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John Paul Cook

Storage Health Check

Would a drive failure inconvenience you? Have you checked your old drives? Maybe it is time you should run some diagnostics. Before installing a new, larger SSD and making a completely fresh installation of Windows, I thought it would be a wise idea to check the status of my existing storage devices. Most of my drives are from Seagate, so I installed SeaTools for Windows. Other driver manufacturers have similar utilities. SeaTools works with drives from other manufacturers in case you can’t find a diagnostic utility from your manufacturer.

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Figure 1. SeaTools showing problems with the 3 TB drive. SeaTools detects the Plextor SSD.

It’s possible that the drive problems could be fixed. But why? Drives don’t last forever and it is an old drive. Repairing it will take time and possibly not succeed. Since I bought a new 6 TB drive a few days ago, I decided the sensible thing to do was attach the 6 TB drive and transfer the data from the 3 TB drive to the 6 TB drive.

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Figure 2. Is repairing sectors on an old drive a wise use of resources?

The new drive needed to be formatted. Should you use a quick format or a regular, slow format? I do both. First I do a quick format to see if the drive can be formatted at all. Then I run a drive utility to check the drive’s fitness. The new drive is an HGST, so the HGST drive fitness test was run.

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Figure 3. Notice that the HGST utility did not pick up the Plextor SSD boot drive.

Once a drive has a clean bill of health, I do a regular, slow format. People disagree on this point. A slow format may detect drive problems that a quick format cannot detect. I intend to use the new drive for many years. I’ll gladly invest several hours up front checking my drive’s fitness before relying on it for years. The regular format took around 10 hours. Copying files from the old drive to the new drive took about 4 hours.

Before you get rid of a drive, you need to erase it. Simply deleting the files doesn’t actually remove them. Microsoft has published guidance here. DP Wiper did not work for me. Eraser is another option. It can be obtained as a portable version. There are other ways to securely wipe a drive. Some people prefer using bootable media to erase using a utility such as Dban.

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Figure 4. Active KillDisk free version.

It takes a long time to zero out a large drive. The free version for Active KillDisk only does a single pass of writing zeros.

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Figure 5. Be patient when waiting for zeros to be written.

I did a second pass of writing zeros. The third pass aborted. I’ll probably use Eraser next time.

Hopefully you won’t discover a looming problem like I did, but if you do, it’s better than suddenly being faced with catastrophic failure.

Published Tuesday, December 22, 2015 2:28 PM by John Paul Cook

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About John Paul Cook

John Paul Cook is a Data Platform Solution Architect working out of Microsoft's Houston office. Prior to joining Microsoft, he was a SQL Server MVP. He is experienced in SQL Server and Oracle database application design, development, and implementation. He has spoken at many conferences including Microsoft TechEd and the SQL PASS Summit. He has worked in oil and gas, financial, manufacturing, and healthcare industries. John is also a Registered Nurse who graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Master of Science in Nursing Informatics and is an active member of the Sigma Theta Tau nursing honor society. He volunteers as a nurse at a clinic that treats low income and uninsured patients. Contributing author to SQL Server MVP Deep Dives and SQL Server MVP Deep Dives Volume 2. Opinions expressed in John's blog are strictly his own and do not represent Microsoft in any way.

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