Monitor your media with Hard Disk Sentinel

Agile Controller

© Photo by Parker Coffman on Unsplash

© Photo by Parker Coffman on Unsplash

Article from Issue 253/2021
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Hard Disk Sentinel helps you monitor mass storage devices with a fully automated process minus the bells and whistles.

Mass storage devices are taking on an increasingly central role in modern PCs due to the daily increasing flood of data. This makes it all the more important for users in the private sector and in the enterprise to keep an eye on the storage systems installed in their computers, to avoid data loss due to defects or overheating. The Hard Disk Sentinel [1] program helps you keep a permanent eye on the data media so that you always have a current status for your mass storage devices.

Software

Hard Disk Sentinel, which originates from Hungary, has become the industry standard in the field of professional mass storage maintenance on non-Linux operating systems over the past 10 years. The proprietary software is available, for a fee, in several versions for these operating systems.

For Linux, there is a free variant that continually monitors important operating parameters of the mass storage devices [2]. The variant is available for both 32- and 64-bit systems. The two packed tar archives, around 2.5MB each, are available for download from the manufacturer's website.

In addition, the developers offer a version for the command line for computers without a graphical user interface (GUI) [3]. Numerous parameters enable queries here, and some of them are useful for documenting the hardware status.

Installation

After downloading the archive for your system, unzip it to any directory. This will create the new HDSentinel_GUI/ folder where you will find several files and another ZIP archive. Now call the ./install.sh command in the terminal in this directory. The script installs and configures the software after you enter the appropriate authentication.

After the install, you will find a Hard Disk Sentinel GUI entry in your desktop program menu. When launched, the software first prompts you for your password to adopt your privileges with Sudo. It then scans the system for mass storage devices. The list includes conventional PATA and SATA devices as well as modern NVMe media.

Older storage devices that you connect to the system via the PCIe bus and that require special firmware are also correctly identified by the tool. Even memory card readers and removable media connected via USB appear in the Overview (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The user interface is purpose-built.

In the Overview, you will see the basic data and the status of the active drive: The software shows the current and maximum temperature as well as the operating hours. Hard Disk Sentinel also gives you information about the current overall status of the drive in a small text box.

If the values for the temperature tend to fluctuate, you can manually refresh the display by pressing Refresh. Based on the SMART values, the tool also determines the lifetime of the respective drive. Of course, this value is generally only of limited significance because it is based on manufacturers' estimates.

Hard Disk Sentinel differentiates between solid-state drives (SSDs) and conventional disks. In the case of SSDs, Hard Disk Sentinel does not indicate the expected operating life but rather the capacity in gigabytes that the active drive can still handle in transfer scenarios (Figure 2).

Figure 2: For modern SSD drives, the tool checks how many write cycles the media can potentially handle.

The application marks problematic status values with an exclamation mark in a yellow triangle (instead of a check mark in a green box) to the left of the respective status bar. In the text field, Hard Disk Sentinel also displays hints as to what actions are required (if any) on your part to avoid an imminent failure of the drive.

Exceptions

The controllers for most current flash storage devices such as USB media, (micro) SD cards, or the CompactFlash cards that are gradually going out of fashion do not implement the SMART command set. As a result, Hard Disk Sentinel identifies these devices but cannot read and display operating data. The corresponding fields therefore remain empty for these media (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Because of incomplete controller firmware, Hard Disk Sentinel cannot monitor removable flash media.

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