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Harddrive Related Tools and Information

Copyright (C) 1997 by Erik van Straten. All (registered) trademarks are recognized.
Last major change: 04/16/1997 by EvS. Last file modification:

Contents:

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Some General IDE Diagnostics and Benchmark Programs

Most of the following programs will issue an "identify drive" command to the harddrive specified, which will return a lot of information about the drive, including it's serial number (which is also printed on the drive) and the firmware revision (which I have never seen printed on any drive). Further, some of these programs can help you find bad spots on your drive. All EXE files are SFX (Self eXtracting Archive) programs unless mentioned otherwise.

  • Marnix Timmermans has very interesting webpages with harddrive benchmark results. The benchmark program used for creating these is still in beta phase (as of Feb 12, 1997) and is (still) freeware. It reveals a lot of details about drives, including the data-rate as function of the cylinder (current EIDE drives are typically twice as fast on their outer tracks compared to their innermost tracks!). The program is called CHECKHD, and currently comes with a database of tested drives. If you have a new drive that is not yet in the database (or when you get significantly different results from it), Marnix would like it if you'd email him your results. What I like about the program and database is that it shows the firmware revision of the drives tested, and also tells you what is limiting performance: the drive or the controller. Thanks Marnix, this really is a cool program!
  • Western Digital has some very interesting programs available for download that will work on any IDE drive. I downloaded the following files on Februari 11, 1997 (version numbers and filenames may have changed since!). You may want to check the subdirectory ftp.wdc.com/drivers/hdutil or browse to http://www.wdc.com/support/ftp/drives.html, all publicly available programs are described here.
    • chkbios.exe (filesize=48540, filedate=Jan 12, 1996) This file contains WDTBLCHK.EXE V1.70 (which is more recent than the non-SFX file wdtblchk.exe V1.20 in the mentioned subdirectory) and WDTBLCHK.TXT. The program WDTBLCHK.EXE V1.70 tries to determine what (E)IDE/ATAPI drives are connected (up to 4, including CDROM drives) via various methods. It is a very nice program if a CDROM drive doesn't work: if this program finds the drive, it typically means that the CDROM drivers are not configured properly!
    • fhook.com (filesize=4129, filedate=Nov 1, 1994) A program that can determine where the active Int13 routine is located. If this routine is not in the ROM-BIOS (because some program, like a diskcaching program or a virus) has modified the pointer to the Int13 routine, 32BDA may not work in Windows. Works with ANY harddrive (including non-WD).
    • wd_clear.exe (filesize=54968, filedate=Jul 31, 1996) This SFX unpacks as wdclear.txt and wdclear.exe V1.30. It has 2 options:
      • It can do a very fast and absolutely read-only verify of all sectors on your drive. I run this regularly on all WDAC31600H drives where I work, to detect bad sectors in an early stage. I consider the program reliable, it doesn't modify the drive in any way (but don't press the wrong buttons or you'll end up with a clean drive!). It takes approx. 6 minutes to verify all of the 1.6GB harddrive (note that smartdrv's surface-scan option only scans DOS-partition contents, not partition tables or non-DOS partitions).
      • It can overwrite ALL sectors with zeroes, effectively deleting all files on the drive (it does that fast as well). This is a nice option if a drive must be returned under warranty conditions or when you want to sell the drive second-hand, and don't want anyone to be able to get your data off the drive. Note that you'll have to do some confirmations before the program starts wiping the drive, but it still makes the program rather dangerous.
    • wd_diag.exe (filesize=60960, filedate=Nov 1, 1996) This SFX unpacks as wddiag.txt and wddiag.exe, V1.00. It is much like wdclear.exe V1.30, but only offers the (read-only) verify option. Note that it is version V1.00 (rather "initial") and I had some problems with it (it would not access a drive on the secondary controller). However, it tested my primary-master WDAC31600H without problems. Since it only offers the verify option, I guess it is safer to have this program on a users harddrive without having to fear he/she presses the wrong (disastrous) buttons!

