A few days after I recently re-installed Windows XP, my computer crashed while I was defragging the C: drive. I’ve had no problems with this drive, but a few years ago the main harddrive on my then-boss’s computer died – a long, long time since I had last backed it up. It was extremely expensive to recover his data – much more, in fact, than it would have cost to buy a new computer – but this was mission-critical data, so we had to pay the money. I was worried about my own harddrive now, so I decided to look around for some SMART disk monitoring software.
My first stop was Speedfan (donationware; http://almico.com/speedfan.php
), since I already run this on my laptop. It’s a neat and powerful little motherboard monitor that sits in the system tray and discretely displays processor or hard-drive temperature there.
Speedfan uses only 4mb of memory, and it gives a great deal of information – much more than I know how to make sense of:
My only problem with Speedfan is that it can only display one or the other piece of information in the system tray – drive temperature or processor. I like to be able to keep an eye on processor temp, as my beloved Pavilion ZD7010 simply switches itself off if the temp gets above 70 degrees C (something that hasn’t happened since I cleaned its heatsink a few months back), so I need both displayed at once. Granted, you can get both in a tooltip, but I like being able to see them without having to touch my mouse.
So I moved on to a program I saw mentioned a while back on Lifehacker: HDD Health (donationware; http://www.panterasoft.com/
). Like Speedfan, HDD Health puts an icon in the system tray:
Unlike Speedfan, that icon doesn’t give you any information in tooltips; but when you click it, you get a clear display of your drive’s details, and on the various tabs, detailed information about the drive-state.
HDD Health uses 6mb of memory, and it has some very good features, such as sending email or network alerts when the drive overheats or is getting to a dangerous state. And it’s donationware/freeware.
But, you’ve guessed it: I have to click something to get my information, and I don’t like that.
Next, I tried O&O Software’s DriveLED ($19.95; http://www.oo-softwa...products/oodriveled/
). This is quite sweet: it displays each drive and partition separately, and you can use the image of the drive as a shortcut – so double-clicking on C: in this picture will open an Explorer window at the Root.
Also, double-clicking on the picture of the harddrive – at left in this image – brings up XP’s built-in Disk Management console, which could be very useful. You can also set it to monitor plug and play drives, which is a nice feature. It uses between 4 and 8mb of RAM.
It hides at the screen edge and rolls out on mouseover – at least that’s the idea; actually, this feature’s not working very well for me, and it is why I decided to try yet another similar program. I position DriveLED where it’s most useful for me – just above the system tray; but it seems to get very confused. It is meant to hide at the right edge of the screen; but every time I restart Windows, DriveLED hides itself behind the Taskbar, and then won’t come back up – it leaves just a sliver of itself in view, and if I use the mouse to pull this up, I’m left with just that sliver of the window! Oh dear: I didn’t know it would do this, but in trying to get a screenshot of this, it’s gone and done a variation on this behaviour – now all I’ve got is the edge that’s usually visible when it is properly docked to the right!
And I can’t do anything with the sliver, either – so I have to close it down and restart. This happens every time I run DriveLED, and as much as I like some of its features, I just can’t be dealing with this odd behaviour.
And that brings me to today’s final candidate: HDDlife (http://www.hddlife.com/
). At $29 for the full version, it’s the most expensive of the various programs I’ve tried, but I believe it’s the best (and read on, dear DonationCoder member, because there’s news of a discount coming up). There is also a limited freeware version – in fact, after 14 days, the full version just reverts to the free one.
First of all, HDDlife has that coveted feature of displaying the drive temp in the system tray:
But not just the temp – that line under the number is ‘life status progress bar’, which tells you about your drive’s health and performance. (You can see from this screenshot that, actually, mine’s doing pretty well!) You can choose from a number of options for how information is displayed.
A tooltip gives you all the information you might need in a glance:
And when you maximise the main window, you get a representation and a summary of drive health, some sage advice ("do not forget to back up your data at least once a week since nobody is protected against bad luck"), and a display of space usage on all partitions:
It would be nice if you could, as in DriveLED, use the ‘Logical disks info’ panel as shortcuts to the partitions, but at the moment you can’t do that. It also doesn’t monitor external drives – really, this is a different kind of feature to a drive-health analysis (since none of my external media are SMART enabled anyway), but it would be quite useful.
As you can see in the screenshot above, you can also adjust the noise/performance ratio with any AAM (Automatic Acoustic Management) enabled drive.
As with HDD Health, warnings can be sent to networked computers, or via email, and it also has a pretty nifty line in audio warnings – my other laptop has squawked a few times while I’ve been writing this: it’s too darn hot! Or you can set HDDlife to turn your computer off, or set it to hibernate, when the temperature rises over a threshold that you set.
The next great feature is that HDDlife can re-skin your drives – so the iconset that you choose in this window is applied system-wide, so wherever you look at your drives, these are the icons that will be used:
And you can check your drives’ health from within any program – you may have noticed the little green dot over the drive in the screenshot for HDD Health(?) – well, that’s HDDlife showing that all is well. Likewise, when you open a file in Word (or any other program), you can see how your drives are doing:
So, there it is: my brief overview of drive-health monitors. What I like most about HDDlife is simply the fact that it displays the temperature in the system tray, and I know that Speedfan, which was where I started from, could do exactly this – but when I combine this necessary feature with the various other nice touches it offers, HDDlife Pro is definitely my choice for best-of-category. Although HDDlife Pro is also the heaviest on resources, usually clocking in at 10mb on my machine, I have no hesitation in running it myself, and recommending it to you.
I’ve been in touch with the developers of HDDlife Pro, and they’ve offered a 30% discount on their program – Mouser is going to post the link for this in the Members Only section.