What is the laptop DST short test?

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What is the laptop DST short test?
Understanding the DST short test won't stop your computer failing it, but it can help you decide what to do next. (Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

The DST short test is something that most people aren't even aware of until their laptop fails it. Understanding what the DST is and what the test results mean is an important part of working out a plan of action if you receive the dreaded "DST short test failed" message upon startup.

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About the test

The laptop DST (drive self-test) short test is a series of checks that your laptop runs automatically on start-up in order to ensure that the machine's parts are running correctly. It tests for hardware issues relating to the laptop hard-drive, and is performed after the power-on self-test (POST). Both tests appear as white text on a black background, and are shown after you press the power button and before you see the Windows start-up screen.

SMART

The DST short test is part of the SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) monitoring system. SMART tests run automatically on computers to test the hard disk drive, and aim to identify problem areas before failures can occur. SMART test reports can also be used by manufacturers to improve future hard-drive designs.

DST short test failed

The "DST short test failed" message means one thing: that your hard drive has failed key tests, and probably needs replacing. This could be due to worn-out hardware or corrupt system files. With desktop computers, these issues can often be resolved at home by replacing the hard drive. With laptops, it's much safer to let a professional do it for you. If your laptop is under warranty then the manufacturer should deal with the repairs; if not, it's best to take your computer to a repair shop so that you can salvage your files. At this stage, the best you can hope for is the safe transfer of your documents.

DST long test

The DST long test is essentially an in-depth version of the short test. The short test checks for immediate issues, whereas the long test is more thorough and consequently takes much longer to run. It is possible to fail the long test but pass the short test. This would indicate a bad sector or problem area that is liable to deteriorate. If your laptop fails the long test, you may be able to recover your hard drive at home by copying it onto an external hard drive or other large USB storage device.

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