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System and Drive Cooling
In order to ensure long life and proper reliable operation, all hard disks are designed
to function only in specific temperature ranges. The user of the hard disk must keep the
drive within the specifications to be sure that the drive will continue to work well, and
to maintain the drive's warranty status. You can find out the temperature allowances for a
particular drive model by consulting the drive's product manual or data sheet, normally
available for free download at the drive manufacturer's web site.
There are in fact several different temperature limits that are specified for hard
- Non-Operating Temperature Range: This is the range of acceptable
temperatures for the drive when it is either in storage, or in a PC that is in transit or
otherwise not operating. This range is normally very wide, much wider than the operating
temperature limits, since the unit is much less sensitive to extremes of temperature when
it is not functioning. A typical range would be -40°C (-40°F) to 70°C (158°F). Clearly
few users will have a problem with these numbers.
Warning: If a drive is
allowed to go below freezing, or if it is quickly exposed to a large temperature change,
it must be acclimated before use. See here for more details.
- Minimum Operating Temperature: The lowest acceptable temperature for
the drive when in operation. A single number is normally provided for this value, with
5°C (41°F) being typical. Again, due to the heat generated by the hard disk and the fact
that almost all PCs are used indoors, this is rarely much of a concern.
- Maximum Operating Temperatures: The highest temperature allowed for the
drive when in operation. Since the mechanical and electrical components within the hard
disk--especially the spindle motor--produce heat, the
biggest problem with keeping drives within operating parameters is not exceeding maximum
allowable temperatures. A number of different temperature values are usually provided,
depending on the drive manufacturer and model:
- Case Temperature: The highest acceptable temperature allowed, measured
at a specific point on the metal of the case.
- Component Temperatures: Some manufacturers provide a number of
different maximum temperature values, measured on the surface of various components on the
drive (especially, the hard disk's logic board). This
method is more precise and takes into account the fact that some components run hotter
than others. In practice, due to the amount of work involved, these different temperature
measurements are rarely used except in special applications.
- "Absolute" and "Reliability" Temperatures: Some
companies provide two sets of case and component temperature limits. The first set is the
absolute maximum temperature(s) allowed for the drive. The second set is the maximum
allowed for the drive in order to meet its reliability and MTBF
specifications. Of course, the reliability temperatures are lower than the maximum
temperature. Since reliability is so important for hard disks, the "reliability"
temperatures are the ones to aim for.
The temperature at which the drive operates is dependent on the temperature of the
system--you can have a drive run too hot in a system that is otherwise quite cool, but if
the rest of the system case is hot, the drive doesn't have a chance. See this discussion of system cooling for more
on this subject. Staying within temperature tolerances is usually only a problem with
newer, faster drives with high spindle speeds,
and in fact, heat is one of the prices that those who need the best performance must
sometimes pay. In some cases active drive cooling is required.
See this full discussion of drive cooling options
for more on this important subject.
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