Playing with Blocks

So, it turns out today that my external hard drive has a few bad blocks on it, and since it’s mainly used as an archive, I feel no pressing need to replace it (stupid, yes, I know). But until I get some more external backup space, I’m just going to mark some bad blocks and move on with it. Since this is something that we will all hit at some point, let’s go over the basics.


If your drive has bad blocks that the operating system can see, then chances are it’s time for a new drive. Typically, the drive will transparently remap bad sectors when its finds them, so if you’re seeing bad blocks, that is really bad news. Though you can prolong the life of your drive by adding these blocks to the bad block list in your filesystem, it is almost always better (in the short and long run) to get a new drive. You’ll save yourself hours (sometimes days) of scanning the drive, and the looming threat of a dead drive will be gone. Do yourself a favor: get a new drive. But if you can’t…here we go.

What’re we gonna do, chief?

Well, cadet, we’re going to scan the entire drive. “The entire drive?!”, you say. Yes, the entire drive. It’s a few simple, easy, quick steps (for you, not the computer), so buckle down and let’s find and annihilate the bad blocks!


  • The partition having trouble is /dev/sda1. Adjust to suit your needs.
  • You have root access.


For these file systems, it’s really simple to do this:

$# e2fsck -c -c -k -C 0 /dev/sda1


Well, this is a bit more involved, but it comes with a lot more satisfaction (and nerd points).

Find that block size

First, we need to find out our blocksize so that we can do a proper scan of the hard drive to find bad blocks. Using one of the following, determine your block size:

$# tune2fs -l /dev/sda1 | grep -i "block size"
Block size: 4096

$# dumpe2fs -h /dev/sda1 | grep "Block size:"
Block size: 4096

$# blockdev –getbsz /dev/sda1

Scan that drive

This one is really simple. Be sure to substitute your drive and block size appropriately.

Be sure you have days to spare for large drives.

$# badblocks -n -b 4096 -o badblocks /dev/sda1

Here’s what’s going on:

  1. -n: run in read-write, non-destructive mode (your data will be safe)
  2. -b 4096: your block size
  3. -o badblocksfile: where to store the list of bad blocks
  4. /dev/sda1: the partition to scan

Annihilate those bad blocks

$# reiserfsck --fix-fixable \
	--badblocks badblocks /dev/sda1