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SMART way to prevent data loss.

Many computer users take hard drive reliability for granted, not even thinking about minimal possibility of drive crash. They suppose that hard disk drive manufacturers have done a great improvement to their products towards disk reliability. And they have, but the reality is that all disks die eventually. Even if you have a recent backup, sudden disk failure is a minor catastrophe. How can we protect ourselves from a sudden hard drive crash? One of the ways is through SMART (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) by predicting future failures.

The essential moment is that the user should understand how drives fail and why. There are two classes of failures the hard disk can suffer: unpredictable and predictable.

Unpredictable failures happen suddenly, without warning and can be caused by catastrophic events, handling damage, static electricity or an electronic component burning out, and there is nothing that can be done to foresee or stay away from them.

Predictable ones are 60% mechanical and occur gradually over time. The degradation of drive performance may include head crashes, head contamination, bad solder joints, bad curcuit board connections, motor break down, worn down bearing, spinning inability, excessive run out, bad servo positioning.

Most hard drives lose their performance slowly, and the disk is able to monitor and diagnose many elements' condition through SMART, providing an early warning for many types of problems. When a potential problem is detected, the drive can be repaired or replaced before any loss of data.

This technology has developed to be industry standard for drive manufacturers and allows checking hard drive status, reporting it and providing some estimation for future failure date. SMART has been able to predict a gradual degradation of the disk. The original SMART spec (SFF-8035i) was written by a group of disk drive manufacturers. In 1995, parts of SFF-8035i were merged into the ATA-3 standard. Starting with the ATA-4 standard, the requirement for the disks to maintain an internal Attribute table was dropped. Instead, now, the disks simply return an OK or NOT OK response to an inquiry about their health. A negative response indicates that the disk firmware has determined that the disk is likely to fail. The ATA-5 standard added an ATA error log and commands to run disk self-tests to the SMART command set.

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