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SMART monitoring on USB/FireWire enclosures

As a followup to my prior post on external enclosures, a helpful commenter mentioned the OS X SAT SMART Driver, a third-party driver which provides SMART monitoring via USB/FireWire on OS X.  Other operating systems provide SCSI command pass-through support, meaning a separate driver is not required.

The installation instructions for the driver are confusing and contradictory in places, but you should be fine if you download a snapshot of the repository, install version 0.6 from the included disk image (SATSMARTDriver-0.6.dmg) and restart, then look in Disk Utility to see if SMART status appears for your drive (which may take a minute or two).  I had no problems on 10.6.8 or 10.8.4.

However, works just means the SMART driver is functional — the USB or FireWire enclosure/SATA bridge you’re using needs to support sending SMART commands to the drive as well. As is customary with “fringe” features of commodity hardware, reliable information about specific hardware support is hard to come by. The best I found was this list of USB devices supported by the smartmontools package (which also includes some notes on FireWire), but it doesn’t include most of the devices I have.

I originally used a Linux live CD with smartmontools preinstalled to test several of my USB 2/3/FireWire 800 enclosures. This provides more useful error information than OS X when SMART doesn’t work, but the set of devices supported by the OS X driver turned out to be identical.  (This is not necessarily the case.)

The results weren’t great — links point to smartmontools output:

Assuming the above is representative, if you're using a USB 2 or 3-only enclosure, chances are good that you'll be able to get SMART info. If you’re using an older FireWire 800 enclosure, you’re probably out of luck, even over USB. If you’re using a newish FireWire 800 enclosure, it might work!

The MB080USEB-1SB above is a nice toolless swappable FireWire 800/USB 2.0/eSATA enclosure with a large (quiet) fan up front. It is available until the end of August for as little as $38 after a $40 mail-in rebate, which is a pretty great deal if you still need FireWire 800, and it was the only enclosure I tested that does support SMART over FireWire.

Speaking of fans, OWC now sells replacement fans for the miniStack — mine seems to have fixed itself as I discussed in my prior post, but it’s good to see the option.

3 comments on “SMART monitoring on USB/FireWire enclosures”

  1. 19 October 2013 | 7:26 PM

    Hi Nicholas,

    I successfully installed smartmontools on two macs running 10.6.8. When I try to install on 10.8.5, and run configure, I get this:

    2008-24ghz-laptop:smartmontools-6.2 georgej$ ./configure
    checking for a BSD-compatible install… /usr/bin/install -c
    checking whether build environment is sane… yes
    checking for a thread-safe mkdir -p… ./install-sh -c -d
    checking for gawk… no
    checking for mawk… no
    checking for nawk… no
    checking for awk… awk
    checking whether make sets $(MAKE)… no
    checking whether to enable maintainer-specific portions of Makefiles… no
    checking for g++… no
    checking for c++… no
    checking for gpp… no
    checking for aCC… no
    checking for CC… no
    checking for cxx… no
    checking for cc++… no
    checking for cl.exe… no
    checking for FCC… no
    checking for KCC… KCC
    checking whether the C++ compiler works… no
    configure: error: in `/Users/georgej/Documents/Installers/smartmontools-6.2′:
    configure: error: C++ compiler cannot create executables
    See `config.log’ for more details
    2008-24ghz-laptop:smartmontools-6.2 georgej$

    I installed X-Code, but not a UNIX guy, so a bit lost how to proceed. Any clues?

  2. 20 October 2013 | 10:53 PM

    What Xcode version did you install? You may need to install the Xcode command line tools from Preferences > Downloads in Xcode if it’s Xcode 4.x.

  3. 21 October 2013 | 7:55 AM

    Yes…. I needed to install the command line tools. That worked.


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