HD Tune Pro 4.5

IconHD Tune is a hard disk utility that can be used to measure the drive's performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), monitor the hard drive temperature, and other useful functions.
Supplier: EFD Software
Pricing: $34.95 USD or 24.95 EUR for Pro version. There is also a free version for personal use.
Download: Trial Pro version, Free Version Setup file
Versions: Pro Version 4.5, Free version 2.55
Works on Windows 98 and higher. Works best if SMART capability on the drive is enabled.

Detailed Drive Information

HD Tune Pro is a hard disk utility with several main functions:

  • Temperature display
  • Hard Drive Benchmark info
  • Health status (S.M.A.R.T.)
  • Detailed information from the drive
  • Error scan
  • Secure erasing (wipe)
  • Disk monitor
  • Folder usage, file count and size

Basically, if you want to know the health of your hard drive, this is the tool to use. By monitoring the temperature of the drive, particularly on a laptop, you can prevent the drive from overheating, which can be fatal to your data.

HD Tune Product Overview

Several years ago I bought an outrageously expensive but powerful IBM ThinkPad, with a P4 processor that generated tons of heat. What I didn't know at the time was that there was a fault on the motherboard that caused the cooling fan to work much less than it should have. The result: within 7 days of using the machine, the hard drive overheated and died, along with all the data. Fortunately I still had backups. Even purchasing Spinrite didn't help, because sections of the drive had already lost their magnetic signal. IBM dutifully replaced the drive, but didn't recognise the heat problem until the replacement drive started playing up 18 months later. By that time it was too expensive to fix, so I retired the laptop to life as a test server after only 18 months of use. What a lemon!

Had I known about HD Tune at the time, all this drama could have been avoided, because it would have told me that the drive was running too hot the moment it happened. I have subsequently installed it on all my laptops, and not had any problems with overheated drives. Except one: my wife's HP laptop where the temperature and S.M.A.R.T. information is blocked from access. HD Tune (and other similar programs) can't see the temperature data, and SpinRite won't work on the drive either. So we use an extra cooling fan, which has helped, but not entirely.

Error Scan and Speed Map

The "Error Scan" is available in the free version, but the "Speed Map" is new to version 4.5, and is really useful. I find I can use both to do a test on the health of the hard drive while I'm using the drive so it doesn't waste time. While it is not as thorough as SpinRite's "Maintenance Mode" it may still help to avoid data loss when sectors go bad by alerting the drive controller to potential problems simply by reading the data.

Error Scan healthy drive
This image shows the "Error Scan" of a healthy drive. The particular drive has two partitions, but these are not shown because the entire hard drive is scanned, not just "in use" parts.

Error Scan unhealthy drive
Here is the "Error Scan" of an unhealthy drive that has developed several unusable areas. It's taken from my wife's dodgy HP laptop. After running "chkdsk /R" these areas have been marked as bad sectors, but without HD Tune I probably would not have suspected anything going wrong.

Speed Map healthy drive
This image shows the "Speed Map" of a healthy drive. Notice how the "outside" part of the drive provides higher data transfer speeds than the "inside".

Speed Map unhealthy drive
Here is the "Speed Map" of the unhealthy drive shown above. Notice how there are several sections of the drive that are running slower, particularly around the same locations as the bad sectors. This is not a happy drive, and will be replaced when funds permit. Now that we know the extent of the problem, we can make sure that all data is backed up, in case of complete failure. We also run the error scan more often. Notice how the hard drive temperature is blocked, either by the BIOS or the drive interface design.

Hard Drive Benchmark and other Information

Benchmarks can tell you a lot about your hardware even if you aren't comparing the results with other benchmarks from other users. Similarly the "Info" and "Health" tabs provide a lot of HDD data, not all of which I understand, but it's interesting to look at anyway.

Benchmark internal drive
Here is a hard drive benchmark result for the internal hard drive in my laptop. The downward spikes are not problems with the drive, but caused by another process accessing the drive from time to time. I left them in because they illustrate the difficulty of benchmarking a drive that is actually in use. Note how the data rate drops as you move towards the center of the drive.

Benchmark external USB drive
Here is a similar benchmark for an external 500GB USB drive I use for making backups. Notice how there is little performance slowdown as you move across the drive because the USB 2.0 interface has data rates slower than the slowest part of the hard drive. If I removed the HDD from its external case and plugged it in directly to a desktop PC the performance would be much better. There is a difference in the drive seek time, which is normal.

The real value of these benchmarks and figures is when you are comparing machines and trying to figure out why one machine is sluggish and the other is fast. If the hard drive performance is radically different, you have an explanation. If they are similar, then you can look elsewhere for the source of the problem, such as a motherboard issue or installed software.

Recommendation

I have ignored some of the other tests and the ability to wipe out the data on the entire hard drive because these are mostly useful to PC technicians. I can, however, recommend this product from a software quality point of view. The program works. It doesn't use up lots of resources, and I just set it to load as a minimised icon in my task tray, ready to warn me if the drive gets too hot.

If you own a laptop you absolutely must install this program, and if your laptop is blocking access to the temperature information, be sure to run the Error Scan every month to look for hard drive issues before they become problems. I have a reminder set to run the error scan every quarter on my own laptop.

See Also

Other reviews of this product:

  • Get It Fixed review
  • CNet Downloads review page
  • PC Pro UK product review and comparison page:
    Having confidence in your hard disk is the primary aim of the free HD Tune. We're sceptical about the claims of similar tools to predict when your disk is going to die. HD Tune makes no such claims: it simply measures performance, scans for surface errors, monitors the temperature and accesses SMART (if supported) to keep you informed. Returning detailed information about each partition on the disk, it isn't for the novice, and we'd like to see more detailed analysis of the testing results together with a more useful Help file. But if you know what you're looking for, HD Tune will let you find it.
  • TechRepublic Review
  • Best External HDD blog


This video shows HD Tune being used. There is no commentary, only music.

See the Spinrite review page for information on hard drive data recovery.



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