Protecting against hard drive failure...

Dust, heat and shock are all hard drive ‘killers’. Keep the computer fan intakes free of dust and do not place your CPU on the floor where there is plenty of dust to penetrate the hard drive breather hole! Similarly it is much more likely to get kicked if it’s under a desk. Do not place any hardware next to radiators.

Let us look at dust firstly. Your hard drive has a 'breather hole' to equalize pressure and although there is a filter in between, dust and even smoke particles can penetrate this hole. If a particle hits the read/write heads at 10,000 RPM whilst the hard drive is spinning, this can be catastrophic!  Not only will the heads crash onto the platters, but the whole situation is further exasperated by the resulting debris also being thrown around inside the hard drive. Extensive platter damage cannot be repaired and this is one of the few times that data is unrecoverable. Decrease the likelihood of this occurrence, by simply keeping your hardware in a clean environment - not close to the floor, or in the workshop! 

Whilst previous blog articles have questioned whether heat is responsible for hard drive failures, if your hard drive is getting excessively hot it is certainly an indication that something is wrong. Without doubt your hard drive will function better in a cooler environment. If this wasn't the case, why do manufacturers put fans on CPUs? Have you ever looked at the fan intake on your computer? If it is filthy with dust, just think what effect this is having on the cooling process. If the fan cannot draw sufficient air into the CPU, your hard drive is going to heat up. Simply running the vacuum cleaner across the face of the fan is sufficient to keep it clean. Similarly radiators and direct sunlight can cause excessive heat to build up inside your hard drive. Often exasperated with a black enclosure, it can get intollerably hot inside. 

Shock is probably the most common cause of hard drive failure. Every fourth hard drive we see has been dropped, kicked or taken some sort of impact. A hard drive can cope with some shock when the heads are parked. However, when the drive is spinning a shock is often fatal! Portable hard drives are designed to take more impacts and are a good option for back ups, despite the slower transfer speeds. You can purchase hard drive impact protection to prepare the disk prior to impact. Many laptops have this active protection in built and airbags have even been trialed by IBM!. Otherwise a protective case is noramlly sufficient.