What Is a SMART Short Self-Test?

By Aaron Parson

To help prevent data loss, most internal hard drives use SMART, which stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology. SMART keeps track of vital hard drive statistics, including how long the drive has run and how many times the drive has moved data out of damaged areas. While some hard drive crashes occur suddenly without warning, SMART makes it possible to foresee failures caused by gradual degradation of the drive.

SMART Tests and Warnings

Most of the time, SMART works silently behind the scenes. If SMART detects a serious problem, your computer will pause while booting to display a warning. Windows does not include a tool for manually monitoring or testing your drive using SMART, but some computer manufacturers including HP and Dell provide a diagnostic utility with a short test that checks the levels of monitored SMART attributes, providing an on-demand overview of the drive's health. If your computer does not include a SMART testing utility and you want to check your attribute levels, download a testing program such as DiskSmartView, SpeedFan or Smartmontools (links in Resources).

How to Fix a SMART Failure

If you receive a SMART warning while booting your computer, or if a manual test displays a SMART failure, you should immediately back up all important files on your computer to another drive and replace the internal hard drive as soon as possible. The drive might not fail right away, but it's safest to assume it could stop working at any time. Other than replacement, there is no way to fix the physical wear and tear that results in a drive failure. Some malicious programs pretend to monitor your hard drive and claim they can fix SMART errors for a price. These claims are false, and you should run an anti-malware utility to remove the offending software.