Bad Hard Drive Signs and Symptoms - A Guide for Mac Users
Updated September 30, 2014
Hard drives  and SSDs store most, if not all the data on your system, and when they start to have problems, the results may be disastrous. Many people take hard drives and SSDs for granted because they're generally extremely reliable. When problems finally occur,  a user may find themselves losing critical and personal information, such as financial data, years of tax returns, and personal items such as photographs, music, and documents which may suddenly be gone forever, especially if no backups have been made.  It's important to know the signs and symptoms of a possible drive problem because if one is developing, the user will hopefully be able to take the steps needed to minimize potential disaster.
We are addressing the subject matter using the articles identified below. On the left hand side is an icon associated with the article, and on the right hand side is a brief overview of the topic. To open the web page for each topic, click on the icon to the left of the overview. After reading a page, if you wish to navigate back to this page, use the back button on your browser.
Software and Computer Systems Company, LLC, produces the products Scannerz, Performance Probe 2,  Phoenix, and SpotOff 2 with Spot-O-Meter 2 and Spot-O-Meter 2 Mini for Macintosh systems, and where appropriate we will be referencing these products to help clarify the subject matter. You can also find brief descriptions and links to the  full product pages at the bottom of this page. Our products have been designed to help isolate hard drive, SSD, system, and performance problems.
Our Product Line Up
We produce products for Mac's that are designed to help people find and correct problems with their systems. Click on the image to the left of each description to go to the actual product page.
Scannerz with Performance Probe 2, Phoenix, and FSE or FSE-Lite for Mac OS X
This is our original, fully featured drive and system testing set of products. Scannerz is our premier hard drive, SSD, and system test tool. It can isolate hard drive and SSD problems, identify system bus and memory problems, and identify cable problems, making it the most advanced drive and system scanning tool commercially available for Mac systems. It's new Diagnostics Mode can be extremely useful, especially when evaluating erratic problems that may be difficult, if not impossible to test with other applications. Best of all, it's easy to use. This test suite also includes  Phoenix, Performance Probe 2, and FSE or FSE-Lite (described below) as well. Performance Probe 2 and FSE or FSE-Lite may help you identify problems that may mimic hard drive problems when they may be caused by actual application or system problems, and they can be used for a host of other problems as well. Phoenix can create an independent, emergency boot drive, perform basic cloning, and may be able to salvage readable data from a bad drive. These packages are intended to be used by people that not only want to test their drive and system, but be able to isolate the cause of the problems as well.
Scannerz Lite
Scannerz Lite is a very low cost, much simpler version of Scannerz that can be used by anyone, literally anyone, to test their primary and backup drives to determine whether or not they're working OK. Scannerz Lite will test your drives and simply gives a pass/fail indication at the end of a test, with a "fail" status indicating that you need to take your unit in for servicing. The user interface of the application and log files can indicate the severity of damage on a bad drive.
Performance Probe 2 for Mac OS X
Performance Probe 2 is a system load monitor that may be used to help identify system bottlenecks caused by memory, I/O, or CPU intensive applications. Performance Probe 2 illustrates memory usage in a manner similar to that of older versions of OS X that preceded Mavericks. The latest version includes a new heads up display that can provide details about CPU usage, memory usage, detailed and configurable load monitoring, as well as graphical updates on drive and network I/O.
Phoenix for Mac OS X
Phoenix is a basic drive cloning and operating system extraction tool. Phoenix allows the user to extract the core OS from their own boot volume and create an emergency boot volume that can be used to host testing tools, such as Scannerz, or restore the core OS onto another volume. It also performs basic volume cloning. On a damaged drive, Phoenix can extract those recoverable files through a cloning action with its log files telling you exactly what files were not able to be recovered.
