How Does Temperature Affect Hard Drives?

Hard drives are mechanical storage devices containing moving parts, and as such, they generate heat, which can limit lifespan.

It’s not a question of if your hard disk drive (HDD) will fail, it’s when. Hard drives contain moving parts, and simply won’t last forever. Because they contain lots of delicate moving parts, HDDs are more susceptible to physical damage, the most common causes being heat and trauma. The type of HDD and where it is located is also a factor. Desktops, for example, are static machines, whereas laptops and external hard drives are moved around, often frequently; in the latter’s case, they’re often thrown into the bottom of the owner’s bag.

The platters in a hard drive spin incredibly fast, leading to a lot of heat being generated. Unfortunately, temperature is one of the factors that can affect the life of a hard disk drive. A research paper entitled “Failure Trends in Large Hard Disk Drive Population” pulled data from more than 100,000 consumer hard disk drives, and came to several conclusions. Firstly, temperatures of 45°C and above lead to higher failure rates. Secondly, and perhaps confusingly, temperatures lower than 25°C also led to higher failure rates. Finally, older hard drives are more susceptible to temperature damage compared to newer ones, with failure rates starting to increase at around 40°C. The ideal temperature for most hard disk drives, then, is 25°C to 40°C. You can check the temperature using third-party software such as CrystalDiskInfo, which monitors the health of your hard disk drive.

Desktops and laptops have cooling fans installed in order to mitigate this, but you should consider upgrading them to something a bit more substantial. PC cases will often have spare fan slots at the front of the case, which can be utilised in order to cool your hard drive further. Laptops are a bit more difficult to cool due to their portable nature, but laptop cooling pads are available. These pads slot on to the bottom of your laptop and blow air upwards to aid with cooling. Obviously, you’re sacrificing some portability, but if you’re doing some intensive work at home or in an office, laptop cooling pads are a great way to ensure your hard drive is kept cool.

Like internal hard drives, external hard drives will also generate heat when in use. To mitigate this, make sure your drive is in an open space when in use, and not covered, to ensure air can flow freely in and around it. When the drive is not in use, keep it stored somewhere cool and out of direct sunlight, like a drawer or cupboard.

Hard Drive Temperature