    I've used wdclear to both verify and clear a Quantum Fireball TM2110AT, and it worked just fine. A remark about bad sectors in general: often sectors don't go bad just like that. Before that happens, the sector typically has been unreliable for some time, causing the drive (and/or BIOS) to do re-reads until the sector is read without errors. This is a bad thing if you're transferring AV (Audio/Video) data or writing a CDROM with a fast CDROM-writer, since the data-stream will have "drop-outs" (dips). Further, usually problematic sectors will eventually turn bad. I know of no good way to test for these unreliable sectors, other than keeping an eye on the counters of WDDIAG.EXE (and WDCLEAR.EXE in verify mode). If you see these counters freeze now and then, without actually reporting bad sectors, you're likely to get problems soon, and it may be time to run some other programs. Sometimes rewriting the sector fixes the problem. If not, you could run a program like NDD (Norton's Disk Diagnostics) and let it write and verify some patterns. It will mark doubtful clusters as bad (note that it is non-destructive, it saves your data before writing testpatterns, but I'd make a backup before using such a program in all cases). WARNING: make sure you use a very recent version of NDD on FAT partitions with long filenames (Win95 and NT)! Clearing the drive with WD_CLEAR might help. If not, try to get program that "remaps" bad sectors on your drive. These programs are manufacturer-specific. Western Digital has a program called WDATIDE.EXE that scans for and fixes bad sectors by remapping them. However, that program should be used only on WD drives. Check your drive-manufacturers website or call tech support for more information. Possibly you can return the drive under warranty conditions.

  • The German computermagazine c't is, in my opinion, the best on the world. It has only two disadvantages: it's in German and there's too much interesting information in each magazine ;-). The website has some information in English however. This is the only magazine I know that compares PC-components like motherboards, harddrives etc. on a professional level, and unlike most other magazines, will also inform you about bad products (both software and hardware). Note that while c't mainly handles personal computers, it's "sister-magazine" i'x mainly discusses UNIX and network related subjects. Some tools the c't editors have written are publicly available on their ftp-site. Most have output in German, but may still be readable. Some interesting EIDE harddrive tools:
    • ctatbus4.zip (filesize=17KB, filedate=?) The program ctatbus4.exe sends an "Identify-Drive" command to all 4 possible (E)IDE/ATAPI drives and displays the returned results, much like Western Digital's WDTBLCHK.EXE does. However, ctatbus4 tries to determince more specs of the drives, if possible, including rotational speed etc.
    • h2bench.zip (filesize=61KB, filedate=Oct 11, 1996). This is a harddisk benchmarkprogram. You can run the program on your drive and compare the output of that in the magazines.

    If Internet transfers are slow from Germany, you could try one of the mirror sites (check both subdirs typically named ct/pci and ct/pcconfig), links checked last in Feb. 1997:

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Some Specific Harddrive-related Programs and Drivers


Selected Harddrive Information on the Internet

The following FAQ files have a lot of interesting information and pointers in them:

Although some FAQ's have pointers to the following websites, I'll add them anyway:


Disclaimer

The programs and information referenced here are programs and documents I've used/read and like. They are not necessarily the best, and my WD/Quantum bias does NOT mean that other drives are bad. The programs and information mentioned here may or may not apply to your configuration. I'm only informing you that the URL's mentioned here once existed (I checked most of them on Feb. 11, 1997), but they may no longer exist when you read this. Don't flame me for still using Windows 3.x, this is a policy of a lot of companies. Windows95 is nice at home, and Windows NT won't run on most of our machines dure to the hardware demands (this page was written in relation to a problem with Quantum Fireball TM drives and WfW311). I am not suggesting that the use of the programs and information mentioned here by you, or anyone else, is legal. Make sure you read about licensing policies in files like "readme.txt" or "license.txt" that often come with these programs. What is freeware today may have changed tomorrow (phew).
Also note that most programs do low-level disk-accesses. Therefore you should not run them from Windows (any version) , and preferrably have booted DOS without AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS (press F5 when you see the text "Loading MS-DOS" to bypass CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT). If a program writes output to a LOG file, it is often wise to run that program from a floppy and have it write to that floppy as well, te prevent interference with other harddrive operations. Of course, use of these programs, the referenced information and the information I supply here, is at your own risk.
I am not related to Computercraft, c't or any of the harddrive and software manufacturers mentioned, and don't get payed for writing this (but it is my job to know about things like this, and I do get payed for that).

Contact information

This page was written by Erik van Straten. If you have any comments about this page or additional information, let me know. I may change this page if Computercraft and I consider it appropriate.
If you have general questions about harddrives, diskmanagers, formatting, possible bugs and fixes etc., please ask those questions in one of the Usenet Newsgroups; for PC related storage devices this would be comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage. If you don't have a newsreader, most wwwbrowsers will accept the following URL: news://your.news.server/comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage where you must of course replace your.news.server by your favourite host. Before posting messages (asking questions) in any newsgroup, please read the newsgroup's FAQ to make sure that you are not asking a Frequently Asked Question; see my tools page for some pointers to FAQ's. When I have time, I will be reading some of the postings in the PC storage group, but lots of other, often much more experienced people do as well, and they often come up with answers I am not aware of. So check it out!

Copyright (C) 1997 by Erik van Straten. I grant Computercraft the non-exclusive right to publish this page. All (registered) trademarks are recognized.

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