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Software for testing hard drive - Also making searchable images.

Posted on 2011-05-04
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We want to make the process of backing up and testing clients hard drives very easy. Regularly do we need to fix a clients PC or laptop. When we get these in we would more or less like a factory line where we

Take an image of hard drive right away. An image from where we can recovery individual files if necessary, but also restore the entire image if necessary.
Actually be able to test the hard drive to check if it's broken and need replacement (or whether it just software causing whatever issue is occurring)
           
Are there good tools anyone can recommend for these specific tasks.
Sofware apps that make it really easy to make this process into a more or less automated process would be great. Also software we can trust to do the job and give accurate results with minimum fuss.
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Question by:afflik1923
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hathehariken earned 800 total points
ID: 35690279
two applications, both freeware, would be of help.

selfimage and diskimage

http://majorgeeks.com/SelfImage_d5588.html
http://www.dubaron.com/diskimage/
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by:garycase
garycase earned 800 total points
ID: 35691278
The Terabyte imaging tools -- Image for DOS and Image for Windows -- work very well for this.     http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/products.htm

Image for DOS is probably what you'd want -- just boot to it;  image the drive to an external USB drive;  and then you're ready to go.    You can install the free TBIView utility (on the same system or any other) and can then view the contents of the image (or even mount the image as a drive letter) to extract any files you may later find you need.
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by:afflik1923
ID: 35691389
Hi,
Thanks for the image suggestions. So far no suggestions for testing however. To make it really easy?
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by:garycase
garycase earned 800 total points
ID: 35691456
The drive manufacturer's testing utilities are both free and reasonably comprehensive.

I use Western Digital's Data Lifeguard utility (works with all maker's drives).    If a drive passes both the quick & extended tests it's safe to assume it's a good drive.

If you want to further confirm it, run another test -- such as Seagate's SeaTools.

Finally, if you want to really scrub the drive, run Gibson's excellent Spinrite (not free).
http://www.grc.com/sr/spinrite.htm

My criteria for adding an old drive to my "stash" of drives is that it passes WD's quick & extended tests; and completes a Spinrite Level 3 run with no errors.     If any of those aren't true, I toss the drive;   otherwise I add it to my "stash" of drives.
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by:hathehariken
hathehariken earned 800 total points
ID: 35691457
for non-destructive testing, spinrite is the best

but as the data is already backed up, you can go in for destructive testing, such as random data insertion with CRC and/or media interleaving.
for this, there are several applications:

ExcelStor's ESTest
HDAT2
MHDD 4.6 or better
and the best of all, Victoria 4.46 or better.
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by:afflik1923
ID: 35691655
OK thanks. So spinrite is worth the money then? Website looks so poor.

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by:garycase
garycase earned 800 total points
ID: 35691788
Whether it's worth buying depends on your needs.

Spinrite is often able to restore corrupted sectors through statistical analysis of the errors over the course of thousands of reads of those sectors [the "Dynastat" process].

It's also an excellent and very thorough test of the media ... especially at the higher levels [there are 5 levels of testing].

HOWEVER ... to simply confirm whether a drive is good or bad, Data Lifeguard does a very good job.     If both the quick and extended tests with Data Lifeguard are error free, there's an excellent chance a drive is good.    If you want a further level of confirmation, then run the Write Zeroes function (obviously this destroys all current data on the drive) for the full disk (there are two choices -- pick the full write) and then repeat the extended test.     If the drive is still error free, then it's fine.

Spinrite goes beyond that process by disabling the SMART sector remapping and thoroughly testing all of the media, potentially restoring previously "bad" sectors.     But with the low cost of drives these days, it's really debatable whether you even want to do this.     The biggest advantage of Spinrite is if you have corrupted data you REALLY need to try to restore.     I've used Spinrite for 20 years ... but if I didn't already have it, it's unlikely I'd buy it now as a testing tool -- although if I needed the recovery features it's still worthwhile.
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by:hathehariken
hathehariken earned 800 total points
ID: 35691832
if you are in the hard drive recovery business, i think spinrite is a must have.

for personal use however, i dont think it would be worth it.
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Author Comment

by:afflik1923
ID: 35691892
We alrady have GetDataback NTFS  and have used that as data recovery,but shame it does not have just a simple testing feature.
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by:hathehariken
hathehariken earned 800 total points
ID: 35691911
the two softwares perform a different set of functions.
to compare one against the other would be pointless.

they both have their merits and demerits.
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by:garycase
garycase earned 800 total points
ID: 35692665
Spinrite is not a "recovery" program -- it does not search for and recover files.    What it does is very specialized -- it can recover sectors that have been damaged ... and THEN you can use a recovery program to recover the files (or, possibly, simply read them normally if all of the damaged sectors were restored).

