Is my hard-disk drive (HDD) brick Dead or Sick or just slow?                           Symptoms?       
How to erase the HDD? or simply to  test it?

The 1st or 2nd thing to fail on PC's is the  RTC coin cell battery goes dead. (at 5 to 7 years old both can fail this old !!)  If  you allow COIN death to happen the BIOS goes nuts and then seems HDD is dead and IS NOT.
If your PC is LAPTOP the big battery can be bad, even OMG shorted. (oh my golly) Just remove the huge battery and test the PC on only AC power pack power. DO THAT now, or go broke buying a new HDD not needed.
If a PC can not boot and boot files are reported missing and the COIN cell is bad, (below 2.9vdc is BAD) then do not condemn any HDD ever until you replace the silly $1 battery first. ( I use a thing called a VOLT METER to test them.)

(OS means YOUR Operating SYSTEM of any kind be that Windows, Linux, Chrome, Citrix, Android, or what ever)
The drive looks like this running.
The head is on the end of the servo moving arm that flies just above the media.  Data is on the platters.

All modern drives be that SATA or SAS all have spare hidden super duper secret , spare sectors you can not touch or you use directly ever. (the has white papers to read if  you want)
These sectors called spares are owned 100% by the hidden internal HDD Turing Brain (or HDD SMART controller )
This technology began in year 2001. (not new at all, and has predictive failure logic)  < and amazing thing to know early failures so you can backup data now.
This seems like magic, but uses prediction logic to replace bad sectors as they occur , and the users of the HDD  never knows this goes on, until one day the spares run  DRY. "bam smart failure"
Hard drives can fail  in even 5 years time or worse dropped and for sure to concrete.
Failure mechanisms all: HDD; (in no order but age tops list)
  1. Dropping any HDD from 6ft with laptop running or drive bay dock USB external ) will wreck and crash the heads. (crazy G forces that)
  2. Head crash, this means the flying heads (yes they do fly) kiss the media and simply wreck the tracks, (nothing is more simple this mode, phyically damaged tracks inside) 
  3. OLD age (chart below), no drive lasts forever, NOT ONE, and most last 5 years long, enterprise grade lasts the longest (and costs more!) and laptop HDD are the worst.
  4. Lightning hits or ESD events, (power surgers or a bad PSU causing that)
  5. Bad luck, learn now that any thing electronic can fail for vast reasons. (even design flaws, or even defective chips (weak)) thermal shock, and more.
  6. Too many power up  cycle on any things electronic shortens its life,1 per day OK. (think how thermal expansion/contraction of devices (IC's and transistors ,etc) inside cause stress (google that and read all day)
  7. All SATA drives year  2001 to now all have a BRAIN (Alan Turing jargon) that self heals itself and tests itself and even  does predictive failure warnings, and is called S.M.A.R.T this wonderful feature if used right can save data loss.
  8. When all SATA drives run out of spare sectors, the the HDD is now END OF life. that is a fact and will grow more bad sectors every day forward until you see, data loss or see the OS go corrupted, or both, count on both !!
  9. PC or the HDD overheats, this is super serious bad, overheating kills electronics so easy, do not let that happen, they have  many free APPS to measure all temperatures in a PC.
(all fail for either AGE or stress) (entropy)  1 time per day power up cycles is not abuse. 20+ is)

What is  S.M.A.R.T technology : (I do not cover relic PATA  IDE drives)
 Life spans normal: See the BB Study here.(done on cheap consumer drives, well known to be poor grade) For sure turn off the PC for longer HDD life ! "25,000 hard drives spinning at all time"
Below is computers run full time (servers) and life spans based on VAST data. (laptops can be worse for sure bumped !)
If you only use the PC 1 hour a day, far far longer it will last, so turn off the PC not in use.

Photo2 PARK LOCK device, seeing one helps understand it. (click it to zoom the locking ramp) This ramp used at Power off and sleep mode , extends drive life greatly .  Dell SAS 10k drive. ( this helps drives last longer!)

