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Speed Kills? With Hard Drives It's Heat!

A few months ago I bought an internal thermometer for my computer. I was told by Malcolm our hard drive recovery engineer that the most common reason for hard disk failure was heat. I was shocked to find the internal temperature of my machine was 120 degrees! How did it get so hot?

When it was put together a couple of years ago it was pretty standard fare, 3ghz Intel Pentium IV processor, 1gb RAM with video, sound and network on the motherboard. After a while I put in an ATI 9800 video card with 256MB as well as an Audigy 2 sound card and a gigabit LAN card to match a new router upgrade. Little did I know that those items raised my tempature internally. Not knowing any better I didn’t add any extra fans or anything.

A couple of days ago my hard drive crashed see my blog post:Data Recovery Case Study- My Own Machine to read all about it. It turns out that the platters had warped due to heat. At the time all I knew was that the platters needed to be swapped it wasn’t until later that I found out why. I replaced the drive (a 250GB Maxtor IDE) with 2 160GB Western Digitals set up with a software RAID 1 which is a mirror. I was determined not to go through the humiliation of loosing data while working for a hard drive recovery company again.

Two weeks ago my power supply went, taking with it my video card and creating some problems with my sound card. I went ahead and ordered a new XPS from Dell, but asked the guys at DTI to fix up my machine for gaming. It was at this time that they started to tell me about heat and how the case I was using (A big Thermaltake) didn’t have enough fans.

Now I looked at the internal temp of my new Dell and sure enough it is 105 degrees in there. This goes to show that we need to educate ourselves on how best to deal with heat. This machine has Serial ATA so the drives are big and fast, but they get blazing hot. I installed hard drive fans on them I snagged them from Tiger Direct for 7 bucks. Because Dell has a good setup with the proper balance between positive and negative air flow, this helped a bunch. Right now it is at a solid 75 degrees.

Understand that there are many other methods of cooling that can be added to almost ANY computers including the case or the housing itself that will drop the computers core temperature drastically. Aluminum cases are becoming very popular as they can run up to 6 times cooler then a standard steel case.

The one thing that I didn’t understand was how does a platter warp? It seems that with usage the drive heats up then as it turns off or goes into hibernation, the hard disk cools down. This can cause minimal warping. When I say minimal we’re talking less than a millimeter. The hard disk drive is a very precise piece of technology that is born to fail. To learn more about hard drives see Dick Correa’s post about hard drives with bad sectors . It is actually a pretty scary post which should motivate you to get a good backup plan going if you don’t have one already.

If your hard drive is clicking stop what you are doing and call us at 727-345-9665! Click here for more info on Hard Drive Recovery


11 Responses to “Speed Kills? With Hard Drives It's Heat!”

  1. Davedata99 September 7, 2007 11:54 am #

    Heat explained: Why is heat bad for your hard drive. The main reason is anything that is hot expands,this is bad for the metalic platters holding the magnetically charged data. Hard drives will begin to have problems reading and writing on track. They will have to recallibrate to find there plot on the drive. This can cause fluctuations in the head movements and may cause damage to the read elements or the magnetically charged platters. Conversley, the drive manufacturers are aware of this, they do consider this and make compansation for the read/write element. Unfortunately, temperatures in drives that are not ventilated exceed any compinsation and catostrophic failures can occur.

  2. Cindy February 1, 2009 12:31 am #


    I just bought a new dell studio 17 and I had a choice between a 500GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM) and a Dual: 640GB (2x 320) SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM). They cost exactly the same and I was wondering why??? Isn’t having two hard drives better? More capacity more backup, more safety?

    Does this have anything to do with the fact that hard drives heat up and having two would cause my laptop to heat up faster? I don’t want to ever have to replace any parts, like metal anythings.

    Would you say it is even worth it for me to have a 500 or 640gb hard drive? I’m an architecture student using autocad/autocad3d, maya, revit and another program I forgot its name (will be using it later on). I also like to play World of Warcraft, I like music, but wouldn’t keep videos on my laptop really. The third option was a 320gb. I was planning on keeping the laptop for 2-3yrs.

    Thanks so much for any input in advance!! I would appreciate any input from anyone!! 😀


    • DTI Data Recovery February 2, 2009 4:48 pm #

      Cindy, your best bet is to see if you can get your 2 drives set up in a RAID 1 or a mirrored RAID. This will protect your files. I just bought a Dell laptop and the hard drive died within 2 weeks! I hadn’t had enough time to set up my backups yet and had to have an engineer recover the data. talk about embarrassing! Since you will have large files with CAD programs you will need storage, that’s for sure, but really 320 GB is a lot of CAD drawings. I also suggest you get an external hard drive for backing up your critical files. The 320 GB drives set up in RAID 1 would be my choice. Don’t do a spanned set up 640 GB with 2 320 drives, because that is the most expensive type of data recovery, a RAID 0 or spanned set is dangerous!

  3. Nik July 24, 2009 11:44 am #

    Hi, my HP compaq 5000 is five years old. For security when leaving the house overnight we’d put the laptop in our electric oven. I know it sounds weird but the idea was suggested to us by the police. As fate would have it we came back from a long w/e, forgot it was in the oven and I turned the oven on to prepare for pizza (220 C). After approx 10 minutes I realised what the smell was. On taking it out the casing had melted leaving it impossible to open or switch on. It was dead. I’m not proud of this.
    I claimed for it on my insurance as accidental damage – as indeed it was. Me accidentally melting my laptop in the oven was not doubted by the insurance company – but exactly when the accident happened is very much doubted and therefore they refuse to compensate me. So here’s the thing that I hope someone can help me with:
    on examining the hard drive the insurance company disputes the time I said it was last used – by 5 weeks! In other words, I know I used it at the most 3 – 4 days before the accident, but they are saying it was used 5 weeks before and give me a specific date taken from the sched log.
    The laptop was rarely connected to the internet but instead was used for writing documents. How accurately does the hard drive record the laptop’s use? The lap top was broken from being exposed to extreme heat – could this in itself be responsible for the discrepancy?
    I’d really appreciate some expert opinions on this – otherwise it’s their word against mine.
    Thank you!


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