Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hard-Drive Status Update: Seagate SeaTools!

A few weeks ago it looked like I had lost my desktop system: XP System Rescue.

Fortunately, with a plan and some good fortune I was able to get it up and going again.

So far it has been running just fine with no issues.

An anonymous commenter suggested I consider running Gibson Research's SpinRite on the drive to look for errors and problems.

For all of my wonderful plans, I didn't even consider this option. I looked at the old copy I had, but it was 3.1 and didn't support the newer drives out now.

But that again jogged my memory.

When I bought my Seagate drive, it came with a bootable utility disk called SeaTools. I went looking and sure enough, they have it out in several versions along with some other nice tools.

All free!

Seagate Technology - SeaTools

SeaTools comes in two versions of use to most home users: a DOS version and a Windows version.

  • SeaTools for DOS - "SeaTools for DOS can test Seagate or Maxtor Parallel ATA (PATA and IDE) and Serial ATA (SATA) interface disc drives. Because the software boots to its own operating system you can test your drive regardless of the OS installed on it. You can even test a new or completely blank drive. SeaTools for DOS will instruct the drive to run its built in Drive Self Test (DST) and give either a pass or fail status." (SeaTools for DOS (PDF) guide)

  • SeaTools for Windows - (requires .NET be installed) - "SeaTools for Windows is a comprehensive, easy-to-use diagnostic tool that helps you quickly determine the condition of the disc drive in your external hard drive, desktop or notebook computer. It includes several tests that will examine the physical media on your Seagate or Maxtor disc drive and any other non-Seagate disc drive." (SeaTools for Windows (PDF) guide)

Actually, both tools will test just about all drives, regardless of manufacturer, however, if you have a Seagate or Maxtor drive, they will pick up the additional features these drives support.

The SeaTools for Windows is a great tool for the average user. It provides nice hard disk drive health information and details all without being too complex.

SeaTools in Action

I was interested in the DOS version. I downloaded the file and burned it to a CD-ROM, although you could easily make a boot floppy as well.

I booted my system with it and ran the Short test. It failed and suggested I run a Long test, which I was already planning to do. The Long test does a sector scan and then allows repair if possible.

One hour later the Long Test completed and had located three bad sectors. The locations seemed non-consecutive so I wasn't too concerned. I ran a repair on these. The program set these locations as "bad" so the drive would no longer attempt to access them.

I rebooted and the system roared back to life again.

Now I have a "baseline" to monitor. I will check back every couple of weeks with a new Long scan to see if any new bad sectors are reported. If I regularly discover fresh ones, then I will park this drive, get a new one, and then do an image-transfer of my system to the new drive.


Well, there are lots of ways and software to do this, but Seagate also offers another neat freeware tool:

Seagate Technology - DiscWizard

You can use this application to transfer all your files and system to a new drive almost effortlessly.

It also lets you do wizard-based backups, transfers and contains files needed to make your own bootable disks, and even a Bart PE plugin for DiscWizard. Archive splitting is supported as well, so if your image is too big to fit on a single disk, it will automatically cut it down into CD/DVD ROM sized chunks.

One thing, one of the disks you are working with must be a Seagate or Maxtor brand, so this might not be for everyone. However, if you do use one, this could be a dead-useful tool to have handy.

Highly recommended looking into if you fit the profile of a Seagate/Maxtor brand drive user.

Miscellaneous Housecleaning Utilities

Once I had assured myself that the system was back running normally again I decided to do a bit more cleaning.

I went ahead and ran Auslogics Registry Defrag. I don't really find all that much performance gain from defragging my registry. I do like this program for a cold of reasons, first it sets a backup of your registry before beginning, then it seems to run the defrag process in a "shutdown" mode. By that, I mean that the XP screen dimmed to black and white like it does during a shutdown while the registry defragged. After a quick reboot I was back on my desktop and viewing the report. It claims to have shrunk the registry size by 12%.

For some additional free registry cleaning utilities, check out this recent post: Windows Registry Tools.

Two wrap up the work, I ran one more hard-disk defrag.

Normally I use Auslogics Disk Defrag. It runs fast and is very stable on my systems. However this time I wanted to go with a different solution:

Contig (from Microsoft's Sysinternals division) paired with Power Defragmenter GUI (eXcessive Software).

Contig is a command-line tool to defrag a single file. Great for handling those ISO files and such. Power Defragmenter GUI harnesses that powerful tool and wraps it in a simple Windows interface, but then allows for setting of multiple file defrags or even an entire disk defrag session.

To use these tools, just download and unpack them into the same folder location. Easy!

For more freeware disk defragging utilities see this Grand Stream Dreams post: Defrag Mosaic.

Here's hoping for many more years of steady hard-drive and system uptime to come!



Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention that Seagate's Disc Wizard comes with a free version of Acronis True Image 10 for free drive imaging and backup. Although it lacks some advance features found in the paid version.

Claus said...

you are quite right.

I wasn't focusing on that aspect in my post.

It is quite a fantastic utility and hard to believe it is offered as "free."

I think I will make a longer post just on this utility and all its features soon.

thank you for the comment!