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Reviving a Hard Drive for Use With Your Mac

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Reviving a Hard Drive - Drive Stress Test
Reviving a Hard Drive - Drive Stress Test

Select the option to overwrite the drive with DOE-compliant 3-pass secure erase. In Lion, you do this by moving the slider from Fastest to the second indent to the right.

Screenshot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Now that you have a working drive, you may wish to put it in service right away. We can't say we blame you, but if you're going to be committing important data to the drive, you may wish to run one more test.

This is a drive stress test, sometimes referred to as a burn-in. The purpose is to exercise the drive, by writing and reading data from as many locations as possible for as much time as you can spare. The idea is that any weak spot will show itself now instead of sometime down the road.

There are a few ways to perform a stress test, but in all cases, we want the entire volume to be written to and read back. Once again, we will use two different methods.

Stress Test With Drive Genius

  1. Launch Drive Genius, usually located at /Applications.

  2. In Drive Genius, select the Scan option.

  3. In the list of devices, select the hard drive you are attempting to revive.

  4. Place a check mark in the Extended Scan box.

  5. Click the Start button.

  6. You will see a warning that the process can cause data loss. Click the Scan button.

  7. Drive Genius will start the scan process. After a few minutes it will provide an estimate of the time needed. In most cases, this will be anywhere from a day to a week, depending on the drive size and the speed of the drive interface. You can run this test in the background while you use your Mac for other things.

When the test is complete, if no errors are listed, you can feel confident that your drive is in very good shape and can be used for most activities.

Stress Test With Disk Utility

  1. Launch Disk Utility, if it isn't already running.

  2. Select the drive from the list of devices. It will have the drive size and manufacturer's name in the title.

  3. Click the Erase tab.

  4. Use the Format drop-down menu to select "Mac OS X Extended (Journaled)."

  5. Give the drive a name, or use the default name, which is "Untitled."

  6. Click the Security Options button.

  7. Select the option to overwrite the drive with DOE-compliant 3-pass secure erase. In Lion, you do this by moving the slider from Fastest to the second indent to the right. In Snow Leopard and earlier, you do this by selecting the option for a list. Click OK.

  8. Click the Erase button.

  9. When Disk Utility uses the DOE-compliant 3-pass secure erase, it will write two passes of random data and then a single pass of a known data pattern. This will take anywhere from a day to a week or more, depending on the size of the drive. You can run this stress test in the background while you use your Mac for other activities.

Once the erasure is complete, if Disk Utility shows no errors, you're ready to use the drive knowing it's in great shape.

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