Being S.M.A.R.T. with Drives

December 7, 2010

As I mentioned before (here and here), you really can’t trust your hardware to maintain a good health all by itself. It can overheat because of bad case design, dirty fans, or it can just burn out because of a bad PSU. It can also die from old age, which can mean any kind of weird symptoms, from random freezes to programs that crash all the time. You can test bad RAM using the free Memtest86+ which is conveniently packaged with Ubuntu’s live CD, and you can test your drives using their built-in SMART capabilities.

SMART (or S.M.A.R.T) stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology, and it’s basically extra sensors and firmware added to your hard disks so that they can detect hardware failures and other conditions, such as the drive’s temperature. The tool of choice on Linux to access SMART status is Smartmontools, which turned out to be most useful.

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Cool, Baby, Cool

August 11, 2009

Not all computer cases are equally well designed. That, I’m sure, you know. The thing you may not know, is just how badly designed certain cases are. Not only are they hard to service, they can be detrimental to your hardware! I recently had to change the hard drive from my backup box and ended up changing the whole kit altogether because the old machine did not recognize the new 500GB hard drive. So I reused my old Compaq Presario 6400nx computer, which does recognize the 500GB hard drive, but makes it run very hot. I mean, very hot.

6400nx-hot-small

The new drive, although almost idling except for the nightly backup scripts and whatnots, got to 50°C. Even if 50°C is within the manufacturer’s expected operating parameters (10 to 55°C, or similar), that’s about 20°C more than my main workstation’s hard drive that runs around 30–35°C. That got me worried because it is well known that high drive temperature shortens its life considerably. So I decided to solve the problem using tie-wraps—no, not à la McGyver.

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