The best policy (IMO) is first do not allow the drive to sleep 100s of times a day, that is excessive. (
Do Not turn the PC on and off 20 times a day.  So leave it on all day and turn off 1 time at night,( be kind to it and it lasts)  (LEARN THAT HEAT + TIME = SHORT LIFE SPANS)
Turn off sleep MODE (CP+POWER SETTINGS) on the HDD for sure. Let it spin, the energy you do save here (sleep hdd) will not pay for the next new HDD.
This ends my why the HDD  fails section.
Do not buy any HDD that has built into the drive forced sleep, that can not  be turned off, they love to fail these so called GREEN HDD.

 The simple testing 123 ( super easy and only takes a few seconds) Covering Windows 10 testing or booted to Linux Demo media (ODD/usb drive)
How you do that test depends on if the HDD is the boot drive, or if PC is dead. (bad HDD causes the OS to corrupt for sure), or the HDD is 2nd, 3rd extra drive.

  • If the PC boots ok,  Run   Crystaldiskinfo?   free or bettter  DISKCHECKUP on all HDD present. See my list of SMART tests APPS below. (Applications) 
  • If the PC is dead, this is harder, (no?) so we then move the HDD to a good PC or run on bad PC linux demo disk seen below Unbuntu.
  • If said PC is Dell or HP, see line 6 below for there way to test their HDD.
  • If PC is dead , use (buy) a HDD dock and test (DISKCHECKUP) on  the suspected HDD on any other PC using the . HDD DOCKING BAY (usb )   ,,  see photo at end.(here)
  • Try Demo mode with  Linux, then run Disktest.

  • All OEM PCs have a manual called , User or Service. The manuals have chapter called RECOVERY, (or just shown and What do I do if my OS is dead) Read it. (Case in point Dell 16 product lines here, for support, HP has the same thing )

    Various related APPLICATION PROGRAM's that do SMART tests, disk tests , benchmarks and even offer erase disk apps. (for windows or from Linux)
    Choices many:  (these examples all assume the drive booted to NOW is not to be erased, Like deleting a cars tires, while driving, this is impossible)  The erase examples here are on the  non- boot drive, like E:,F:,G: etc, not C:
      Most are free and safe.
    1. Free CrystalDiskinfo v8.3+ free (to see if smart tests fail)
    2. PASSMARK disk checkup if FREE ,  I also have a license for their main benchmark app,     the same company here makes the fabulous DISKCHECKUP FREE. ( this is one of the best off all , look at parameter C6 !)
    3.  " HDsentinel " is the best  for doing a full SMART test status, and more , lots more. (I have  license  for this) It tests the drives and reports the  SMART status.  Paid is best.
    4. Free Linux demo mode ,Disktest.
    5. OEM Drive maker app.'s,  from WD or SEAGATE  .  Seatools etc. (Google that for sure)  I have no need for this as I have far better tools seen here.
    6. HP Diagnostics are here. (no boot PC use the F2 testing)  ON a Dell PC power it on and hammer F12 (BIOS key) and run ePSA diagnostics.  if the HDD test fails believe it.
    7. HWinfo32.exe free.  Click your drive first left side then ( see Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T.)   and here you must be  Number of Reported Uncorrectable Errors: = 0

    8. W10  checkdisk (chkdsk or CHECK)  is mostly useless if PC has only one HDD  and  is sick, the OS then crashes etc.  (any only 1 HDD PC with 1 failing HDD will not be stable  at all with corrupted OS files and growing fast) I avoid windows tests.
    If the PC is unstable, sure you worry the HDD in the first place,  your best bet is to  run  test at line 4 above. LINUX DEMO media. (in the Linux search box type "disk" or type "disktest" (bingo !)   in seconds our answer. C6=0 a must.
    Boot media Linux runs right and are not corrupted as your HDD is now)

    Now lets see what a bad disk looks like with Crystaldiskinfo.exe.  Examples are GREAT no?

