About SMART Utility in Watchman Monitoring

Hi all,

Failing drive detection is one of the core services Watchman Monitoring should provide. Our Disk i/o plugin has saved untold volumes of data from being lost permanently. SMART Reporting can be just as valuable. Until now, it’s been functional, but not ideal.

Later this week, we will be releasing the SMART Utility based plugin.

The underlying agent to most SMART tools is well the well known project smartmontools, which is listed in our Open Source recognitions page. The key is in the interpretation of the SMART Data. Rather than re-invent this wheel, we looked at the most popular commercial implementations of SMART reporting, and partnered with Volitans Software to bring a well known, trusted provider to our tool. In our testing, SMART Utility provided clear, honest reporting of which drives were failing, and which can not yet be tested.

The SMART Utility based plugin in the monitoring client software provides a base level reading of a drive’s SMART status.

As problems are found, and in the event you want to see more details, installing a trial of the full of SMART Utility is the next step. IT Professionals who use SMART Utility in this fashion are encouraged to purchase a Consultant’s License. Which also allows resellers to purchase additional copies at a discount, for resale. Non-resellers can make a nominal commission with their esellerate affiliate program.

What we’ve found:

  • Many computers have recorded errors, but are not designated as “Failing”. These computers will show the error and bad-block counts in yellow Informational results in the dashboard.
  • Many computers have drives which are considered failing. A surprising amount, actually, about 5%. Among these computers are the ones that, as a consultant, I’ve wondered about things on the computer. End users of these computers have tended to be generally unhappy about their workstation, but things were never so bad that I’d thought to run SMART Utility. Afterall, it was booting and performing normal operations. Maybe just slower than it should be.

Known issues

  • Some drives are listed twice in the output, especially Core Storage based ones. Fixed
  • Drives in some newer laptops (like the 12" Macbook) aren’t supported by smartctl yet.
  • Some computers which boot off a RAID will display a message that the boot drive doesn’t support SMART yet… followed by the drives’ SMART status.
  • Drives in Apple’s Hardware RAID card cannot have their status checked by this plugin. Note that our RAID Card plugin would report any SMART Failures.
  • External drives can not natively be diagnosed by SmartCTL. The SMART Utility which we’ve licensed from Volitans Software should be able to take advantage of the SAT driver. however, Watchman Monitoring does NOT officially suggest its use.

250 Drive-hours

Hard drive usage is measured in powered-on hours. The drive tracks how many hours it’s been in use, and it can report the last time an error occurred.

As a way to balance how many drives trigger an alert, we measure the number of hours since the last recorded problem. If the drive has recorded an error in the last 250 hours (that’s a month of 8 hour work days… or 10.5 days of continual use) Watchman Monitoring will trigger an alert. If the drive has lasted that long without experiencing another failure, the status will move to Informational.

When dealing with potential drive failures we believe that the cost of replacing a failing drive is almost always less than the cost of unexpected downtime and/or data loss The only official suggestion offered by Watchman Monitoring to replace a failing drive.


There are a lot of failing drives out there, we trust that the recently released OWC Links in the dashboard will ease the processes of looking up suitable replacements.

For new subscribers, this will be a simple change, however for our long-standing subscribers, we apologize in advance for the onslaught of warnings. You can get a head start on this, if you like, by installing this beta client on computers now.


This plugin can be installed in any Mac running client version 10.6 or later (the final installer will allow 10.5, but the advanced detection will not be used.)


As always, feedback is welcome via https://support.watchmanmonitoring.com
If there is an issue, including a .zip of /Library/MonitoringClient will speed diagnoses. Feel free to use our white-label Notes Reporting page for submitting reports directly from any computer:

https://www.OurRemoteSupport.com/notes (include your contact info so we can reply to you)

For further diagnostics, is there a different implementation of SMART Utility? One that can run remotely? Or do we have to get hands-on like we do now? We already use it in-store with our business license because it’s awesome.

Great question Dan,

The plugin we’ve commissioned from Volitans Software is not a replacement for their full-fledged product. This is coming to you as a part of your Watchman Monitoring subscription.

It’s designed to give a baseline (and accurate, of course) determination of hard drive health. To get the full details, you’d want to install the full product, which runs in trial mode. and then go from there.

As it stands, the business license covers computers that you own, whereas the Consultants License (an offering which has always existed, but has recently been made more visible on their site) is what’s intended for an IT consultant who’s using it on many computers. We’ve also been asked, and yes, Consultant’s License is a permanent one for all versions of SMART Utility 3.

Hope this helps!

All -

We are on the verge of the release of Mac Client 6.4, and it’s going to be great.

For anyone who hasn’t tried it yet, deploying the SMART Beta now can ease you into the pain of finding that about 5% of your end-users’ drives are failing. In my experience, every one of the computers indicated was one of those that seemed to suffer from CADR syndrome. - Computer Ain’t Doin’ Right.

If you’d like to see this in action, please read the full post above, and use the link above to download the SMART beta plugin (labeled version 6.4.4.)

The related support article has been updated, read about the 250 drive-hour cut off here.

Look for full release notes soon!