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How to check your hard drives SMART status using a Ubuntu Live CD

Checking your hard drive’s SMART status is a good idea if you’re running into issues that make you think the hard drive may be bad. In this scenario, I’ll be showing you how to use a Ubuntu Live CD to check the hard drive’s SMART status. This is good for situations where you either boot to the installed OS, cannot reliably install an OS, or cannot install a program on the installed OS to check it yourself.

This walkthough uses the Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop 32-bit CD to prevent issues that may arise from Unity. Download links: old-releases.ubuntu.commirror.anl.gov.

Assuming you follow only the instructions in this guide, the data on your hard drive won’t be affected by this check. However, if your drive is catastrophically failing, i.e. head crash, any disk activity may lead to further data loss.

First, boot off the CD.

Select your language with the arrow keys, press enter.

Select Try Ubuntu without installing

After a moment or two you will be at the GNOME desktop (Menu bar at the top and taskbar at the bottom). Don’t worry if it’s slow, it’s to be expected — you’re working off a Live CD.

From the System menu, select Administration then Disk Utility.

The Disk Utility window appears. On the left pane, locate and click your system’s hard drive.

On the right page, locate the field that says “SMART Status” — your drives status will appear.

If it says “Not Supported”, your drive (or host controller) doesn’t support the SMART protocol and can’t give you any information. However, it may take a few moments to refresh. You can always run the SMART tests to force it to check the drive again.

Once you’re finished checking the SMART status, shut down by clicking the power icon in the very top-right corner of your screen, or simply hold the power button on your PC for 4 seconds. Eject the disk and your PC will boot to the hard drive.

Questions or comments about using the Ubuntu Disk Utility to check SMART status are welcome in the comments.

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