Most of the time, a hard drive goes bad without any warning. By the time you know that it's dead, it's already too late.
However, most modern hard drives have an early warning mechanism called self-monitoring, analysis, and reporting technology, or SMART, which gives you an early warning for when you need to replace the hard drive before it actually fails. The problem is that most of the time, you only get this warning when the computer boots up, so for computers that are kept on for a long period of time, such as servers, you'll need a real-time monitoring solution.
And that's what Acronis, the maker of the popular Acronis TrueImage backup solutions, offered Thursday. The company announced its new and free tool called Acronis Drive Monitor. This is software that actively monitors a computer hard drive's SMART status in real time and sends you e-mails in case something's wrong.
I tried it out briefly, and it seemed to work as expected. The installer is about 17MB and took just a few seconds to install. After that, the software runs by itself each time you start the computer. The interface resembles that of Acronis' recent backup software applications and shows the status of each hard drive installed on the computer, including detailed information reported by SMART.
Our test machine's hard drives were in good shape, so I didn't experience what would happen when a critical event occurs, but I hope I won't ever find out. The tool can also send you system reports on a regular basis.
Note that the utility only works on systems that have SMART enabled, which can be done via the computer's BIOS.
Other than the hard drives' health, Acronis Drive Monitor can also keep tabs on backups, if you use one of the backup solutions offered by Acronis. This is also helpful in case you need to know about the backup jobs on a remote server.
The new hard-drive monitor tool available for free and can be downloaded here (registration required). The only bad thing about the tool, so far, is the fact that you'll have another application running in the background, which may contribute to system slowdowns. However, this is probably worth it.