I recently was doing some work on the computer of an elderly friend of mine, and had a bit of a scare with a hard drive that appeared to have failed. Turns out the boot block had been corrupted somehow, which was easy enough to fix from another computer (yay Linux!). Anyway, this made me stick my nose into S.M.A.R.T. statistics on hard drives. There’s a nice little tool for OSX that sits in the menu bar and keeps an eye on your disks for you (SMARTReporter). I figured there had to be something similar for Windows. In the “free” department, there’s very little available that’s worth beans, but I was able to find something called HDD Health. No sooner had I installed it than it started telling me that the Seek Error Rate was fluctuating wildly (generally it would go from 100 to 200 and back again every couple minutes). This was rather sudden! I got worried about the health of the drive, and started backing things up on it… then I looked it up on the internet. Apparently this is a common thing with Western Digital drives (which is what this computer had): their Seek Error Rate tends to fluctuate like that, and it doesn’t mean anything at all. The general recommendation seems to be “download the diagnostic tools from Western Digital; those will be authoritative”. So I did, and they said the drive was in perfect health.
Well, so much for being worried!
It does seem to speak to the temperamental (and largely useless) nature of S.M.A.R.T. statistics. Thing to keep in mind: they don’t always mean much.