It’s frustrating to deal with a computer that is freezing, won’t boot, or has information that is unreadable. There can be any number of issues that could be causing these issues, and determining the cause is not always easy. One of the issues you should check for is the presence of any bad sectors on your hard disk.
Bad sectors occur when a portion of the hard disk can no longer be written to or read. When you store something on the hard drive, the information is saved on more than one sector, which may or may not be adjacent to one another. If any sector with information from that file is damaged, it will be impossible to access that file without errors occurring.
The bad sectors of a hard drive cause poor performance and overheating of your PC because it is very difficult to read the data from a hard drive with many bad sectors. You can also lose important files or get the Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) error when these sectors cause problems with your computer.
Freeware to Check for Bad Sectors
Using freeware to locate and repair bad sectors is not an ideal solution. Many of them have limited functionality and may set limits on the number or size of files they can recover. However, if you want to start with something free to see if you can fix the problem without spending a lot of money, one of these tools can get you started.
1. SeaTools by Seagate
Seagate has two free hard drive-testing software programs — SeaTools Bootable and SeaTools for Windows. The bootable version is more full-featured, but SeaTools for Windows is easier to use.
Running the tests and making repairs using SeaTools is easy and fast. You can get started with just a few clicks of your mouse.
SeaTools for Windows performs several fundamental tests that can help determine the health of your hard drive, and all types of internal drives can be tested, as well as external drives connected by firewire or USB. The program tests most hard drives regardless of the manufacturer. It also includes useful information about the drive like its serial number, capacity, rotation rate, cache size, and firmware revision.
2. Macrorit Disk Scanner
Macrorit Disk Scanner is an easy-to-use program that checks your hard drive for bad sectors. It sets up quickly, since it’s fully portable and you don’t need to install anything.
A large portion of Macrorit’s screen displays a visual representation of the scan’s progress and clearly indicates any damage. The program updates often and works on many Windows operating systems.
A useful feature of Macrorit Disk Scanner is a display showing how much time is remaining on the scan.
There is a paid version of this program with more features or for those needing more than occasional personal use.
You can download GSmartControl for Windows as a portable program or as a regular program you install normally. It works with all versions of Windows down to XP. It’s also available for Mac and Linux.
GSmartControl can run three different hard drive tests and provide you with detailed results to indicate the overall health assessment of a drive.
- Short Self-Test: A two-minute test that detects a completely damaged hard drive.
- Extended Self-Test: A seventy-minute test that inspects the entire surface of a hard drive to find errors.
- Conveyance Self-Test: A five-minute test that purportedly finds damage that happened during the transporting of the drive.
It also gives you information about your drive, such as the power cycle count, multi-zone error rate, and calibration retry count.
HDDScan is a free hard-drive testing program for all hard drives, no matter the manufacturer. This is a portable program and doesn’t need to be installed.
It is very easy to use but does not have any help docs or tips for how to use the different options. HDDScan supports most drive interfaces and seems to be updated regularly. You can use HDDScan in Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP, as well as Windows Server 2003.
You never know when an issue like bad sectors will affect your machine, so keep everything backed up. If you have issues with your machine and suspect bad sectors on your hard drive, these free checks may be a useful first step.