A method is disclosed for detecting defects in a recordable medium such as a hard disc drive based on error energy. The method may include the steps of writing test data to the medium and reading back the test data. The method may also include the steps of computing an error energy based on the square of the difference between the read back data and an ideal version of the test data and comparing the error energy with an energy threshold. The method generates a defect signal when the error energy exceeds the energy threshold. The method may also be used to identify the media defect according to its error energy profile. An apparatus for detecting defects in a recordable medium is also disclosed.