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How to check your hard disk for bad sectors

In this article we’ll discuss how to check your hard disk for bad sectors with HDAT2 application and MHDD will be also mentioned in the bonus section.

In our previous article regarding computer hardware identification you saw that with HWiNFO application you can access SMART info of your hard drive and see possible errors on your disk; with additional scanning for bad sectors, you have a whole picture of your hard disk’s health.

I use HDAT2 very often to check my hard disks for bad sectors, because that’s reliable software, with fair hard disk scanning speed, and it’s feature-rich, as well. I also use MHDD, which also a reliable tool if it discovers you hard drive; in my test today based on 4 computers, it managed to detect just one hard disk… Anyway, I recommend you to try both tools to see what functionalities they provide.

Note that these programs in this article don’t run on the active operating system but load before it; so, in this article we’ll describe these steps:

  • downloading applications as ISO files,
  • burning these ISO files to a CD (and later creating a bootable USB disk and MicroSD card),
  • selecting a proper boot device in the boot menu,
  • and finally – the process of scanning, to check your hard disk for bad sectors, and the result analysis.

In the bonus section, we’ll mention MHDD and Ultimate Boot CD (ubcd) that contains (besides MHDD and HDAT2) various software used for repairing, restoring, and diagnosing many computer problems.

Download these apps:

HDAT2http://www.hdat2.com/

MHDDhttp://hddguru.com/download/software/mhdd/mhdd32ver4.6iso.zip

How to burn HDAT2 software to a CD, to check for bad sectors?

When you download HDAT2, choose Desktop as a download location, and double click on file hdat2iso_50.exe after you download it. WinRAR self-extracting archive will appear, where you need to click on Install; an ISO image (hdat2_v50.iso) will show up on the Desktop afterwards.

I use free software CDBurnerXP to burn my ISO images to a CD/DVD, and don’t e fooled by its name – besides Windows XP, it works perfectly on Windows 8.1. Download this software from the official download page:  https://cdburnerxp.se/en/download

Install this program and run it; in the next windows select Burn ISO image:

CDBurnerXP on Windows 8.1

Click on Browse… to choose the appropriate ISO image, burning speed (e.g., 16x), and your CD/DVD burner (Target device) and click on Burn disc (don’t forget to insert an empty CD in your optical drive):

Burn ISO HDAT2 to CD via CDBurnerXP

Note: in the picture above I used ubcd ISO image, and following this procedure you can burn any ISO file such as hdat2 or mhdd and other. Wait for a while, and that’s it – you have bootable CD. Before we boot HDAT2 from a CD and start scanning bad sectors I’ll show you how to run HDAT2 from the bootable USB disk to have an alternative.

How to create HDAT2 bootable USB flash disk to check your hard disk for bad sectors

If you don’t want to buy empty CDs and waste them just for this tiny application, you can try USB booting. Follow this procedure that I used to create my HDAT2 bootable USB flash disk (I took screenshots with my smartphone’s camera in this test).

I want to make this a bit more complex: I want to use my card reader instead of my USB flash disk. That doesn’t make any change; the procedure is the same for both devices. I like to perform these experiments with my card reader because:

  • I always have some extra cards with the different capacities (Memory Stick DUO from an old Sony Ericsson java phone, MMC from an old Nokia smartphone, SD card from my digital camera, and MicroSD from an old HTC Windows Mobile 6.5 smartphone and other).
  • every procedure involving bootable USBs implies formatting of that disk (or MicroSD card in my case) so all your data from that disk will be deleted. You’ll agree that’s better not to waste my time transferring my data from my USB disk in order to format it, if I have some extra cards. So this part is important: back up all your data if you don’t want to lose it.

This Apacer card reader has already been going through a rough time with me, and this time I inserted a MicroSD card with 1 GB to use it as an alternative to USB flash disk:

0ApacerCardReaderMicroSDcard

In order to successfully write HDAT2 to your USB, you need to download IMG version of HDAT2 not ISO. So visit its homepage once again and look for a Boot Diskette IMG file and download this file: http://www.hdat2.com/files/hdat2img_50.exe

Double click on hdat2img_50.exe to run WinRAR self-extracting archive, and click on Install:

Download and extract hdat2 img file

Because I wrote this article at various places, I downloaded and kept all my data on this MicroSD card, so I extracted this archive on E:\ which is assigned to my card reader. After that, I copied all contents of the card reader to my Desktop, which I advise you too, because the following procedure will format your USB flash disk. To write an IMG file to USB disk (or card reader) we need another tool – RMPrepUSB.

I downloaded a portable version of the app from here: http://www.rmprepusb.com/documents/release-2-0/RMPrepUSB_Portable_v2.1.727.zip?attredirects=0&d=1

For more info about portable apps, read our article regarding portable apps creation.

Run RMPrepUSB, by double-clicking on RMPREPUSB.exe; the app opens:

Use RMPrepUSB to burn IMG file to USB flash drive

It’s important to select an appropriate USB device (you don’t want to format the wrong disk); in my case, assigned letter for my card reader is E and you can tell that by its capacity :). Click on File -> Drive and when this window opens:

Select IMG file to write it to USB flash drive with RMPrepUSB

… select this IMG file you previously extracted and click on Open. Follow this little wizard afterwards:

Write IMG to USB start byte Write IMG to USB start position

The default values (zeros) will be just fine to successfully create bootable USB disk, so click on OK on these dialogs.

Write IMG to USB length

Final overview before disk formatting:

Write IMG to USB overview

If all went OK, you’ll see this window:

Write IMG to USB final

With this we’ve covered two ways to have your HDAT2 up and running (bootable CD and bootable USB disk). Now it’s time to boot up HDAT2 and perform a hard disk scan to see if there are any bad sectors.