It's very good at what it does ... but has a very specialized set of features.    The only other program I'm aware of that does effectively the same thing is HDD Regenerator. [http://www.abstradrome.com/hdd.html ]
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by:ocanada_techguy
ocanada_techguy earned 400 total points
ID: 35711547
You have two completely different questions, testing drives is one thing, doing backups and being able to examine the contents and pick and choose individual files from the backup, are TWO separate very LARGE and significant questions each separately.

For testing drive health, yes the manufacturer's tool is the obvious choice.  Be sure to use the appropriate manufacturer, as errors reported by seatools are out-of-whack erroneous if testing a WesternDigital drive, just as wddiag would be incorrect reporting on a Seagate drive.

For ongoing monitoring, there is the built-in S.M.A.R.T. measures.  Each and every model of drive has different set of S.M.A.R.T. measures, some more than others, and some of the measures have maximum or minimum limits or both, some better low some better high, which if exceeded will raise a red-flag to the BIOS.  For instance, the spare sectors for bad sectoring have all been used up.  Most BIOSes do not do anything to monitor this continuously, but only during the power-on self-test (POST).  Some operating systems are better and actually monitor it constantly, but Windows does not, boo hiss.

As an aside, besides monitoring hard disk, also monitoring motherboard/chip/cpu termperatures, voltages, and fan rpms is equally important, they are so easy to fix if caught early but can have catastrophic consequences if failure left unchecked.   Whether SpeedFan, HWmonitor, etc will fully work depends entirely on if your motherboard has one of the monitoring chipsets to a SMbus.  http://www.mydigitallife.info/2010/03/22/check-and-monitor-computer-cpu-and-gpu-temperature-voltage-or-fan-speed/    I mention this since several of these utilities can monitor hard drive temperature and S.M.A.R.T. regsiters.  

I like HD Tune Pro.  It can  give you an indication of performance as well as health.

HDDRegenerator is an excellent program similar to SpinRite that is actively updated and maintained by it's creator.  SpinRite is fine.  However it has been languishing without an update or any improvements by GRC for too long.  Why would that matter?  Well, it does not support 4k blocking of the newer larger ADF formatted hard drives, so using SpinRIte to try to analyze those is 4 - 8 times slower since the drive will read the entire block each time SpinRite takes a smaller bite ( pardon the pun, spoonfull as it were)  That is a serious problem when the drive is crashing.  It is true that SpinRite has more detailed more informative screen displays during the scanning, but I'm thinking HDDRegenerator 2011 is better.   HDat2 is another.
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by:ocanada_techguy
ocanada_techguy earned 400 total points
ID: 35711606
The term "image" is usually associated with "cloning" software as opposed to backup software, but clearly they share the objective of making a kind of backup.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_disk_cloning_software
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_backup_software

Going back to the grandaddy of backup imaging programs, gHost would make a proprietary formatted image, splitting into pieces so spanning CD-Rs for example, and it included a "ghost explorer" to pick and choose among the contents.
Symantec hasn't kept gHost as the number 1 program anymore, because when Microsoft implemented VSS and other NTFS 5 type features in 2003, Vista, Windows 7 and 2008, they were unable to properly support it for the longest time, so anyone with all previous GHost was pooched and left unsupported in those cases.
VSS by the way is also the facility by which you can backup a file that is "in use".  Before that St Bernard Software's claim to fame was the ability to backup files while in use.
Paragon and Acronis are considered the top 2 now.
The NTBackup included in 2000/XP supported tape backup, cataloguing, and you could choose files to recover, but, only supported tape backup not CD-R.
The backup included in Vista/7 does support backup to external drives as well as burnable CDs and DVDs.
Acronis TrueImage lets you backup and recover files individually if you so choose.
Paragon Drive Backup does allow it.
Clonezilla you can NOT recover individual files.
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Author Comment

by:afflik1923
ID: 35810602
I will award points on this soon. Thank you all for useful input as always. I do love EE.
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Author Closing Comment

by:afflik1923
ID: 36132364
Thanks for the input
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