Hard Drive Harmony

The original question was about Monitoring Hard Drives… something that’s always SMART to do. Last week, I chkdsked my D drive and discovered I have 16kb in a single bad sector. Windows did an admirable job at recovering the data that was sitting on / around the affected area. I was looking longingly at a newer system from Dell (provided its desktops are still top-notch). SATA seems like a solid upgrade from my ATA-100 drives. Its SATA II, RAID 0, 500 gigabyte setup seemed nice – and tremendously overpriced. I believe that next year will be the optimal time to upgrade (new processor, RAM, video, PCI, etc.). But is SATA II palpably faster than good ol’ ATA? Do I dare do SCSI?

Lockergnomie Jeff Anderson:

I work in Computer Services for a University and we have approximately 200 PCs and 40 Macs in our labs for student use. I have used Deep Freeze for the PCs and MacShield for the Macs for five years now and they don’t necessarily reimage the machine but they do revert it back to a base system state similar to GoBack. Our machines receive quite a bit of use but I haven’t noticed any more drive failures from using the software in the labs than on machines for the Faculty that doesn’t contain the software. I would highly recommend these products and suggest that David just keeps a few extra drives around for when one goes down, which seems to happen sometimes without warning. When this happens I replace the drive with a spare and use Norton Ghost for the PCs to reimage the machine and it will be up and running in about 20 minutes. For the Macs I also keep an image and use PSU Blast Image from Penn State University to reimage the drive. We usually have a three-year turnaround on our machines in the labs and I will need to replace on average three hard drives for about 240 machines in the three years. Personally I don’t find this excessive and it is quick and painless to do.

Lockergnomie Steve Taylor:

Instead of re-imaging every day, he should use some lab management software that will accomplish the same thing. We use software called Deep Freeze, made by Faronics. It’s really pretty cool – this software does not restrict users in any way at the desktop. They can do whatever they normally do as they’re using the PC (install spyware, delete crucial system files, etc.), but on the next reboot, everything is reset to where it was, just as if you just re-imaged. If you’re worried about wear-and-tear on your hardware, this is a great solution.

Lockergnomie Davis McCarn:

For checking drives periodically, HDTune will check the SMART attributes and offers a diagnostic read test as well as a benchmark. It is free for personal use; but, you might want to check its site for an educational license. HDDhealth and HDTemp are also useful and free for home use. Restoring a drive image every night is going to reduce the life of the drives slightly and, to my mind, may be overkill. I might suggest that a little studying of ERUNT would allow for the automatic restoration of the system’s registry, thereby undoing any changes made by the students combined with a file cleanup utility to delete temporary files would accomplish virtually the same task. Another concern that just occurred to me is that restoring an image every night precludes any updates and, since the bulk of MS’s patches are to plug security holes, I worry about its system’s vulnerability.