Windows 7 / Getting Started

Disk Failure Diagnostics

Disk reliability problems can vary in severity. Minor problems can cause seemingly random application failures. For example, if a user connects a new camera and the operating system fails to load the driver, disk corruption may be causing the problem. More severe problems can result in the total loss of data stored on the hard disk.

Windows can eliminate much of the impact of a disk failure by detecting disk problems proactively, before total failure occurs. Hard disks often show warning signs before failure, but earlier Windows operating systems did not record the warning signs. Windows now checks for evidence that a hard disk is beginning to fail and warns the user or the Support Center of the problem. The IT department can then back up the data and replace the hard disk before the problem becomes an emergency. For administrators, Windows acts as a guide through the process of backing up their data so that they can replace the drive without data loss.

Most new hard disks include Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART) and Disk Self Tests (DSTs). SMART monitors the health of the disk using a set of degradable attributes, such as head-flying height and bad block reallocation count. DSTs actively check for failures by performing read, write, and servo tests.

Windows queries for SMART status on an hourly basis and regularly schedules DSTs. If Windows detects impending disk failure, Windows can start disk diagnostics to guide the user or IT professionals through the process of backing up the data and replacing the disk before total failure occurs. Windows can also detect problems related to a dirty or scratched CD or DVD and instruct the user to clean the media.

You can configure disk diagnostics using two Group Policy settings. Both are located in Computer Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\System\Troubleshooting And Diagnostics\Disk Diagnostic.

  • Disk Diagnostic: Configure Execution Level Use this policy to enable or disable disk diagnostic warnings. Disabling this policy does not disable disk diagnostics; it simply blocks disk diagnostics from displaying a message to the user and taking any corrective action. If you have configured a monitoring infrastructure to collect disk diagnostic events recorded to the event log and prefer to manually respond to events, you can disable this policy.
  • Disk Diagnostic: Configure Custom Alert Text Enable this property to define custom alert text (up to 512 characters) in the disk diagnostic message that appears when a disk reports a SMART fault.

For disk diagnostics to work, the Diagnostic Policy Service must be running. Note that disk diagnostics cannot detect all impending failures. Additionally, because SMART attribute definitions are vendor specific, different vendor implementations can vary. SMART will not function if hard disks are attached to a hardware redundant array of independent disks (RAID) controller.

Note Many hardware vendors use SMART failures as a warranty replacement indicator.

[Previous] [Contents] [Next]

In this tutorial:

  1. Troubleshooting Hardware, Driver, and Disk Issues
  2. Windows 7 Improvements for Hardware and Driver Troubleshooting
  3. Windows Troubleshooting Platform
  4. Built-in Troubleshooting Packs
  5. Windows Troubleshooting Platform Components
  6. Creating Custom Troubleshooting Packs
  7. Running Troubleshooting Packs Remotely
  8. Windows 7 Reliability Monitor
  9. Windows 7 Resource Monitor
  10. Windows Memory Diagnostics
  11. Disk Failure Diagnostics
  12. Self-Healing NTFS
  13. Improved Driver Reliability
  14. Improved Error Reporting
  15. The Process of Troubleshooting Hardware Issues
  16. How to Troubleshoot Problems That Prevent Windows from Starting
  17. How to Troubleshoot Problems Installing New Hardware
  18. How to Troubleshoot Problems with Existing Hardware
  19. How to Troubleshoot Unpredictable Symptoms
  20. How to Diagnose Hardware Problems
  21. How to Use Device Manager to Identify Failed Devices
  22. How to Check the Physical Setup of Your Computer
  23. How to Check the Configuration of Your Hardware
  24. How to Verify That System Firmware and Peripheral Firmware Are Up to Date
  25. How to Test Your Hardware by Running Diagnostic Tools
  26. How to Simplify Your Hardware Configuration
  27. How to Diagnose Disk-Related Problems
  28. How to Use Built-In Diagnostics
  29. How to Use Reliability Monitor
  30. How to Use Event Viewer
  31. How to Use Data Collector Sets
  32. How to Use Windows Memory Diagnostics
  33. Memory Failures
  34. How Windows Automatically Detects Memory Problems
  35. How to Schedule Windows Memory Diagnostics
  36. How to Start Windows Memory Diagnostics When Windows Is Installed
  37. How to Start Windows Memory Diagnostics from the Windows DVD
  38. How to Configure Windows Memory Diagnostics
  39. How to Troubleshoot Disk Problems
  40. How to Prepare for Disk Failures
  41. How to Use ChkDsk
  42. ChkDsk Examples
  43. ChkDsk Syntax
  44. How to Use the Graphical ChkDsk Interface
  45. How to Determine Whether ChkDsk Is Scheduled to Run
  46. ChkDsk Process on NTFS Volumes
  47. How to Use the Disk Cleanup Wizard
  48. How to Disable Nonvolatile Caching
  49. How to Troubleshoot Driver Problems
  50. How to Find Updated Drivers
  51. How to Roll Back Drivers in Windows 7
  52. How to Use Driver Verifier
  53. How to Use the File Signature Verification
  54. How to Use Device Manager to View and Change Resource Usage
  55. How to Use Windows 7 System Restore
  56. How to Troubleshoot USB Problems
  57. How to Solve USB Driver and Hardware Problems
  58. Understanding USB Limitations
  59. How to Identify USB Problems Using Performance Monitor
  60. How to Examine USB Hubs
  61. How to Troubleshoot Bluetooth Problems
  62. Troubleshooting Tools
  63. DiskView
  64. Handle
  65. Process Monitor