Configuring BIOS for a Second Hard Drive – including SMART

Once the second hard drive is physically installed, you then need to let the computer\’s operating system and software know that it exists.

Insert the MS-DOS startup disk in your floppy disk drive and power on your PC. After the POST (Power On Self Test) process has started enter the system\’s CMOS setup routine as described in your system\’s documentation (normally by pressing the DEL, F1 or F2 key.

To have the BIOS automatically detect the new drive and set its parameters you need to enter the Standard CMOS Setup category of the BIOS Setup and ensure that both the Primary IDE Master and Primary IDE Slave are set to Auto to autodetect the drives on startup.

If your hard disks and system BIOS are fairly recent, it\’s likely that they\’ll provide support for the S.M.A.R.T hard disk capability. It\’s not vital to do this right now, but if you do intend to use it, you should enable it before too long.

Save the settings and exit the setup routine, allowing the system to boot from the startup disk.

S.M.A.R.T can usually be enabled via the Advanced BIOS Features category of the BIOS Setup.

It\’s origins date from 1992, when IBM began shipping 3.5-inch hard disk drives that could actually predict their own failure – an industry first. These drives were equipped with Predictive Failure Analysis (PFA), an IBM-developed technology that periodically measured selected drive attributes and sent a warning message when a predefined threshold is exceeded. Industry acceptance of PFA technology eventually led to S.M.A.R.T (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) becoming the industry-standard reliability prediction indicator for both IDE/ATA and SCSI hard disk drives.

Today all major hard disk drive manufacturers support S.M.A.R.T. It needs to be enabled in your system BIOS. When it is it will typically monitor the following:

  • Head flying height data
  • Throughput performance
  • Spin-up time
  • Re-allocated sector count
  • Seek error rate
  • Seek time performance
  • Spin try recount
  • Drive calibration retry count

S.M.A.R.T should be enabled when a hard disk drive is new since it is designed to monitor a hard disk drive over time and needs first to establish a baseline assessment of your drive\’s performance characteristics. When performance starts to drop below the average it has established for your drive, it will notify you of an impending hard drive failure.

A number of Windows-based utilities are available that effectively provide a GUI front end to S.M.A.R.T