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Best way to check for bad sectors on a brand new drive?

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June 5, 2008 10:02:36 PM

What is the best way to check for bad sectors on a new hard drive?

Also, and maybe it's either been transparent to me or been so long since I had a drive with some, but doesn't the OS just mark which sectors are bad and then it doesn't really affect us anyway?

I can see if I got a new drive with 3812983 bad sectors, but 2 or 3 shouldn't matter right?
June 5, 2008 10:31:02 PM

i check my hard drives with the utility of the company that i buy it from. namely i only get seagate so i use seagate utilities to check for errors. i think that hd tune can also check for errors.
June 5, 2008 10:36:58 PM

New drive with bad sectors means there is a problem either with the drive or your system.
Run the drive makers diagnostic software, run memtest, and make sure your PSU is good.
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June 5, 2008 10:48:26 PM

Hi, best and safest method is go to the manufacturers website and download the relevent test software that is usually in ISO format to burn to a bootable cd or to make a bootable fdd. For example if you have a samsung hdd then you need HUTIL (v2.10 is current) and us that to do a full drive scan / test, for seagate and maxtors youd need Seatools and Western Digital you need DLGDiag. IBM's and hitatchis are DFT (drive fitness test).

If you are talking a brand new hd then Id always reccomend doing a full manufacturer test to be certain you have a good drive. If a 2nd hand / older hd then its still a good idea to do a full scan to be sure its good.

Most programs will also give the option of recovering or fixing bad blocks by either a full erase / recertify option or sector reallocation.

Personally I will not use a hdd that has any problems but having said that so long as any suspect sectors are marked by a FULL FORMAT then it will be fine to use as the os simply puts data around the bad block, however unless its just a one off then bad sectors usually mean a failing drive or one that is loosing magnetism in certain areas on the platter.

Hope that helps....
June 5, 2008 11:39:30 PM

chkdsk /r command in Windows. Open up a command prompt window and type "chkdsk /r x:" ignore the quotes and replace x with the drive letter of the hdd you want to check. the /r parameter sets it to repair mode and it'll automatically fix any bad sectors. Fixing means flagging the bad sectors as bad so that OS's don't use those sectors anymore. And, it doesn't mean the drive is bad if bad sectors are found. And yes, they can come from the factory with bad sectors and it doesn't mean the drive is defective, but often you can just get the drive replaced immediately under warranty. Drives come with spare sectors anyway so that if the disk controller finds them it can remap those bad sectors to a good spare sector. When the OS starts finding the sectors, it usally means that there are no more spare sectors left and the OS can just mark the sector as bad so that it's just skipped over in the future. Now if bad sectors just keep coming up, then yea it's defective. But i've had bad sectors found, ran chkdsk /r, and got another 7 or 8 years out of the drive before it died. AND, most of the time drives die, it's the controller board that dies, not the actual mechanics of the HDD. You can replace the controller board with another one from an identical HDD or very similar HDD and the drive is fine again. Anyway, just run chkdsk /r in command prompt and see what it finds. see how long it takes for bad sectors to come up again.

--Arson94
June 6, 2008 12:41:12 PM

Every hard drive has bad sectors when they are produced. When the manufacturer initially sets up the drive, they record them in a special list, call the PLIST. This list is, to the most part, static. More bad sectors can be added to the list, but that requires special tools to make it happen. Then, there is the GLIST which houses the bad sectors that come along over the years of use. This list is managed by the hard drive itself. With the aforementioned tools, the GLIST can either be cleared out or transferred to the PLIST. To add to these lists, the operating systems (ie, Windows) keeps tracks of what it considers bad sectors and marks them as unusable.

So, yes, there really isn't much to worry about 2 or 3 bad sectors. However, the drive needs to be closely monitored because 2 or 3 bad sectors can very quickly turn into 2 to 3 million bad sectors...it really depends on the causes for the bad sectors being formed. If they are there because of minor media defects, that is one thing. If they are there as an early sign of failing read/write heads, then you want to watch out.

Now, to the software tools. I agree that the manufacturer's software tools are always best for each drive. Be sure to run the most thorough scan that tests each sector with a read and a write. This is usually done through a low level format. In doing such tests, be sure to backup your data, as the drive will be super clean when you are done. If done correctly, the data cannot be recovered, not even by a hard drive data recovery service.

Other tools that I have used are Drive Fitness Test by Hitachi which works with all brands of drives and is free and Quick Tech Pro by Ultra-X which is a commercial product that tests all your system hardware, as well.

