Last week my laptop hung for tens of seconds while logging in - and once more again today. Looking at the kernel log I was able to see repeated time-outs on read errors which was a little alarming. The palimpsest utility showed that I had a few bad sectors and there were a few pending to be remapped. I had a quick look at the S.M.A.R.T. data using:
sudo smartctl -d ata -a /dev/sda
..and saw that I'd got 5311 hours of use out of the drive and considering I bought it about 400 days ago works out to be ~13.25 hours of usage per day on average. Peeking at /sys/fs/ext4/sda*/lifetime_write_kbytes it appeared I had written 1.4TB of data, which works out to be 0.27GB of writes per hour of use on average - which sounds fair as my laptop is mainly used for Web, Email and the occasional bit of compilation (as I do most kernel builds on large servers).
So what do I replace it with? Well, being a cheapskate, I did not want to splash out on an expensive SSD on this relatively old laptop (which I will palm off to my kids fairly soon), so I went for an spinny disk upgrade. My original drive was a 160GB 5400rpm WD1600BEVT - this time I spent an extra £5 and got a 2500GB 7200rpm WD2500BEKT with double the internal cache and improved read performance - the postage was free from dabs.com so double win.