    See that YELLOW Caution? this means  this disk ran out of spare sectors. (this one example)   Yellow error status, is like water bucket full of hole in the bottom, you  are doomed ! (the OS and all data are doomed)
    In fact it is 118 spares short, making the HDD useless to anyone.  In fact I run this program app. on all HDD seen for sure loading any OS or any OS that acts odd.
    These are just S.M.A.R.T PARAMETERS (pure status)  C6 is very very important to look at, (C6hex is 198. decimal as seen on other apps to test hdd) NO UNCORRECTABLES ALLOWED PERIOD. (C6h/198d.)
      C6 is NO GOOD ! Uncorrectable ! Note this drive had 154 spares new, & 140 used is the limit, for replacing the drive.
    As you can see the smart auto repair is seen in parameter 05, this must not run dry.(above is dry, and end of life HDD)
    Reallocated sectors are the SPARE sectors in all HDD, that you have no direct access to) these are spares used by the S.M.A.R.T auto self repair engine inside the HDD. (this drive ran OUT OF SPARE SECTORS at 140 count)
    On real server (Dell R710) my server sends me email of 05(hex) goes over 140 , and is called PREDICTIVE failures. ( my server nevers goes down ever, I just hot swap in new HDD and it keeps on chugging, yes SMART is that good)

    A disk like this running say Windows, the OS will go corrupted fast. (or is already) NO OS can run on this bad drive, and not crash. (vast random ways).... Rest in peace. one HDD.

    Most used  HDD will  have many spared out bad sectors that  can not be erased at all by you, that is why CIA shreds drives,  the top reason.  (spared out means logically remapped, and  with lots of these?, the drive runs slower; as does bad  sectors, not autorepaired by SMART.)
    HDD can hide data, in delete space, slack space, and old weak spared out sectors (SMART space ) and HPA/DCO areas hide data too. (killdisk is the cure on all , but smart space) Smart space means sectors now gone, and spared out, and can not be erased by me.
    One more APP, PASSMARK DISKCHECKUP. see ID 5= parameter 5(hex) is zero means new drive, no  errors, yet, and C6=0, means driver has not used any spare sectors.

    ALL Symptoms of a bad HDD  : Lots there are: (no order just reasons ) Drives can fail for bad electronics or motors and for pure mechanical reasons inside,  NOT SSD like at all.
    When I say bad HDD I mean SMART told you it bad and in fact is bad.

    Hickory Dickory DOCK :  "DOCKING BAYs or HDD Enclosures" USB connected and best with exernal power packs of some kind 2+amps re better .
    You can buy a cheap HDD docking bay, enclosure or even a simple crude USB SATA adaptor cable (no case), best is to have this $15 tool below (or the like kind) so you can test any HDD on any PC.
    Nothing works better testing any HDD suspected, as bad ,weak or you trying hard to find lost data. (use this great device to  recover data)
    I can plug this in to any PC I have that is not dead to test a suspected bad drive.
    HDD DOCK (usb ) see more here... a long story on external drives.
    The best way to test any HDD or SSD is using this. (Plug in drive to test, and then plug below into 2nd PC USB port and find the drive in DISK MANAGER YOU MUST !) I use only DOCK that have  2amp power pack.
    The docking bay HDD USB , does them all HDD and SSD all sizes.

    Time to punt?
    First off a new HDD is not formatted at all,  if you see it is, that means it is not new, it is in fact used or what they call open box specials. (we erase those first) or sold as REFURB and was not erased.

    Warning #1 do not ever use some now relic and old application (APP) from pre-2001 era for any PATA HDD,  called LOW Level Format. (LLFMT) or it may wreck the drive .! In fact delete this app forever, make it GONE FOREVER.

    HDD SOUNDS, your ear to casing or with a cheap $5 stethoscope (ask any automotive guys  know how to hear sounds !) Play with any MP3 player on earth.
    Click/Clank of death (not to be confused with normal head servo tracking) this  is loud. (normal is very tiny clicks or non)

    Normal startup sounds( no not this loud but the sound is right for  spin up, ear to casing)

    What is FAT, (format)?

    Run Disktest. In fred Linux in DEMO mode even if PC OS is dead or just won't  boot Windows.
    version #13   (super shortened) 7-17-2020   This page focus hard on why HDD fail and the cures, and all tests.   (