sure enough, within a month the Surface Scan test in Techtool Pro was reporting bad blocks. We were able to replace the rotational hard drive in this older laptop with an SSD, so it starts up faster than ever.

Soon after, one of our development iMacs, equipped with a Fusion Drive, failed to upgrade to Mojave. After doing a clean install, and restoring from the Time Machine backup, Techtool Protection reported that the SSD portion of the Fusion drive was failing SMART as well. Checking the drive with Techtool Pro revealed that the wear-leveling count for the drive was reporting a warning, meaning that the drive was nearing the end of its useful life. The warning from Techtool Protection gave us the time we needed to replace the SSD before it failed completely, which would have cost us valuable development time.

While Apple's Disk Utility would have eventually let us know that these drives were each failing, both Drive Scope and Techtool Pro were able to give us more information and give it to us sooner, allowing us to replace the drives ahead of their failure.

Pro Tip: When Techtool Pro or Drive Scope indicate that a drive is failing SMART, replace it as soon as possible, and make sure your back up is always up to date. See our previous pro tip for backup tips.