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S.M.A.R.T. and SSDs

S.M.A.R.T, or SMART, stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology. SMART is a monitoring system for storage drives that gathers data on the health of the drive and reports it to the user. SMART is useful for ensuring that your drive is performing at its peak. Learn about the history of SMART and how it has developed to accommodate solid state drives.

History of SMART

SMART began as a way for disk drive manufacturers to tell computers about the health of their hard disk drives (HDDs).  Although some parameters were outlined, each disk manufacturer was free to choose which parameters would be included, and what the thresholds were. The Small Form Factor committee (an ad hoc electronics industry group) attempted to create a standard, which came to be called S.M.A.R.T. The initial standardization described a communication protocol for an ATA host to use and control monitoring and analysis, but did not specify any metrics or analysis methods.

As solid state drives (SSDs) came on the scene, they adopted the same method to report the health of the SSD. Unfortunately, not everything that pertains to hard disk drives makes sense for solid state drives. 

SMART support

There are quite a few third-party applications that can report SMART. Unfortunately, because of the differences between HDDs and SSDs, and the interaction between the drive and the computer, some of these third-party applications can be inaccurate for certain drives or computers. 

Most solid state drive manufacturers have proprietary software that reports SSD health for their drives. Crucial uses Storage Executive, which comes free with every Crucial drive. Proprietary software is more likely to work correctly as the software is not attempting to make the software report the same items for hard drives and solid state drives. 

Crucial family of SSDs

SMART attributes

Although S.M.A.R.T. status items vary by software, the most important item is "Health". This is a general indication of error-resolution and maintenance. Details are usually listed after the Health score, indicating any areas that need attention. Generally, there will be entries for:

  • Raw Read Error Rate—number of errors while reading data
  • Retired Blocks—blocks that have become unsafe for data storage during the life of the drive
  • Power On Hours—number of total hours the drive has been on
  • Power Cycles—number of times the drive has been turned off, then on again
  • Device Temperature—current internal temperature of the drive
  • Total LBAs Written—number of Logical Block Addresses that have been written to
  • Total LBAs Read—number of Logical Block Addresses that have been read from

Other items are included at the manufacturer's discretion.

Conclusion

SMART tools allow you to perform an SSD health check. For the most accurate information, use the proprietary software from your drive manufacturer.


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