DriveDx: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Monitor Your Mac's Drive for Performance and Health

Drive Dx
Courtesy of Binary Fruit

DriveDx from Binary Fruit is one of the better drive diagnostic utilities that I've come across. With an easy-to-understand interface, and the ability to show complex drive parameters in a manner that's also easy to understand, DriveDx can keep your Mac safe from data corruption by letting you know when your drive is exhibiting the kind of issues that usually occur before a drive fails.

Pros

  • Goes well beyond just reporting the S.M.A.R.T status of a drive.
  • Provides both an overall health rating and ratings for parameters that point to failures.
  • Can run in the background to periodically collect information about drives.
  • Alerts you if issues are found.
  • Can perform active tests on hard drives and SSDs.
  • Can detect conditions that lead to failure, even though S.M.A.R.T may not show issues.
  • SSD lifetime left indicator.
  • Provides temperature, power cycling, and power-on time information.
  • Includes detailed information about each parameter being reported on.

Cons

  • Automatic self-tests are often aborted by the host computer.
  • Little control over when self-tests or parameter checking are performed.

One of the problems faced by computer users is the inherent need to believe that our Macs are in good shape, and that our storage devices, hard drives, or SSDs are working as they should. The fact is, sooner or later, storage devices will fail. I can't tell you how many times I've replaced drives over the years.

That's why I always maintain one or more current backups of my data, and why you should do it, too.

I've replaced many drives because of what seemed like sudden failure. One minute everything was working correctly, and then the next time I started up the Mac, the drive had issues that showed themselves as startup or other problems.

In actuality, sudden drive failures are rare; if you monitor overall drive performance, you could probably predict that a drive is about to fail.

That's where DriveDx and apps like it come in handy. DriveDx's ability to monitor the overall performance of your storage system means that aside from a sudden catastrophic failure, you're going to know if the health of a drive is declining. You'll have plenty of advance notice, so you can schedule a drive replacement, instead of ending up with a Mac that's dead in the water.

Using DriveDx

DriveDX installs as an app that you can run at any time; you can also set the app to start automatically whenever your Mac starts up. While most of us will probably elect to have it launch automatically, thus letting DriveDx keep track of drive parameters all the time, there are some Mac users who probably should think twice about letting it run automatically.

The issue for some users is that DriveDx offers limited control over when testing is performed. You can set a time interval, from testing every 10 minutes to testing every 24 hours (and other options in-between); you can even turn the testing off. But if you do select the auto-run option, you run the risk of having a test being run when you're performing some storage and CPU-intensive task, such as video or audio editing, where unfettered access to your storage system is a requirement.

In future versions of DriveDx, a setting that can suspend testing if your Mac is actively being used, or prevent a test from starting unless certain idle conditions are present, would be a nice improvement.

But that's really my only complaint about DriveDx. For the vast majority of us that use our Macs in non-critical work, DriveDx's automatic testing would not be a hindrance.

DriveDX Interface

DriveDX uses a simple window-plus-sidebar layout, providing a well-designed, single-window interface that is easy to use. The sidebar lists the drives attached to your Mac, along with three categories (Health Indicators, Error Logs, and Self-test) for each drive.

Selecting a drive from the list will cause DriveDx to present an overview of the drive's health and performance in the main area of the window. This includes a quick look at S.M.A.R.T status, overall DriveDx health rating, and an overall performance rating. If all three display in green, that's a quick indication of your drive being in tip-top shape. As the display color moves from green to yellow, you can begin to worry about how long the drive is going to continue to work.

Along with the overview, DriveDx provides general information about the selected drive, as well as a problem summary, health indicators, temperature information, and drive capabilities.

Selecting the Health Indicator category from the sidebar provides a more detailed view of how well the selected drive is performing.

Selecting the Error Logs category will display a log of any errors encountered while performing the self-tests.

And finally, the Self-test category is where you can manually run two different types of self-tests on the selected drive, as well as see the results from previous self-tests that have been run.

DriveDx Menu Bar Icon

In addition to the app's standard interface, DriveDx also installs a menu bar item that gives you a quick overview of all of your drives. This lets you close the main app window, while still having access to the basic information about your drives.

DriveDx is an excellent drive monitoring utility that works equally well with hard drives and SSDs. Its ability to inform you of impending drive failures well before your data is at risk is the best reason to have this app in your Mac's utility arsenal.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.

Published: 1/24/2015