Keep an eye on hard-disk health

Monitor and test hard disk performance, but you'll need to be familiar with PC performance metrics.

Hard Disk Sentinel monitors and tests the health of your computer's hard disks. Although casual users may find some of the information helpful, this tool is better left to those already familiar with the metrics associated with PC performance.

The application monitors hard disk activity and performance. To do so, it integrates information from disks that use Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART), which measures mechanical failures during such processes as seeking and spin-up/spin-down. Hard Disk Sentinel also provides several tests to run through these processes. Errors are logged, and you can save or e-mail reports. Registered users ($23 to buy) can set thresholds for various criteria; when hit, the application can sound an alarm and back up or shut down the disk. Those who opt for the Professional version ($35) can have alerts sent by e-mail as well as schedule automated backups, among other features.

Although Hard Disk Sentinel will not win any design awards, its interface is easily understood. Numerous tooltips help acquaint you with the application, while an impressive Help file provides thorough and informative descriptions of virtually every aspect of the program. The application could use a bit of tightening here and there; when we ran tests, for example, they completed successfully, but the program offered no report or diagnosis. Hard Disk Sentinel provides a great deal of information--probably much more than most people will ever need or want to see. It is a great way to get a snapshot of the health of your hard disks and to estimate the chances of a future failure.

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