Is there a utility to "burn in" a hard drive?
What I mean is something that will really put a load on a new drive so that if it has a tendency to be faulty, it would hopefully expose that off the bat? Ive heard about such a program somewhere but can't find it now...anyone have any suggestions?
Most simpler disk checking utilities will basically treat the hard disk as a completely usable data disk. This means that a brand new empty disk will have to be Partitioned and Formatted first.
One operation that actually uses ALL of the disk is a Full Format. Once it does tha basic Format operations, it then proceeds to write to and read back from every single sector of the disk to be sure it works. It only does this once per sector, but it can take many hours on current large disks. So you could do that as a first step - specify Full Format when you first prepare the disk.
Now, once that is done, you can easily right-click on this new empty data disk and do a Full Format on it again. After many hours it will complete another run of one test per sector. Repeat as long as you have time and patience.
The old Norton Utilities had a Disk Checker that would scan through a disk for errors and then do a similar sector-by-sector test called a Surface Scan. It could be set to keep on repeating this operation, instead of stopping after one scan. I'm not sure if the current Norton has this or not.
I don't think I have ever heard of someone finding a marginally faulty disk sector by repeatedly scanning or "stressing" the hard drive.
You should be aware that hard disk makers try to solve this sort of thing for you and keep it hidden so you don't worry. Basically, every hard drive made has more good sectors on it than it needs for its stated capacity. It starts its life in a consumer's hands with the appropriate number of sectors allocated for your use, and a hidden reserve of good sectors. As it is used, the disk's controller board (the one on the disk drive unit, not the hard drive controller in the mobo chips) keeps checking the disk for signs of failure - this is part of the SMART system you hear about. If it finds a weak sector, it copies the data to one of the spare sectors, marks the doubtful one as "no good and never use again", and substitutes the new good section for the old one. This is all invisible. You only learn about it if you ask for a SMART scan and report. That includes a total number of faulty sectors that have had to be replaced. Eventually, if this happens often enough and the stock of spare good sectors gets too low, the SMART system will throw out a waning message to tell you that. That is a good time to buy and install a replacement RIGHT AWAY before you run out of spare space. You migrate all of your data to the new drive and throw out the old one with too many bad sectors.
Now, that hidden safety system is not perfect - if a sector just suddenly goes bad with no prior warning like a poor-quality signal, this system may not be able to move the data to another sector properly, and you could lose a bit that way. However, that's a rare event. On the other hand, the monitoring system is better than Windows' CHKDSK, which only asks the hard drive to read and write data, with no concern for how strong the signal is - the data either is available or is not, from the viewpoint of CHKDSK. It does not know what the hard disk's own electronics think about the quality of the signals it is getting.
Thanks a lot for the suggestions guys, its extremely informative!
As for the smarty man telling me to use google, I did and did not find enough info...
I am not so worried about bad sectors as I am about the disc suddenly not working. Reason for this is that I had a WD drive a while ago that was pretty new, about two months old and all of a sudden it just stopped working. Not slow, not noisy, wouldnt even spin up or boot.
So I want to safeguard the best that I can (I know 100% is impossible) against this sort of thing. I dont "mind" a few bad sectors eventually, all drives get them, I just dont want to have to replace it within the same year that I bought it.
I will do the tests you mentioned once the system gets here around next week