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Hard Drive Health: What Damages Hard Drives: Part 2

 
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In part 1 of this article, we looked at two things that can damage your hard drive: Sudden movement and magnets. But your drive is vulnerable to other things as well. Today we’ll look at two other things that can hasten the death of your drive.

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Heat

A hard drive doesn’t put out as much heat as a processor or a graphics card, but heat still has an adverse effect on the health of it. According to a Google study, high temperatures can cause hard drives to give up the ghost – strangely enough, however, so do temperatures that are too low!

What kind of temperatures are good for a hard drive? This is a topic that people like to debate about, and the kind of answer you get depends on the enthusiasm of the person you’re asking. A general idea of a decent temperature is around 30-45C. Any hotter – or colder! – has a chance of shortening the lifespan of the hard drive.

If you find that your hard drive is a little on the toasty side, consider adding a front fan and a back fan (known as an ‘exhaust’) to your PC. With this setup, cool air travels into the front of the PC via the front fan, through your system, past your hard drives, and out the exhaust fan at the back, carrying heat with it This should bring your hard drive temperatures down a little. If you can’t fit fans onto your PC case, you have a severe heating problem, or you own a laptop, there are a lot of cooling options available – HDD coolers for PCs, and cooling mats for laptops.

Power Outages

Here’s a weird one – did you know that sudden power drops run the risk of damaging hard drives? Thankfully, modern hard drives are designed to survive a power cut, but you may find that older models can suffer from this. Remember we talked about an arm over a disk? When the power drops on an older model, there’s a chance that the arm – held up by electricity – loses power and slams down on the spinning platter, damaging it. Modern hard drives don’t need electricity to power the arms – they’re held up by air instead – but older models need a little more TLC to stop data loss.

What does affect both, however, is if you cut the power during an important file transfer, or saving a document. This essentially interrupts the hard drive while it’s changing the information on the platter, causing the job to be left half-done. This runs the risk of corrupting data, so it’s always ideal to do a clean shutdown or ensuring the hard drive isn’t in use (i.e. if the computer has frozen) before forcing it to power off. This is why memory sticks come with an ‘eject safety’ option on Windows — nobody wants corrupted data because they yanked out the stick during a write operation!

So, how do you check if your hard drive is in good health? Next time, we’ll be exploring the free software CrystalDiskInfo to see how it can be used to monitor your hard drive’s health.

~ Simon

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One Response to “Hard Drive Health: What Damages Hard Drives: Part 2”

  1. Shanker says:

    Hi Simon,

    Thanks for your detailing how our inadvertent actions could damage the HDD. I was also under the impression that as a Computer uses solid components, only extreme actions/situations will affect it. Mmm… I’m wrong on that. You have awakened me.

    I’m sure that hereafter, I’ll handle the Computer better.

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