Monitor your hard disk's health with this freebie from backup vendor Acronis
Your hard disk is a time bomb, waiting to go off. If you're lucky, like most people, it will never detonate. But if you're unlucky, like some people, you could lose all of your files, works, and applications, with no warning when your hard disk crashes. Acronis Drive Monitor (free) promises to give you warning before that crash, so that you can take action before you're hit with disaster.
Acronis Drive Monitor checks your hard disk health in multiple ways, and issues warnings when it appears there may be problems. With the program's advice, you can try to fix the problem, and back up all your data before a potential crash.
The software is exceedingly simple to use. Simply install it and it uses the S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) standard to check your hard disk health in many different ways, and show you what it finds. The easiest way to find out if your hard disk adheres to this standard is to run the Acronis Drive Monitor -- it will tell you. S.M.A.R.T. was first released in 1996, and Acronis says that if you have a hard disk made in the last 10 years, the great odds are that it adheres to S.M.A.R.T. (If you don't have a disk that adheres to the S.M.A.R.T. standard, you're out of luck, unless you're a scripting pro.) When it finds there may be a problem, it pops up an alert and offers advice on how the problem might be fixed.
A simple screen summarizes your hard disk's current state of health, and a detailed screen shows you more information that you'll ever want to know about your hard disk -- not just basics such as its temperature and read error rate, but details you may not even understand, such as the Reallocated Sectors Count.
Acronis Drive Monitor is superior to a number of competing products, such as HDDlife, whose free version doesn't offer as much detail as Acronis Drive Monitor. It's good that Drive Monitor is free, but keep in mind that it functions partially as an ad for buying Acronis software, notably the company's backup software.
I'm paranoid about losing any work, and so I have three different kinds of backup that work automatically ever day -- one to Windows Home Server, one to the Jungle Disk online backup service, and one using the SugarSync synchronization software. Despite that, though, Acronis Drive Monitor issued a backup warning, implying I had no backup software. The alert read "No backup software detected"... but reading the text underneath, I saw that the backup warning said that I wasn't using any Acronis backup software.
That misleading message seems a small price to pay for a solid (and free-of-cost) piece of monitoring software. Still, it lessens one's trust in Acronis Drive Monitor; Acronis would do well to fix it.