CrystalDiskInfo is a great little free tool for checking the general health of your hard drive. It works by reading the S.M.A.R.T. data off your hard disk and displays it in a simple graphical format. It can work with internal or external hard disks, with either IDE (ATA/PATA) or SATA connectors, and it even works for hard disks plugged in via USB.
Each of the S.M.A.R.T. parameters has a threshold, beyond which it could indicate a drive starting to fail. If CrystalDiskInfo determines that any parameter is showing potential problems, it will highlight that row in the results table.
There are two versions of this program, an installable version for running on a single computer, and a portable version ideal for computer repair technicians. The installable version is ideal for home users who want to track the health of their hard disk over a period of time. CrystalDiskInfo can record the parameters each time you run it and produce graphs showing trends in the S.M.A.R.T. parameters. Tracking trends in this way can highlight issues relating to a gradual decline in performance or a sudden problem.
The portable version is more useful for computer repair technicians as they will want to examine the health of the disk without having to install programs on the hard disk. The portable version can be run straight from a USB pen.
This application was written by a Japanese developer, so the first time you use it, the language settings will be in Japanese. To change language, click on the farthest right menu, select A-N, then select English. It will remember your chosen language the next time you run the program so you don’t have to go through this process every time.
Read more about CrystalDiskInfo.