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Check Hard Drive Health in FreeBSD

It’s wise to check a new hard drive for S.M.A.R.T. errors before using it the first time and also to keep an eye on it after it goes into production. In FreeBSD, the Smartmontools package provides a way to check drives for errors on demand using smartctl and on schedule using smartd.

To get started, find and install the latest version.

$ su
Password:

# pkg search smartmontools
smartmontools-7.0_2            S.M.A.R.T. disk monitoring tools
ssd_report-smartmontools-0.4   SSD health report

# pkg install -y smartmontools
[...]
smartmontools has been installed

To check the status of drives, use the following:

        /usr/local/sbin/smartctl -a /dev/ad0    for first ATA/SATA drive
        /usr/local/sbin/smartctl -a /dev/da0    for first SCSI drive
        /usr/local/sbin/smartctl -a /dev/ada0   for first SATA drive

To include drive health information in your daily status reports,
add a line like the following to /etc/periodic.conf:
        daily_status_smart_devices="/dev/ad0 /dev/da0"
substituting the appropriate device names for your SMART-capable disks.

To enable drive monitoring, you can use /usr/local/sbin/smartd.
A sample configuration file has been installed as
/usr/local/etc/smartd.conf.sample
Copy this file to /usr/local/etc/smartd.conf and edit appropriately

To have smartd start at boot
        echo 'smartd_enable="YES"' >> /etc/rc.conf

Use smartctl --scan to list the drives recognized by smartctl.

# smartctl --scan
/dev/ada0 -d atacam # /dev/ada0, ATA device
/dev/ada1 -d atacam # /dev/ada1, ATA device
/dev/ada2 -d atacam # /dev/ada2, ATA device
/dev/ada3 -d atacam # /dev/ada3, ATA device

In this system, drives ada0-ada2 make up a 3-drive ZFS mirror and drive ada3 is a removable drive that will be used for backups.

To check the SMART status of a new drive before putting it into service the first time, run the long test using smartctl -t long.

# smartctl -t long /dev/ada3
smartctl 7.0 2018-12-30 r4883 [FreeBSD 12.1-RELEASE amd64] (local build)
Copyright (C) 2002-18, Bruce Allen, Christian Franke, www.smartmontools.org

=== START OF OFFLINE IMMEDIATE AND SELF-TEST SECTION ===
Sending command: "Execute SMART Extended self-test routine immediately in off-line mode".
Drive command "Execute SMART Extended self-test routine immediately in off-line mode" successful.
Testing has begun.
Please wait 167 minutes for test to complete.
Test will complete after Sat Mar 28 22:25:41 2020

Use smartctl -X to abort test.

The software estimates and reports how long it will take to run as it begins. Use smartctl -a to keep an eye on its progress.

# smartctl -a /dev/ada3 | grep remaining
                                        90% of test remaining.

After the test finishes, examine the full results.

# smartctl -a /dev/ada3
smartctl 7.0 2018-12-30 r4883 [FreeBSD 12.1-RELEASE amd64] (local build)
Copyright (C) 2002-18, Bruce Allen, Christian Franke, www.smartmontools.org

=== START OF INFORMATION SECTION ===
[...]

From what I can find, these are the most important attributes to monitor for an early warning of potential drive failure.

ID Attribute Name
5 Reallocated Sector Count
187 Reported Uncorrectable Errors
188 Command Timeout
197 Current Pending Sector Count
198 Offline Uncorrectable

SMART error 199 (UDMA CRC Error Count) might indicate a problem with the drive cable or port, so it’s worth checking that one too for a new drive.

# smartctl -f brief -a /dev/ada3 | grep -E '^(ID#| {2}5|187|188|197|198|199)'
ID# ATTRIBUTE_NAME          FLAGS    VALUE WORST THRESH FAIL RAW_VALUE
  5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct   PO--CK   100   100   005    -    0
187 Reported_Uncorrect      -O--CK   100   100   000    -    0
197 Current_Pending_Sector  -O--C-   100   100   000    -    0
198 Offline_Uncorrectable   ----C-   100   100   000    -    0
199 UDMA_CRC_Error_Count    -OSRCK   200   200   000    -    0

The exact meaning of each SMART attribute is not standardized, and this particular drive only reports five of those six attributes, but the RAW_VALUEs in the right column are the ones to watch.

On this removable drive, all five attributes report a RAW_VALUE of 0, so I’ll put this one into production.


The output text given by the installer also explains how to set up smartd for regular automatic reporting of SMART attributes.

To configure the system to run smartd, create the configuration file /usr/local/etc/smartd.conf and add the system drives to it.

# touch /usr/local/etc/smartd.conf

# echo "/dev/ada0" >> /usr/local/etc/smartd.conf
# echo "/dev/ada1" >> /usr/local/etc/smartd.conf
# echo "/dev/ada2" >> /usr/local/etc/smartd.conf

# cat /usr/local/etc/smartd.conf
/dev/ada0
/dev/ada1
/dev/ada2

The installation also includes an extensive sample configuration file at /usr/local/etc/smartd.conf.sample, but the most basic setup just requires a list of drives to monitor.

Next, use sysrc to add smartd_enable=YES to rc.conf and then start the service manually.

# sysrc smartd_enable=YES
smartd_enable:  -> YES

# service smartd start
Starting smartd.

Monitor /var/log/messages regularly to see the results of the SMART analysis.

# tail /var/log/messages
[...]
Mar 28 21:41:48 server smartd[11127]: Device: /dev/ada2, WARNING: A firmware update for this drive may be available,
Mar 28 21:41:48 server smartd[11127]: see the following Seagate web pages:
Mar 28 21:41:48 server smartd[11127]: http://knowledge.seagate.com/articles/en_US/FAQ/207931en
Mar 28 21:41:48 server smartd[11127]: http://knowledge.seagate.com/articles/en_US/FAQ/213891en