The smartmontools package contains two utility programs (smartctl and smartd) to control and monitor storage systems using the Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology System (SMART) built into most modern ATA and SCSI hard disks. In many cases, these utilities will provide advanced warning of disk degradation and failure.
The hddtemp utility can read the temperature of S.M.A.R.T. hard disks.
Solid-State-Disks (SSDS) need some optimization of the Linux file system before installing the operating system. Here are some tips and tricks for partition alignment. Also useful some tips from Theodore Ts'o about aligning filesystems to an SSD's erase block size.
Be careful when using your laptop abroad. I have heard about some destroyed harddisks due to a magnetic field emitted from the magnetic-holds at the backresttable of the seats in a German railway waggon.
Though I am quite satisfied with the quality of the hard disk in my laptop, when I removed it from the case I unintendedly dropped it. I recommend to be very careful.
AFAIK there are only two form factors for harddisks used in laptops. Since 2003 there is the 1.8" format. But much older and still the most common format is the 2.5" format. The 2.5" format seems to be available in different heights (Please note I couldn't verify this information yet):
18mm: laptops built before 1996 usually have drives 18mm high
12.7mm: I got a report about such disks but without a notebook model or manufacturer name
11mm: since 1996 the drives are 11mm high
9mm: many laptops, including the subnotebooks, now use a 9mm-high disk drive. The largest available in this format in late 1999 is IBM™ 12GN.
9.5mm: Toshiba Libretto L70 and L100 have a 9.5mm HD
8.45mm: Toshiba Libretto 20, 30, 50 and 60 have 8.45mm tall HDs
6.35mm: Toshiba Libretto L1000 has a 6.35mm HD
It might be possible to use a hard disk wich doesn't fit with some case modifications.
Some laptops come with a removable hard disk in a tray, for instance the KAPOK 9600D. There seem to be no SCSI drives for laptops available.
Some hard disk manufacturers offer dedicated tools to change hard disk parameters. For example Hitachi offers Drive Fitness Test (DFT), which provides a quick, reliable method to test SCSI and IDE hard disk drives, including Serial-ATA IDE drives. The Drive Fitness Test analyze function performs read tests without overwriting customer data. (However, Drive Fitness Test is bundled with some restoration utilities that will overwrite data.) The Feature Tool is a DOS-bootable tool for changing various ATA features.