SpinRite's S.M.A.R.T. Monitor

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Tig77

SpinRite Customer
Dec 29, 2020
11
1
44
Ontario, Canada
I have a quick question that I'm hoping someone will know the answer to. In SpinRite 6.0, there are times when it can access the S.M.A.R.T. information of the drive (such as on my old IDE drive) and not on my newer computer's drives with AHCI, and I understand why that is. My question is, other than displaying the drive's S.M.A.R.T. data for the user to see and log on it's S.M.A.R.T. monitor screen, does SpinRite's access to that information improve SpinRite's function in any way (tie into it's other functions like DynaStat, etc.) and allow it to do a better job? Or is it only a snapshot of the current error rate of the drive for user reference and that's all?

Thanks!

Shawn
 

DiskTuna

Well-known member
Jan 3, 2021
64
4
Netherlands
Of course I can't tell for certain but I do not think it's tied to code doing dynastat etc.. I think I once heard Steve explain (video) that for example error correction rate was an interesting value to observe and write down for future reference. If this number all of a sudden increases half a year later while scanning, the drive has to do massive ECC correction to get the data which may be indication of the drive's condition somehow deteriorating. I find this very valuable FWIW. In my opinion, if Spinrite would be able to store this type of data and tie it to a specific drive, then this would be super useful and definitely add value to Spinrite as a maintenance tool. IMO this type of dynamic data is 100x more useful than the static SMART data most tools provide us with.
 
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PHolder

Well-known member
Sep 16, 2020
550
2
268
Ontario, Canada
The problem with S.M.A.R.T. is that there is no standard. Different manufacturers are free to report in any way they see fit, and different drives from the same manufacturer may not even use S.M.A.R.T. values the same way. Based on knowing this, it seems unlikely that a program could be written to reliably decide meaningful actions based on having access to S.M.A.R.T. It's mostly information for the human to gauge. Perhaps an AI could be generated to replace said human, but that would probably be better integrated at the OS level to continuously watch a drive over time.
 
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Dr.Flay

Token Cornishman
Nov 23, 2020
6
1
Kernow
I think they should be considered complimentary but no they don't tie in.
Spinrite will ignore the SMART info and try refreshing sectors even if SMART says the blocks are off-limits.
Running a regular SMART scan after will reset the SMART info to the current refreshed condition.
Worth noting that many drives are not preset to do regular quick self tests, or save the test info if they are self testing.
In this case the drive condition is not kept updated anyway and relies on manual testing.

@PHolder good points but thankfully all SMART tools are not equal.
Each manufacturer has drive tools available so the reference is often easily available.
For example the Ultimate Boot CD comes with all the HD manufacturer tools ready to use in a handy ISO.

Then there is the venerable Smartmontools which has a regularly updated database of drive info, used by many other SMART tools
Perhaps it would not be unreasonable for Spinrite to support drivedb.h files on top of it's own features.
It would be a handy optional extra which adds scope for user tweaking.
 
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Tig77

SpinRite Customer
Dec 29, 2020
11
1
44
Ontario, Canada
Thanks for your replies. I think you're right that SpinRite's access to the S.M.A.R.T. data of a drive probably doesn't enhance the functionality of the other functions of SpinRite (i.e. it doesn't aid in data recovery, hard drive maintenance, DynaStat, etc.) and it's shown to the user and logged just for their own information and future comparison to see how the drive is functioning over time. I wonder if @Steve could give a definitive answer on this?
 
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Intuit

Active member
Dec 27, 2020
34
7
@Tig77 - I've had instances where SpinRite would halt because the drive got too hot. So the answer to your question is, yes.

I believe there were also instances where it would halt because the drive's failure prediction status changed.
 
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Tig77

SpinRite Customer
Dec 29, 2020
11
1
44
Ontario, Canada
@Intuit Ah yes, good point! If SpinRite can access the S.M.A.R.T. data of the drive, it can know it's temperature and thus pause it's operations until the drive cools down. And as you said, if the S.M.A.R.T. data suggests the drive is suddenly about to fail, SpinRite might halt as well. I wonder if that's the extent of help that S.M.A.R.T. data can provide to SpinRite while it's operating?
 
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Intuit

Active member
Dec 27, 2020
34
7
Don't know but kind of suspect it is the extent. Error rate parameters require analysis to be useful. Proper analysis would need to include a wide time frame and knowledge of how the drive is being employed. Seeing high or low seek/read error rates on an HDD aren't necessarily indicative of trouble. Event counts are easier to make judgements on, particularly if they're incrementing as they're being watched. They are monitored by the drive firmware with respect to failure prediction. But it typically takes some pretty extreme values to trip failure prediction; by which time it's typically too late to non-invasively recover large amounts of data.
 
