In part one of this article, we taked about the importance of your hard drive and how it doesn’t get all of the attention if deserves. Today we’ll look at how it works.
Unlike some components in your PC, a hard drive is very mechanical in nature. It consists of two main components – a fast-spinning magnetised disk (called a ‘platter’), and an arm with a tiny magnet on the end that reads and writes the data from this disk (called the ‘read-write head’). It looks a little like a record player, except the platter itself can spin at very high speeds — some entry level hard drives can spin the platter 5,400 times in a minute!
On the platter are little magnetic areas — millions of them. These areas can either be magnetised, or unmagnetised. You know how computers can ‘speak’ in binary — chains of 1s and 0s? These 1s and 0s are used to store data on a hard drive, with a magnetised area being a 1, and an unmagnetised area being a 0. The read-write head’s job is to either read the millions of areas and translate them into binary, or change the platter’s magnetism to store data that is kept even after the PC is shut down. A whole bundle of 1s and 0s may seem totally useless to us, but to computers, they can represent a Word document, a program, or even the operating system of the computer you’re reading this on.
As you can probably imagine from this description, having a piece of hardware that depends heavily on magnetism to work while also containing a rapidly-spinning disk can be susceptible to damage. If the 1s and 0s get damage, it can corrupt or erase the data stored within the platter.In our next article, we’ll have a look at how hard drives can fail, and what you can do to avoid it.