How to monitor harddisk health with smartmontools on Ubuntu

In this article I will give you an overveiw on the smartmontools which is a set of applications that can test hard drives, automatically notify you when the failure rate rises and read the harddisk SMART statistics to detect failures early. I will cover installation, usage on the shell and the smartmon GNOME gui in this tutorial.

About smartmontools

The smartmontools package contains two utility programs (smartctl and smartd) to control and monitor storage systems using the Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology System (SMART) built into most modern ATA and SCSI harddisks. In many cases, these utilities will provide advanced warning of disk degradation and failure.


Starting with the installation. All you will need is a modern S.M.A.R.T. capable hard disk.

sudo apt-get install smartmontools

The above command will install smartmontools on your system. Now just to check if your drive is actually SMART type:

sudo smartctl -i /dev/sda

The above /sda can be replaced with your own hdd name /xyz or anything that is. It will be looking something like this:

Make sure the last two lines of the output are alike. The image contains information about my hdd basically. Now lets enable SMART service.

sudo smartctl -s on /dev/sda

The above command will turn on the smart support, if already enabled it does nothing.
To check the complete SMART information for an IDE drive and SATA drive type:

sudo smartctl -a /dev/sda (for IDE drives)
sudo smartctl -a -d ata /dev/sda (for SATA drives)

You can check your hard drive's status by typing:

sudo smartctl -H /dev/sda

If the output shows any error you better run a backup!!!

Now having SMART enabled on your system, let'see how to work with it. The tool used to test your hard drive has three types of tests to perform. You can check all that info by typing:

sudo smartctl -c /dev/sda

Short, Long and Conveyance you also see the time that it will take to complete all three test. You can stat with any test you feel like:

sudo smartctl -l long /dev/sda (for long test)
sudo smartctl -short /dev/sda (for short test)
sudo smartctl -conveyance /dev/sda (for conveyance test)

The above image is something taht is dislpayed after executing the command for the long test. The long test will take more time then anything else. All of the test runs in the background so there is no way you will be able to track the progress on your screen. You will have to type in commands for the output. If there are any errors while perfoming any of the above tests it means you shold get a backup of your sda as soon as possible. There might be chances of hard drive failure in the near future.

To get your test results you will have to type:

sudo smartctl -l selftest /dev/sda

smartctl selftest

Here is a image how the test results look like. Although the results are quite clear, but if you have any problem understanding the output of smartctl you can check the man pages if you want by typing:

man 8 smartctl
man 8 smartd (for smartd output's)

After completing all of the above you can run smartmontools as Daemon on your system. So you won't have to perform all of the above actions daily. To do that go ahead and do the following:

sudo nano /etc/default/smartmontools

You can use any text editor you want, I'm using nano. Uncomment the following line:

This will start smartmontools everytime with the system. Now to configure how SMART will scan the disk and what actions are to be taken if SMART returns any error:

sudo nano /etc/smartd.conf (and uncomment the marked line)


If DEVICESCAN doesn't possibly work on your system you may use /dev/sda or your hdd name instead of DEVICESCAN. Your added line will look like this:

/dev/sda -m root -M exec /usr/share/smartmontools/smartd-runner

In the above command -m root means that if an error occur's during the scan, it will sent the root an email report, but instead the -M exec will exec commands in /usr/share/smartmontools/smartd-runner. You may remove the -M exec part if your system doesn't have the smartd-runner file. The file smartd-runner performs quite a number of functions, including sending mail to the root, but it might have its own time specifications. If you want to add your own specifications you can do that too, here is an exampe how to do it:

DEVICESCAN -a -H -l error -l selftest -f -s(S/../.././02|L/../../6/03) -m root -M exec /usr/share/smartmontools/smartd-runner

Here is an explanation of the above:
( -a) This enables some common options. You almost certainly want to use it. To check the SMART health status (-H). To report increases in both SMART error logs (-l). To check for failure of any Usage Attributes (-f) . "-s (S/../.././02|L/../../6/03)" This schedules the short and long self-tests. In this example, the short self-test will run daily at 2:00 A.M. The long test will run on every Saturday at 3:00 A.M. For more information, see the smartd.conf man page.
If you would like to scan a particular drive you can do that by placing your drive name insead of /dev/sda. To check the man file of smart.conf type in:

man 5 smartd.conf

They also have a GUI version of this application which can be insalled by:

sudo apt-get install gsmartcontrol

Here are some images that you may find handy.

This is how the GUI looks like, right click on the drive and you can find some other options in it.

GSmartControl - Device information

Go ahead and try it.

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7 Comment(s)

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By: peti

There's a mistype in short test command:

here: sudo smartctl -short /dev/sda (for short test)


sudo smartctl -t short /dev/sda

By: e_james

There are many things I don't understand about Linux. This tutorial, like most Linux tutorials, is a tease. There is sufficient information to confirm that I want to use smartmontools but not enough information to help me understand what I want to do, why I want to do it and especially how to go about it.

What does DEVICESCAN mean. I have a PC with 1 internal drive and 4 usb drives. Will they all be monitored? What does "offline" mean. Usually "offline" means disconnected. How can a drive be disconnected and still working? Then there's "-m root". What is root's email address? How does root receive the messages? How does root read the messages? Must they be sent to root? I find man pages are frequently unhelpful. They seem to be written by experts for the consultation of other experts. The jargon is mostly impenetrable and useful explanations are scarce.

Your use of English is sometimes confusing. If I could understand what you are trying to say, I could help you rewrite it.

By: bobw

Is there a way to eliminate the check on a USB drive? Every ten minutes I get data added to the output of 'dmesg' which I'm not sure is valid. I tried '/dev/sdb -d ignore' in the smartd.conf file but still get a message every 10 minutes, 4 lines beginning "[sdb] tag#0 FAILED Result: hostbyte=DID_ERROR driverbyte=DRIVER_SENSE' etc. It overloads the 'dmesg' information and makes it hard to see anything else.

By: Bob


Can some one help me with this issue? We have a storage that has 224 disks. To check the detailed info on each disk,  we enter the following command:

smartctl -a /dev/da1 (to check the first drive and there is 223 more to go).

Is it possible to have one command to check ALL of the disks with a single command, like using a wildcard or something?


By: Paul

Hi Bob,

Try this:

for i in `sudo fdisk -l | grep "^Disk /dev/sd" | awk '{print $2}'| cut -d":" -f 1`; do sudo smartctl -i "$i"; sleep 1; done

fdisk -l | will list all the devicesGrep ^Disk will only display lines starting with Diskawk will grab the 2nd colum of the linecut -d will use the trailing ":" on the line displayed as a field separator and delimit on the field 1 - this way we only get the the output /dev/sdX of all the matching devices in you case we hope that shows 224 disksThe for is a loop that takes all those 244 device name and loops over the results of the fdisk by using the smartd and the device names we extracted from fdisk.I added a sleep 1 to slow it down, you could replace with read instead which will wait for a return key or you could remove the sleep or set to 0 and and this at the end to write all output into a file >mydevicestatus.txt

By: brkcore

Thank you very much for this article. I am very happy that I've learned a bit more about smartctl and my disks.

Very well written.

Thank you

By: CMayo

"sudo smartctl -a -d ata /dev/sda (for SATA drives)"

throws an error on my system, "Read Device Identity failed: Invalid argument".

"sudo smartctl -a -d sat /dev/sda" works.