How to use HDAT2 and perform a scan of your hard disk

If everything went OK, now you have bootable CD or bootable USB flash disk (or card reader), and it’s time to get rolling.

There is no universal way to enter the boot menu or BIOS settings to change the boot sequence. If you read my previous article regarding backup and restore via network , you saw that I had pressed F12 on my Fujitsu laptop to enter the Boot Menu. Although I tested everything on my laptop, I took these pics with my phone’s camera from two Desktop computers.

Although the picture quality isn’t perfect (sorry about that), you’ll figure out what to do. On this computer, you enter Startup Menu by pressing Esc (Escape) key; on the picture below you can see other keys you can use:

1HPEscKey

Select Boot menu; my boot menu is displayed below:
2HPBootMenu

Our USB disk is created by using IMG file for floppy drives hence USB Floppy/CD name; select Generic Storage Device to boot it:
3MicrosoftWindows98StartMenu

This is very interesting: I have Windows 8.1 installed with UEFI boot enabled, and this environment is based on legacy Windows 98 startup floppy disk! 🙂 Gone are the times when I created  startup floppy disks to perform administrative tasks. Let’s get back to reality: select the default option 1No Drivers. The next screen appears:
4RunHDAT2

Type hdat2 command and confirm with Enter key:
5HDAT2 v5.0

Select your hard disk and press Enter:
6HDAT2 DeviceTestMenu

Select Device tests menu, and Detect bad sectors menu afterwards:
7HDAT2 DetectBadSector

Select Detect with READ:
8HDAT2 DetectWithRead

The scan of bad sectors starts off:
9HDAT2 ScanBadSectors

If the whole scanning bar is blue, that’s a good sign (note the legend: blue means O.K.). If you see red sectors with inside them – that means it’s time to back up your hard drive because bad sectors had been found (I highlighted that part on the legend with red rectangle).

In the next section we’ll explain how to create a bootable USB disk that contains Ultimate Boot CD.

How to create bootable USB disk with Ultimate Boot CD ISO image

In this section we’ll go another step further – how about we create USB disk that contains bunch of useful software tools including HDAT2 and MHDD 🙂

This great collection of freeware tools is included in Ultimate Boot CD; if you need more info about list of applications included, check out here: https://www.ultimatebootcd.com/

Download ISO image: http://ftp.cc.uoc.gr/mirrors/linux/ubcd/ubcd533.iso

When you download ISO image, you can burn it with CDBurnerXP to a CD or write is to USB flash disk. I would always pick the bootable USB options, so I’ll discuss this and use Rufus to create bootable UBCD USB disk: https://rufus.akeo.ie/

Download portable version of Rufus and run it:

Make Ultimate Boot CD run on USB flash drive

Set the parameters as on the picture above; double check if you selected the appropriate USB device, because you don’t want to format wrong USB device. Again and again, my card reader is put on heavy duty; an E: letter is assigned to it, and FAT32 file system. Select ISO Image in the combo box, the click on optical drive icon and select UBCD ISO image you previously downloaded. Click on Start to create bootable USB disk.

When the process is finished, don’t remove USB disk (or Card Reader) from your computer; restart your computer and select boot menu by pressing one of the function keys; I pressed F9 key:

1EnterBootMenu

Select USB Device (or similar option, depending on your computer):
2SelectBootDevice

OK, that’s it – Ultimate Boot CD is up and running:
3UBCD HDDsection

Check out the various categories of UBCD (you can test your CPU or RAM, partition hard drive and other). Select HDD category and then Diagnosis:
4UBCD HDDdiagnosis

UBCD provides a bunch of hard disk testing tools, including HDAT2, and two editions of MHDD32 software.
5UBCD HDAT2

From this point, HDAT2 is used in an ordinary way described in this article. Try other software in this category, and other categories on UBCD. In the next section (BONUS section) we’ll mention MHDD, because it’s really reliable tool for detection of bad sectors – if it detects your hard drive (it hasn’t been updated for a long time).

BONUS: How to run MHDD software from USB flash disk to perform bad sector analysis

The current situation is as follows: MicroSD card is inserted in the card reader, and that USB monster is bootable and has Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD) ISO image written to it. If I were you, I would experiment even more – how about we boot UBCD and run MHDD just by using MicroSD card (or any other)? That’s also possible if the computer is equipped with internal card reader. Many laptops have card reader already integrated, and this Desktop computer also has an integrated card reader. You can see this in the pictures below:

MicroSD in internal HP card reader

… how BIOS detected my MicroSD card:
MicroSD card in BIOS

I restarted this computer and UBCD started from MicroSD card. Navigate through the menus, as already showed in camera shots and select MHDD32 v4.6 .

If MHDD detects your hard disk, select it by pressing a key that corresponds to one of the assigned numbers and press Enter.

My hard disk is ST3500418AS, with the capacity of 500 GB:

Select Hard Disk with MHDD

Type the scan command to start the scanning process:

Scan command starts MHDD scanning procedure

The scan is running:

MHDD scanning

The scan is finished:

MHDD scanning results

Look at these great results: 3 sectors are read in 150-500 ms and above 500 ms there are no sectors. There are no bad sectors as well (marked with UNC and X letter).

If you find bad sectors on your hard disk, think about buying a new hard disk because bad sectors have tendency to expand themselves.

 

Happy experimenting,

Fil

Summary
How to check your hard disk for bad sectors
Article Name
How to check your hard disk for bad sectors
Description
In this article we'll discuss how to check your hard disk for bad sectors with HDAT2 and MHDD applications
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www.CreativForm.com