FSE and FSE-Lite for Mac OS X
FSE and FSE-Lite are file system event monitors. Heavy file system activity can often delude a user into believing there's something wrong with their drive or system, when in fact it's often a background process accessing the drive with such intensity it appears to be locking up. FSE-Lite is included in the base system of Scannerz at no cost, or the user may opt to upgrade to the fully featured version of FSE. The fully featured version of FSE may be purchased as a standalone product and is configurable, allowing it to be used to target specific file system events. FSE is generally not a tool for novices and anyone interested in it should visit the FSE page on this site and read the product profile before ordering it.
SpotOff 2 with Spot-O-Meter 2 and Spot-O-Meter 2 Mini for Mac OS X
SpotOff 2 with Spot-O-Meter 2 consists of SpotOff, an mds indexing controller, and Spot-O-Meter 2 and Spot-O-Meter 2 Mini, which are mds activity monitors. The mds process (meta data server) is used by both Spotlight and Time Machine to index systems, sometimes at very inconvenient times. The end result is often considerable system slow downs, and in laptops, excessive battery drain and heating. SpotOff allows the user to control mds indexing, and Spot-O-Meter allows a user to monitor its intensity at a given instant.
Brought to you by Scannerz with Performance Probe 2, Phoenix, and FSE for the Mac OS X Operating System. If you have hard drive problems or want to evaluate your drive or system, click on the icon to the left for more information on the Scannerz suite. If you're having performance problems and you're fairly sure they aren't hard drive problems, click on the icon to the right to learn more about Performance Probe 2 as a standalone application.
All Software and Computer Systems Company, LLC logos are a trademark (TM) of Software and Computer Systems Company, LLC. Scannerz, Scannerz Lite, Scannerz with FSE-Lite, Scannerz with FSE, FSE, Phoenix for Mac OS X, Performance Probe for Mac OS X, SpotOff, and Spot-O-Meter are trademarks (TM) of Software and Computer Systems Company, LLC. All software produced and licensed by Software and Computer Systems Company, LLC is copyright© Software and Computer Systems Company, LLC 2005 - 2014. The contents of all pages and images contained in this web site are copyright© Software and Computer Systems Company, LLC, 2005-2014. 

Apple is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.  Apple Macintosh, Mac, the Mac Logo, and MacOS are registered trademarks of Apple Inc, in the U.S. and other countries.  PowerPC™ is a trademark of International Business Machines Corporation. Intel is a trademark of Intel Corp. in the U.S. and other countries.
General Symptoms of Hard Drive, System, and Software Problems - Problems that appear to be related to hard drives may be caused by the drive itself, supporting system components, or software. We recommend that all readers review this article first because it may provide information that will help you identify whether or not a drive problem even exists. It generally covers the symptoms of a real hard drive or system problem, as opposed to those that may be caused by software problems and the way a user uses their system.
An Overview of Hard Drive Problems - This article describes the problems that a user may encounter that are specific to a hard drive, whether internal or external. This article excludes problems that are caused by other system or software components, and focuses solely on the hard drive itself. This information will be relevant to the following two articles that focus on internal and external drives.
Problems Related to an Internal Hard Drive and its Supporting System Components - This article focuses on problems associated with internal hard drives and their supporting circuitry. If problems seem to exist with an internal hard drive, this article will help you understand whether it's an actual problem with the drive, or whether the problem is with another component in the system.
Problems Related to External Hard Drives and Their Supporting Components - This article focuses on problems associated with external hard drives and their supporting circuitry. External hard drives add several layers of complexity over internal hard drives because they use additional cabling, interface circuitry, and even software in some cases. If you have a problematic external hard drive, you will likely want to read this article.
User Problems - Some problems that appear to be drive related may actually be caused by a users lack of familiarity with the operating system, or possibly their unintentional misuse of the system. Other problems may be caused by software the user has installed on their systems. Review this article if you're not familiar with Mac's or there simply appears to be no solution to what seems to be an existing hard drive problem.
Dealing with Problems - If you think you've discovered the source of your problems, this article will tell you how some, but not all, problems can be corrected if possible. Unfortunately, don't expect miracles here - this article may tell you something you don't want to hear.