Why You Need to Keep Your Hard Drive Cool

The most common reason why hard drives fail is overheating. The hard drive is a storage device that records all data saved on a computer. Overheating leads to hard drive failure and loss of data. This is a 100 percent preventable failure and is the reason why you need to keep your hard drive cool. By keeping the computer working at the optimum temperature of under 70 F, and ensuring that the internal fan and temperature sensor are working, you can avert the disaster associated with hard drive failure.

The inner workings of the computer’s hard drive are what give it the tendency to overheat. The drive is made of disks, also called platters that rotate on a spindle at a fast rate. The data is recorded as magnetic pulses on the spinning platters. The platters are made with a magnetic coating on a ceramic base, which is heat sensitive. A motor drives the spindle on which the platters are attached and rotates them at high speeds, ranging from 4,500 to 15,000 rotations per minutes (rpms). At this high rate the rotations generate heat. The faster the spindle spins, the faster data can be accessed, and the hotter the hard drive gets. As the temperature continues to rise, the platters expand, and then contract as the temperature decreases. These changes result in platters that change in shape and size. The result is a magnetic surface that is distorted and may have micro cracks and defects compromising the stored data. Also affected by high temperatures are the read/write heads which retrieves the data from the spinning platters, the controller chip, and the head actuator of the hard disk. When the platter experiences physical damage by extreme temperatures, the magnetic media that stores the data may be irretrievable.

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To avoid overheating, most new computers have built in cooling systems and fans; these cool the hard drive and its components directly. Some manufacturers are even changing the material that the hard drive platters are made of (from aluminum and ceramic to glass and ceramics), to avoid the damage that temperature variations cause. To help the computer user to stay on top of the temperature of their hard drive, there are software programs that can be purchased that will keep track of your hard drive’s temperature. If the preset high temperature is exceeded then the software sends an on-screen warning. Using additional fans and improving ventilation and air flow around the computer can also keep the hard drive cool.

If a hard drive overheats, the data can be retrieved by contacting a professional rather than trying to retrieve the data at home. By attempting data retrieval at home, the data is put at further risk, causing further damage. Professionals will first analyze the damage, then using techniques and tools designed specifically for heat related data retrieval, they minimize any further damage to the hard drive. Most data recovery centers and experts advocate proactive procedures to eliminate data being compromised by overheating.

If you are a victim of data loss please consider Data Recovery Labs computer forensic experts.
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