As a computer is used regularly, its hard drive will begin to age, even if the wear and tear isn’t obviously. You probably won’t start hearing strange noises, or notice anything out of the ordinary, but time will eventually cause your hard drive to fail. Tools such as SMART (which stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology), allow a hard drive to keep data on how it is performing, but this data is generally accessed by a command line program, and is not incredibly user friendly. Thanks to GSmartControl, on the other hand, not only Linux users, but Windows users as well, have a simple, easy to understand program to view this data.
Unlike a lot of Linux programs, it’s very easy to install GSmartControl, even if you aren’t an Ubuntu user. First, head to over to the program’s entry page at Gnomefiles.org.
Once there, read about GSmartControl, then scroll down to the lengthy list of download options.
As you can see, the source code is available for download, as are installers for Windows, Debian, Fedora, Mandriva, OpenSUSE (not shown) and Ubuntu (also not shown), for not only current editions but older ones as well, as well as for both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures.
Once you’ve downloaded the correct installer, go through the installation process, and when complete, you’ll find GSmartControl available in your menu system. In ubuntu, GSmartControl will show up in the Applications menu under System Tools.
When you launch GSmartControl, which needs root access, you’ll be asked for your password.
Once launched, you’ll see the main GSmartControl window. Below, we’ve highlighted the single hard drive available, which shows a bit more information about that particular drive.
As GSmartControl isn’t actually performing the scanning of the hard drive (a task the hard drive itself manages on its own), you may already have quite a bit of information available to you, as we did. As you can see from the above image, our hard drive passed the basic health check. This simply shows the drive is currently operating as expected, and that there are no warning triggers. If you want more information, you may double click on the hard drive icon, or choose the View Details option from the Device menu. This will bring up the details window.
From here, you can do a handful of different things. The Identity tab shows a wider variety of information about your hard drive, while the Attributes tab offers SMART attributes such as spin-up time, airflow temperature and more. The Capabilities tab allows the user to view SMART capabilities in relation to your particular hard drive, as well as estimates on how long the testing routines will take.
The Error Log tab shows the most recent five errors SMART encountered, and the Self-test Logs tab offers up similar information, specific to tests the user has run manually.
Finally, the Perform Tests tab lets the user initiate testing, as opposed to the standard testing SMART tools do automatically. There are three tests available: the Short Self-test, the Extended Self-test and the Conveyance Self-test.
The Short Self-test is a simple test (estimated to take roughly 60 seconds on the drive we used), and is simply a way to check for completely damaged hard drives. The Extended Self-test is much more comprehensive (estimated to take roughly an hour on our drive), and is actually a full disk surface scan. Finally, the Conveyance Self-test is a simple and quick way (roughly two minutes), to determine if any damage has occurred during transport of the hard drive.
Below is an example of what the testing looks like in practice.
All things considered, GSmartControl is a valuable tool. It allows Windows and Linux users to take a bit more control in monitoring the health of their hard drive, and with proper use, can provide warning signs of impending hard drive problems. This foreknowledge could make the difference between data loss and safe backup, and in any event should provide a level of comfort and security, knowing your hard drive is functioning properly.