Windows Surface Scanner: check for bad sectors on your hard disk


Windows Surface Scanner is a free, fast utility that scans your hard drive(s) for physical errors. It will examine each sector on your hard drive for read errors and reports them if found. It is purely diagnostic and will not fix or “mark” bad sectors or recover data.

It happened to me a couple of weeks ago: my computer started acting flaky and unreliable, taking an unreasonably long time to boot (and sometimes failing do so), and driving me nuts in the process. In these situations most people I (believe), start wondering if they’ve contracted a virus or other malware, or puzzling over whether a recently added software might have caused the matter.

All of these are plausible avenues of exploration, but if nothing seems to work you should check to see if your hard drive might have bad sectors on it that may be causing the problem. This is what Surface Scanner does and performs the job quite rapidly.

Surface Scanner vs. Windows’ check disk tool: the main reason why you would use this is for a quick diagnosis – it is considerably faster than Windows’ built in checker and the scan can be performed from within Windows without a reboot. However, it does not have a “repair” bad sectors option which the Windows utility offers.

A couple of quick notes:

  • How to use: install then run; mount the hard drive you want to check then press “scan”. This can be done from within Windows, no need to reboot.
  • Fast: it took about 10 minutes to scan my 5400 rpm 80-gig drive.
  • If you encounter many errors: then stop the scan; you now have the information you need, and forcing the scan might further damage the drive and decrease the chances of salvaging your data.

The verdict: the scan is fast enough that its worth doing every once in a while if your system is acting weird, seeming to work fine in one instance and hanging up the next.

If you do find bad sectors: the first thing I would do is get my data out of there ASAP. Next you might try to run software that will attempt to apply fixes to the problem. Windows’ own check disk seems to have an option to do that. I am not sure if there are any good freeware tools that will attempt to fix bad sectors … if you know of any let me know in the comments. In any case fix or no fix if you have bad sectors you should start planning to replace the drive immediately. (Oh, and in the case I described above my hard drive turned out fine, to my relief!).

Version Tested: 1.0

Compatibility: WinAll.

Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx 1.78 megs).