Smartmontools – How does a failure look?

There are some things that you would rather not find out for yourself. That does not mean, however, that they are not useful to see at all. One of those things that I had wondered about was how harddisk SMART failures/errors are shown. For those who are familiar with Smartmontools know that smartctl can produce quite some information when started as:

smartctl –all /dev/sda

However, there’s this handy switch ‘-H‘ (i.e. “smartctl -H /dev/sda“) which supposedly shows you its health status. Now when everything is fine, the disk’s health is reported as ‘PASSED‘. This is nice, but the PASSED case isn’t particularly interesting. What does it look like, when it is not ‘PASSing’? Well, then it looks like this:

smartctl 5.41 2011-06-09 r3365 [x86_64-linux-3.2.0-4-amd64] (local build)
Copyright (C) 2002-11 by Bruce Allen, http://smartmontools.sourceforge.net

=== START OF READ SMART DATA SECTION ===
SMART overall-health self-assessment test result: FAILED!
Drive failure expected in less than 24 hours. SAVE ALL DATA.
Failed Attributes:
ID# ATTRIBUTE_NAME          FLAG     VALUE WORST THRESH TYPE      UPDATED  WHEN_FAILED RAW_VALUE
5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct   0x0033   129   129   140    Pre-fail  Always   FAILING_NOW 561

Now, I have to say that this wasn’t anything unexpected. After all, the PC was suffering from continuous read errors yesterday. But, it is good to know that there is something serious going on, instead of some random unexplained anomaly, which is definitely confirmed by above message and failure details. It does not mean that the details are perfectly accurate, however if you love your data, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Especially given subtle hints like these.

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