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SMART, or Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology, could be indicating a failing hard drive. You may have to take further steps.

Hi, Leo. Today, I ran a driver test from Dell support center and my laptop, six months old, failed the SMART short self test. It passed all the other tests, though. So what do I do now? Should I just ignore this or format my computer? I also want to know what's caused it, because I can neither play high-end games nor download random software.

In this excerpt from Answercast #12, I walk through the purpose and results of a SMART test and suggest preventative measures to take if your computer has failed the test.

Hard drive health

SMART stands for Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology. It is software that runs on the hard disk controllers: actually, on the hard disks themselves. This SMART technology monitors the health of your hard disk.

If you're facing a SMART failure, then the place to be looking is at your hard disk.

Will reformatting help?

Just reformatting your computer isn't going to solve that. It's actually a failure, or an impending failure, inside the hard disk itself.

What it really means is you want to actually replace the hard disk for safety's sake.

Yes, that's going to involve reformatting the computer after you replace the drive. But the point is that it's not the reformat that's fixing anything; it's replacing the hard disk that does so.

False positive readings

I will say that, particularly on older drives, the SMART Self Test has been known to be somewhat unreliable.

In my case, however, if I face a SMART Self Test failure, I take the safest path and assume that it's accurate; that it's telling me something that I need to know.

In many cases, the absolute safest thing to do is to replace the hard drive that's failing that test.

Article C5248 - April 25, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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2 Comments
EliC
April 26, 2012 3:30 AM

Just to comment on the original question which suggested that a SMART failure might have something to do with playing high end games - there is no reason to suspect that playing high end games would cause this.

Richard
April 26, 2012 8:26 AM

I am just in the process of replacing a failing drive, after getting a SMART warning from the BIOS at boot.
I downloaded a program that displayed the SMART data and at that time some 1800 sectors had become unusable and had been relocated to other sectors. By the time I copied the data off the drive the number had increased by several hundred and by the time I removed the drive from my system (a few days later) the number of relocated sectors was over 3000.
The manufacturer had a downloadable test tool which verified that the drive needed to be replaced under warranty. Keying the test result code into their website generated an RMA, authorising the return for replacement of the 2 Tb drive.
I am waiting with bated breath for UPS to deliver its replacement.

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