Hardware stress testing with Linux

Storage

As hard disks grow older, they often become the weak component of a system; loss of data from a technical defect can have fatal consequences. StressLinux checks the health of your hard disks with two tools, bonnie++ and smartctl. Whereas Bonnie++ is a tool for benchmarking storage media, Smartctl supports test runs and shows the current technical condition of the hard drive. To start this useful tool, you must be the StressLinux root user or equivalent. The su - command gives you root privileges after entering the root password, stresslinux.

If you run the

smartctl -a <drivename> | more

command and see some data in the error log, you should back up at least your most important files. If you want to perform some additional test runs, typing smartctl --help will list the extensive set of parameters along with a few examples (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Smartctl can squeeze out all the details about your storage devices.

Network

To measure the throughput of your network interface, StressLinux provides the netio program, which measures data transfer between two computers, with one computer acting as the server.

After launching StressLinux on both machines in Live mode, you can launch the program on the server with the command

netio -s

and on the client by entering:

netio <server IP address>

StressLinux shows you the data throughput in list form with different packet sizes. Alternatively, you can display a bar graph of the transfer speed with Ctrl+Alt+F10.

Conclusions

StressLinux is a useful tool that can thoroughly put your hardware through its paces. The software does not dazzle with elaborate graphical gimmicks but does expect the user to have some knowledge of the command line.

As a Live "mini-distribution," StressLinux will help you locate possible sources of errors and bottlenecks quickly and reliably, without the need for a time-consuming installation on the hard drive. In particular, StressLinux proves to be an excellent tool if you want to troubleshoot problems with the processor or cooling system. Of course, you need to keep an eye on the thermal performance of your system under load to prevent damage from overheating in the event of insufficient cooling capacity.

For serious PC users and IT engineers, StressLinux is an indispensable tool for diagnosing hardware problems and therefore belongs in every well-stocked toolbox.

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