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Hard drives – Part 2 – Why do they fail?

In this series of mini-blogs we’re looking at hard drives. What are hard drives, why do they fail and what can you do to extended their life and prevent data loss?

Why do they fail?

Hard drives fail for many reasons but a lot are due to wear and tear caused by drive movement. In yesterdays blog we pointed out the mechanical nature of hard drives. When spinning a drive generates a great deal of gyroscopic force. Think of a spinning top and how it wants to stay spinning in the same orientation. Pushing the top over when it is spinning is actually quiet hard and this is much smaller and slower that the platter in a hard drive. When a drive is rotated when it is spinning, those forces are transmitted to the bearings which cause them to wear prematurely. They can also cause stresses in the drive head which is moving very rapidly across the platter.

Even more serious are hard knocks and drops of the laptop (and with it the drive). These can cause the drive head to actually hit the platter causing data loss and at worse complete drive failure. The term crash actually refers to the drive head ‘crashing’ in to the drive platter on a hard drive. When this happens physical damage occurs which can render the data stored on the drive completely unreadable.

The last major cause of failure is simply general wear and tear. Hard drives are precision instruments and whilst the technology has matured significantly in the last 10 years (to the point where treated well they will last many years) they will still be more prone to failure than a solid state device.

Next Time – How can you prevent damage to your drive?

A hard drives mechanical nature means it must be treated differently to most other PC components. Keep an eye out for our next instalment when we look at why hard drives fail.

Posted on by Tim
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