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I had a bad experience on an old Dell computer where shortly after installing Ubuntu on it, the hard drive failed due to excessive loading/unloading cycles. What is the best way to check the health of my hard drive in Ubuntu? Can it be done from the command line?

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up vote 43 down vote accepted

For the desktop, you can use "Disk Utility" (aka palimpsest or gnome-disks depending on the Ubuntu release) for this.

For the command line I suggest you install the smartmontools package and play around with smartctl. Eg:

sudo smartctl --all /dev/sda
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What is the actual program name for "Disk Utility"? I don't see an exact match for that. There are several "disk-related" programs when I search the dash for "disk utility" and I don't like to guess. The most likely one I see is "Disks". – Allen Jul 29 '15 at 18:22
Looking here I see the screenshot looks like the UI for the application currently named "Disks". In the title bar shown in the screen shot, I see that it was called "Disk Utility", so I assume the name was changed at some point. – Allen Jul 29 '15 at 23:32
The command for "Disk Utility" is gnome-disks – jkurtisr32 Nov 13 '15 at 15:31

You can also use gsmartcontrol, a GUI for smartctl.

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There is also a utility called badblocks, and another called shred. Both of these utilities can perform read/write operations on your write drive that can be used to make sure that a drive is safe for use. Personally, if I saw an error in either of these I'd replace the drive.

They are very slow and can take some time to complete, but can give you a an idea of their health. Also, since they are writing you'll lose the data on the drive and should be run from live cd as suggested by caesay. I've been lugging around SystemRescueCd lately.

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Why would shred be helpful here? – Eliah Kagan Apr 4 '13 at 0:45
@EliahKagan: I guess shred is suggested as a tool for stress testing the drive. – ntc2 May 22 '14 at 22:13

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