Good luck with your drive.
Luke
June 6, 2008 5:28:46 PM

Thanks guys for the great info as usual.

Ok, I did download botht he windows and ISO version of Lifeguard Diagnostic tools.

I ran the extended test on both the new Velociraptor 300gb and the 640gb AAKS (2 platter) drive, both from WD.

No errors (as it calls them) was found on either drive and it took about 2.5 hours to run the tests, maybe more.

One thing I wonder though - there was a function that would allow me to write 0's to every sector. I figured a format does similar things.

I used Vista to format the secondary drive. Those are already low-level and take some time.

However, unlike XP, Vista does not do a full format when you install it. Now the velociraptor was new so I figure there was no reason to 0 out every sector, or is there some advantage to this?

Thanks
June 6, 2008 5:45:53 PM

Not if you're keeping both drives. The only time to ever worry about how a drive is being formatted is when you're giving the drive away. If you're giving it away, then a quick format will only delete the partition tables so that the data is not visible to the OS, but the data is physically still on the drive and can be recovered easily with any data recovery software until data is rewritten to the drive. Once you start writing data to the drive again, it just starts to overwrite the sectors that have been marked for deletion by the previous format. It's actually a little more indepth than what I said and I probably could have used better terminology on a couple of parts, but that's the general idea. If you're giving the drive away, you can get DBAN and do a DOD (Department of Defense) wipe to it. That permenantly erases all data. You'll be fine the way you did it. I wouldn't worry about it a second longer.

--Arson94
June 6, 2008 6:40:45 PM

Damn, had a long response type up and though I already posted it *slaps forhead*

Well in short, thanks Arson94 - I thought the same exact (literally) thing.

But then being over analytical, I started thinking maybe there was some performance related impact.

For example, something I've never understood is why there are some files for example that 'unmovable' or can't be defragmented.

I notice this when, for example, I run defrag in Vista while in command mode and in verbose mode. I know some of these are system files, master page files(?), etc.

But I don't quite know why they are immovable. And sometimes, it seems this number grows over time.

So I started to think maybe based on...well I don't know what...but something...that this is influenced more or less and maybe with all 0's during a clean install, this is lessened.

But it seems not.

On a side note though, why are these files immovable? What creates more immovable files over time?
June 6, 2008 9:39:40 PM

Well as far as I know it's only files that are currently in use by the OS. That's why you see that while you're defragging in Windows. If I'm not mistaken, you can defrag a secondary HDD and you won't see these "immovable" files since the OS isn't currently running on that drive and have the files locked. If I'm wrong, feel free to correct me lol...

--Arson94
June 6, 2008 9:49:43 PM

Well that makes sense.

So I wonder what defrag programs are out there which can truely defrag a drive including all OS files.

Of course it must not make much difference or by now I'd know of a program or two that people would use for this purpose.

Even funnier was a relatively recent (2 months ago?) CPU or MaximumPC article I read where they tested some of the more popular defrag programs in comparison to the Vista's.

Although there were some differences, as a whole the Vista one took longer but basically worked better! It had fast load times, faster shut down times, and generally good performances - just took a long tmie.
June 7, 2008 9:33:25 AM

Well Windows can perfectly and "truely" defrag a drive including all OS files. Just not while Windows is currently using that file to run. None of the other defrag programs will be able to either. You just can't move a file like that while it's loaded into memory and currently in use. You can easily use a boot cd and run a defrag program from a boot cd and it can do it that way, but again that's because the files aren't being used. If you're going to defrag a drive, I would just use Windows. It's just as good as any other and defragging is optimizing the drive's contents for use with the OS. So, why not just let the OS defrag the drive how it would like ya know? Now, chkdsk, formerly known as scan disk, might be a different story. But I'm pretty confident in Windows chkdsk utility as well. Of course, if you've ever tried, you know that chkdsk requires exclusive access to the drive as well. So chkdsk must be run before Windows loads, just like defrag if you want to defrag every single file.

The only things I'd might look outside of Windows for, as far as HDD's are concerned, would be diagnostic tools and partitioning software. The HDD manufacturer know their own drives better than anyone else and partitioning software will let you re-arrange partitions with out a format and usually without even a restart of the computer. Otherwise, just let Windows do it. Windows isn't as bad as people make it out to be.

--Arson94
June 7, 2008 2:16:22 PM

The built-in Windows defrag works OK, but it is slow. 3rd-party defrag tools like Diskeeper, Raxco PerfectDisk, and O&O Defrag are much faster. All 3 of them can also defrag the system files of the drive (they all use a boot-time defragger to do this).
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