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Steve

(as in GRC)
Staff member
Feb 1, 2019
345
1
840
65
Southern CA, USA
www.grc.com
At Shawn's (@Tig77) request, I'm coming over to weigh in on this topic since I know something about how SpinRite operates.

The only parameter that SpinRite actively uses is the drive's temperature. The rest is displayed for the user. Paul is right about all drives using their own parameter ranges, but SpinRite does effectively compensate for that to create meaningful bar graphs. It's able to do that since in all cases, while the high-end of a SMART parameter might differ, they are all zero based. So SpinRite scales the bar graph to its initial high value in order to track and change. If the health parameter should increase, SpinRite will rescale upward.

I very much love @DiskTuna's idea of having SpinRite retain a history of the drive's previous SMART results. As we know, the SMART data has the most meaning when the drive is placed under some stress by being asked to read a lot of data in a short period of time. (SMART parameters use the passage of time to exponentially reset and approach a steady state value.) So combining SpinRite's testing with real time SMART monitoring always created some useful potential, but losing the history each time has been unfortunate. Since drives have unique serial numbers, SpinRite will be able to build a comprehensive database of an individual drive's history. And now that we're all connected it would be tempting to allow a user's database to be uploaded and merged to form a composite of all drives of the same make and model, which would allow comparison against a norm.

@Tig77 noted that many of his drives will not display their SMART data. SpinRite 6.0 was only able to pull SMART data from legacy mode IDE-interface drives. But SpinRite 6.1 will be able to pull SMART data from all drives -- any drive that ReadSpeed runs on. So this will provide further incentive to take SpinRite's real time SMART monitoring further.

A LOT of potential here!
 
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Tig77

SpinRite Customer
Dec 29, 2020
11
1
44
Ontario, Canada
Thanks @Steve for your reply. So SpinRite 6.0 only uses the drive temperature SMART value it retrieves in it's active operations. When I first purchased SpinRite, I noticed that the SMART Monitor didn't work (which I learned later was because of the UEFI system of my laptop), so I (very mistakenly) thought that SpinRite couldn't do as good a job without it, so it's good to know that, for the most part, the SMART Monitor is mainly for informational purposes (and pausing operations when the drive gets too hot) and doesn't effect the quality of work that SpinRite can do.

On the subject of SpinRite storing SMART data and accumulating it over time for a drive, that's an excellent idea that @Dr.Flay and perhaps others have suggested. On that note, in my recent research into Hard Drive monitoring and testing utilities, I found this gem - StableBit Scanner It has a sleek deceptively simple interface but a fair amount of more advanced options, it runs always in the background, can do complex surface scans and some file data recovery automatically in the background during system idle time, and when interrupted, it picks up where it left off next time (as many times as it takes over days/weeks) but it also has the most user friendly, plain language and professional SMART data info I've seen in a HDD utility and it constantly monitors and alerts you in the systray about any important changes to the drive's SMART errors to let you know right away if your drive is getting in worse health. It downloads the HDD manufacturers SMART specs and goes by those, and it also optionally allows you to sync your drives SMART data into the cloud on Bitflock.com (which you can also use independent of StableBit Scanner by clicking "Run BitFlock" on their site which downloads a small tester/spec uploader EXE) and it will submit your drive's SMART data to the growing database to determine common SMART attribute values among many users with the same model number as your drive.

I think cloud based SMART monitoring is going to become the norm. So we can all become part of the "hive mind" to make decisions about our technology. :giggle:

Shawn
 
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Tig77

SpinRite Customer
Dec 29, 2020
11
1
44
Ontario, Canada
At Shawn's (@Tig77) request, I'm coming over to weigh in on this topic since I know something about how SpinRite operates.

The only parameter that SpinRite actively uses is the drive's temperature. The rest is displayed for the user.

Hi @Steve

As luck would have it, I also discovered today on one of my very old IDE drives, when I launched SpinRite, it immediately came up with a warning screen telling me that my drive's SMART data was indicating imminent drive failure and recommended that I not run SpinRite for any deep work like drive maintenance until I first backed up my data. So that's another good use of SMART by SpinRite :) I confirmed with Hard Disk Sentinel for DOS (using "HDSDOS.EXE /SMART /P") that one critical SMART attribute (Spin Retry Count) was lower than the health threshold.

Shawn
 
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