The hard drive in your computer is going to wear down some day and fail. Everyone hopes their hard drive will last a long time, and most do. But hard drive death is unpredictable, and your computer may give you no warning about what’s coming.

As your computer ages and slows down, you can spot-check your hard drive’s health. I don’t often care for the manufacturer tools for this, they’re often hard to find or use. Here are some of my methods:

In Windows, open a Command Prompt or PowerShell window. Type in:

wmic diskdrive get status

You want this to report OK to you. If it mentions anything about Predicting Failure for your drive, then it’s time to panic. Actually, no, Don’t Panic, but backup your files & immediately contact your nearest technician or computer store to talk about repair or replacement.

For MacOSX, go to your Applications folder, then step into Utilities to find and run Disk Utility. Select your main drive and look at the SMART Status. You want this to say Verified. If it says Failing, follow the Don’t Panic advice from above.

But this kind of hard drive health info is very binary and lacks nuance. Other apps can give more info about lesser conditions affecting your hard drive, early warning signs that mean you may still use your computer, but that you should start planning for the future.

On Windows computers, I like to run a program called CrystalDiskInfo. The program is small and opens in a flash. It gives way too much info about your hard drive or solid state drive. But all you need to look at the Health Status block to the left. You want it to say Good, but it might state Bad or Caution. Bad indicates imminent drive death, but Caution often means that your computer is getting just beginning its decline. It may start acting slow or unreliable, but could stagger on for months longer.

Another nice app, for Windows or Mac, is GSmartControl. When you open it, it’ll give you a Basic Health Check of whatever drive you select. But you can also double-click any of your drive and go to the Self-Tests tab. There, you can execute a few different tests in just a few minutes that may tell you more about how healthy your drive is.

There are many more apps like these, but I tend towards the apps that work with all drives. Hard drive manufacturers often make their own program for this function, but it often only works with their brand of drives. Feel free to use these apps for periodic check-ups, or just to diagnose when things start acting wonky.