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In the past, Gnome/Ubuntu's standard "Disk" utility would warn if the hard drive reported imminent failure. However, I recently encountered a case where my filesystem flipped into read-only mode. Researching the error, I found this is usually caused by a failing hard drive, where Linux sets the filesystem to readonly when read and writes fail in order to prevent corruption of the drive.

I had to reboot and manually run fsck on the drive to temporarily fix the problem. Checking the Disk utility, it shows:

Disk is OK, 1592 bad sectors

What in the world does this mean? My entire computer became unusable due to a problem writing to the disk, so in no way is the disk OK.

How can I configure the tool to alert me everytime new bad sectors are found? I realize that few bad sectors are common, and the filesystem is able to map around them, but it seems like it should have alerted me to the presence of several thousand. I perform regular backups, so my data was safe, but I didn't like being surprised by this.

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You're correct. Bad sectors happen on hard disks. Your error message could mean impending disk failure due to a head crash. Since we don't know how many bad sectors you started with, we don't know if 1592 means 1592 new bad sectors, or just 1 new bad sector.

First, I'd start the Disks application, go to the "hamburger" icon and select SMART Data & Tests. Review the data, and run the tests.

Second, I'd install gsmartcontrol... this will help with prewarnings... and another way to monitor the SMART data...

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install gsmartcontrol

Keep monitoring the disk and the SMART data and keep a keen eye on the bad block count. Perform regular backups.

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  • Bad sectors happen... when the disk is failing. They are not something normal that you can shrug off. – psusi May 24 '17 at 0:20
  • @psusi I agree. Hopefully my answer didn't sound like I was shrugging it off. Lots of bad sectors certainly can indicate a potentially failing drive, however, bad block mapping can occur during normal operation over time... just as long as it's not excessively high :-) – heynnema May 24 '17 at 2:07
  • Any bad sectors on a drive indicate that it is on its way out. It is like lead poisoning; there is no safe amount. – psusi May 24 '17 at 3:19
  • @psusi I can't 100% agree with you about any bad sectors indicate a failing drive. A simple disk surface failure that causes a bad block is normal, and that's what bad block mapping was designed to take care of. With over 40 years of experience in computer hardware, and working for some of the biggest names in the industry, that's been my experience :-) – heynnema May 24 '17 at 3:43
  • It has always been my experience that once they start, they only get worse. Remapping is only a temporary measure. Everything I have ever read has said that as well. – psusi May 25 '17 at 1:11

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