There are many free hard drive testing tools available to help you determine what, if anything, is wrong when you suspect there may be a problem with a hard drive.
Tools like Windows Error Checking and the chkdsk command are included in your Windows-based operating system already but some others, like those below, are available from hard drive manufacturers and other developers.
Important: Depending on the issue found, you may need to replace your hard drive if it fails some part of one of these hard drive tests. Follow any advice given in the program.
Note: Many excellent Commercial Hard Drive Repair Software programs are available as well. Be sure to first try the free hard drive diagnostic software options below before paying for any program!
Seagate SeaTools is free hard drive testing software that comes in two forms for home users:
SeaTools for DOS supports Seagate or Maxtor drives and runs independent from your operating system on its own CD or USB drive, making it highly reliable.
SeaTools for Windows is a program that installs on your Windows system. You can do basic and advanced testing of any kind of drive – internal or external – from any manufacturer.
For those looking for SeaTools Desktop, SeaTools Online, or Maxtor’s PowerMax software, please note that the two tools above have replaced all three. Seagate now owns the Maxtor brand.
Seagate’s SeaTools programs are excellent programs. They’re used to test hard drives by professional computer services but are easy enough for anyone to use
Seagate SeaTools Pros & Cons
There’s little not to like about this excellent set of hard drive testing tools:
Two versions are available depending on needs
Both versions are easy to use once installed and are completely FREE
SeaTools for Windows tests hard drives no matter the manufacturer
SeaTools for DOS contains a highly useful “acoustic test” for noise troubleshooting
SeaTools for DOS is OS independent so it’s automatically compatible with ALL operating systems
SeaTools for DOS requires ISO image burner software that novice users may have difficulty using
SeaTools for DOS handles a maximum of only 100 errors, at which point testing has to begin again
SeaTools for DOS doesn’t seem to work well with most RAID controllers
DiskCheckup is a free hard drive tester that should work with most hard drives.
SMART info like reading error rate, spin-up time, seek error rate, and temperature is displayed, as well as the ability to run a short and extended disk test.
Details in the SMART section can be configured to send an email or display a notification when their attributes exceed the manufacturer’s recommended threshold.
Hard drives that have a SCSI or hardware RAID connection are not supported and can not be detected by DiskCheckup.
DiskCheckup Pros & Cons
DiskCheckup is a valuable program but does have a couple drawbacks:
Small download size
Information can be exported to a TXT file
Really easy to use
Clearly, shows which drives are SMART-enabled
Hardware RAIDs are not supported
SCSI connected drives are incompatible
Free only for personal use
Free EASIS Drive Check
Free EASIS Drive Check is a hard drive tester that has two main testing utility built-in – a sector test and a SMART value reader.
The SMART test can list over 40 values about a hard drive while the sector test checks the surface of the media for reading errors.
The report of either test can be read straight from the program when complete, configured to be sent to you by email or printed off.
Free EASIS Drive Check Pros & Cons
This free hard drive tester is a simple program with decent hard drive support:
Simple to understand
Supports internal and external hard drives
Can send log reports over email
Can only be installed to a Windows PC
Microsoft Windows Built-In Error Checking
Scanning your hard drive with the Error Checking tool can help identify, and possibly even correct, a range of hard drive errors, from file system issues to physical problems like bad sectors.
The Windows Error Checking tool is the GUI (graphical) version of the command-line chkdsk tool, one of the more well-known commands from the early computing days. The chkdsk command is still available and offers more advanced options than Error Checking.
Error Checking is available in Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP, but there are differences.
Tip: Windows 10 and Windows 8 check for errors automatically and will notify you if you need to take action but you’re welcome to run a manual check anytime you like, as described below.