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Understanding SMART Technology

Computer users today have great expectations of data storage reliability. Many users do not even consider the possibility of losing data due to a hard disc drive failure. Even though continual improvements in technology make data loss uncommon, it is not impossible. Reliability prediction technology is a way to anticipate the failure of a disc drive with sufficient notice to allow a system, or user, to back up data prior to a drive's failure. S.M.A.R.T. is reliability prediction technology for both ATA/IDE and SCSI environments. Pioneered by Compaq, S.M.A.R.T. is under continued development by the top five disc drive manufacturers in the world: Seagate Technology Inc., IBM, Conner Peripherals Inc., Western Digital Corporation, and Quantum Corporation.

How it works on different Disk Drives?
Features of S.M.A.R.T. technology include a series of attributes, or diagnostics, chosen specifically for each individual drive model. Attribute individualism is important because drive architectures vary from model to model. Attributes and thresholds that detect failure for one model may not be functional for another model. Comparing different models of cars helps illustrate this point. Some cars are equipped with four-wheel drive, but others, like a Cadillac, are not. In other words, the architecture of the drive will determine which attributes to measure, and which thresholds to employ. Although not all failures will be predicted, we can expect an evolution of S.M.A.R.T., as technology and experience sharpen our ability to predict reliability. Subsequent changes to attributes and thresholds will also occur as field experience allows improvements to the prediction technology.

Some failures are predictable, and some are not.
A disc drive must be able to monitor many elements in order to have a comprehensive reliability management capability. One of the most crucial elements is understanding failures. Failures can be seen from two standpoints: predictable, and unpredictable.

Unpredictable failures occur quickly, like electronic and mechanical problems, such as a power surge that can cause chip or circuit failure. Improvements in quality, design, process, and manufacturing can reduce the incidence of non-predictable failures. For example, the development of steel-belted radial tires reduced the occurrences of blowouts common among older flatwall "rag" tire designs.

Predictable failures are characterized by degradation of an attribute over time, before the disc drive fails. This creates a situation where attributes can be monitored, making it possible for predictive failure analysis. Many mechanical failures are typically considered predictable, such as the degradation of head flying height, which would indicate a potential head crash. Certain electronic failures may show degradation before failing, but more commonly, mechanical problems are gradual and predictable. For instance, oil level is a function, or "attribute" of most cars that can be monitored. When a car's diagnostic system senses that the oil is low, an oil light comes on. The driver can stop the car and save the engine. In the same manner, S.M.A.R.T. allows notice to start the backup procedure and save the user's data.

Mechanical failures, which are mainly predictable failures, account for 60 percent of drive failure. This number is significant because it demonstrates a great opportunity for reliability prediction technology. With the emerging technology of S.M.A.R.T., an increasing number of predictable failures will be predicted, and data loss will be avoided.

Protect your data right now! Start using Drive Health software to monitor your hard disk drives S.M.A.R.T. status!

This article is translated to Serbo-Croatian language by WHGeeks .

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