There are several ways to troubleshoot a bad hard drive. Some hardware manufacturers like Dell and Lenovo have built in diagnostics, and you can also use third-party tools included in the Ultimate Boot CD. Hard drives can fail slowly over time or stop working all at once. At first sign of trouble, you should backup any data on the drive to an external source and run hard drive diagnostics to test the drive’s reliability.

 Diagnose A Bad Hard Drive

You can diagnose a bad hard drive easily using the following methods:

  • The built-in Windows Check Disk Utility
  • Manufacturer’s Diagnostics
  • The Ultimate Boot CD

Windows Check Disk –  To use Windows Check Disk go to the Start Button and then click on Computer. Next, right-click the C drive and then select Properties. Under the Tools tab, click the Check button in the Error-checking section. Windows 8 will scan the hard drive right away. Earlier versions of Windows will open a different screen that allows you to choose to Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors.


Check Disk will not run right away. In most cases it will want you to schedule the hard drive scan to run the next time you boot your computer. Schedule the scan and then restart your machine. You will be able to tell if there were any bad sectors found in the scan. If there were, this is a sign that the hard drive might be failing. It’s also not unusual to find bad sectors on the a hard drive. If you run the test again at a later date and the problem seems to be getting worse, it’s time to replace the drive.

You can also launch the scan from the Command Prompt. Open Command Prompt and type: chkdsk /f /r C: to run the thorough hard drive scan. It will ask you to schedule the scan upon the next reboot. Choose Y for yes and then restart the computer. The scan can take nearly an hour or longer depending on the size of your hard drive.

Test The Hard Drive Using Built-in Manufacturer’s Tools – If you have a Dell, Lenovo or another major brand name, you might have a hard drive diagnostic utility built in. If not, you can certainly find tools to download on their websites. Since not all models have the same setup, try rebooting the computer and tap the F10 or F12 keys. Many models of Dell, for example, have a pre-boot assessment tool that can be accessed by hitting the F12 key when first powering on your PC. Likewise, many Lenovo computers have a hard drive diagnostic tool that can be launched using the F10 key at boot.

Check the manufacturer’s website for your computer’s manual. If it has a hard drive diagnostic utility, the manual will explain how to access it.

Using The Ultimate Boot CD – The UBCD has several tools included in it that can be used to troubleshoot a bad hard drive. ViVard is one of them. You can download the UBCD using any of their mirror sites from here. Burn the .ISO file to disk and then reboot the computer with the disk in the optical drive. If the UBCD does not launch, confirm your BIOS boot sequence is set to boot from the CD/DVD drive first.


Launch VIVARD from the UBCD and then select choice 1-Run VIVARD with HIMEM.


Next, select the Surface test with remap option. Take note of the reallocated sector count and the pending reallocated sector count. Bad sectors are a sign of a bad hard drive.

There are many ways to troubleshoot a bad hard drive. These are only a few of the options available to you. If you know the manufacturer of the drive, such as Western Digital, Seagate etc., these hard drive manufacturers will also have standalone hard drive troubleshooting utilities on their website.

If you suspect problems with your hard drive do not trust it to store anything of value. Backup the drive data, if possible, and then replace the drive immediately.

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