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.