The veteran geeks among us, who have spent the better part of the last three decades behind a computer screen, all share one nightmarish computer tale: The Hard Drive that Died.
It is a dramatic tale of how precious data—potentially years’ worth of work—was lost forever. It can happen suddenly, through a lightning strike or other power surge…these instances are hard to predict and best protected by insured surge protectors.
Most of the time, though, there are warning signs of impending doom. But how do you know what they are?
Other than a grinding noise on start up, most warning signs of hard drive death are hard to decipher since they are internal. HD Sentinel is a free program that monitors these internal signs and alerts you when there is cause for worry.
When HD Sentinel is first installed, it tests your current hard drive performance. It tells you the temperature within your machine’s case, the total power on time of your machine, how long you can expect your hard drive to live based on current performance and whether or not any action needs to be taken on your part.
For our test, we used a Windows 7 Tablet PC that is about a year old. So far, there are no hard drive problems to report…but what if there were? What if problems develop in the future? HD Sentinel allows you to create alarms to let you know when your paranoia is well founded.
But, HD Sentinel does more than just alert you to impending demise—it allows you to decide on a panic plan. Would you want to backup your machine quickly before death? No problem. How about shutting down to preserve data? Can do. You can even set a daily email to tell you the current health of your hard drive.
Now, before we go any further—does any of this take the place of backing up data on an external hard drive? NO! We should all back up our important files routinely. But, this protection does allow you to back up any last minute files you may have created recently. This does give you a warning that may give you a chance to image the dying hard drive onto a new one so no productivity is lost.
That said, HD Sentinel sits quietly next to your clock all the time, monitoring your machine’s internal temperature and overall hard drive health. It is unobtrusive unless there is a problem.
If you are super-paranoid that your hard drive could die any moment, you can place a notification bar at the top of your screen:
The free version of HD Sentinel is all you really need to monitor your hard drive, but the paid version does have a couple of nice features, including the ability to compare your hard drive’s health and performance with other users’ data.
Unlike most of the programs like it, HD Sentinel has versions for Linux and even DOS. It works with most versions of Windows, and has added features to monitor external drives, including USB drives—thought it did not work with our 1 TB Western Digital My Book network drive.