Your drive may be the most expensive part of your computer. Not in terms of price, but what is on it. Back-ups, therefore, remain recommended, but a sporadic check with a ‘stethoscope’ is certainly also useful, such as with the portable HDDScan tool.
Virtually all modern disks support SMART (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology), which ensures that they can report their (health) status. You must then take the trouble to request such a report. That is exactly what HDDScan does for you, and you also get a number of useful tests and tools on top.
The main HDDScan window consists of three parts: Smart, Tests, and Tools. If you have multiple disks connected to your PC, you must first select the desired disk. The chance is small that your drive is not recognized, because the tool can handle various types: pata, SATA, SCSI / SAS, USB, raid, ssd and so on.
As you can expect, the Smart section gives you a SMART report for your drive. Proper technical information, but as long as all items are accompanied by a green ball, you can assume that the disc is healthy. You can also print or save this report; handy to compare with a later report.
HDDScan can handle almost any disc type.
The Tests section contains some disk operations that are designed to check the reliability of the selected disk. There is an authentication test (which reads data without transfer to the host), a simple linear read test and a read test in ‘butterfly mode’ (a synthetic random test). With these tests, you can indicate for yourself which sector to start, how many sectors need to be checked and what the size of the reading block is. You only have to click on such a test to view it in detail graphically or to interrupt it temporarily or not. From this window, you can also request a test report. Note: between the tests, you will also find a destructive erase test: do not use on a disk whose data you want to recover!
In the Tools section, you will find a few extra skills, including an overview of the features that your drive (not) supports, quite advanced control mechanisms (genre Power Management and Spindle Control), a number of self-tests (provided from the disk controller) as well as a temperature monitor.
HDDScan also offers an interface to a number of disk technical tweaks.
HDDScan is a powerful tool to check the reliability and performance of your drives. Given the technicality and minimalist feedback, this tool will mainly appeal to the more advanced users.