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Is hard drive heat even an issue?

Last response: in Storage
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March 7, 2007 4:58:43 AM

I see everywhere that computerdealers are selling things to monitor or decrease the temperature of hard drives. However, in every serious article, review or benchmark I've ever see, heat is never adressed.

My question is this:
Is hard drive heat even somthing to be concerned with, or are manufacturers simply taking advantage of the "if it's in a computer and it's hot, it needs to be cooled" mentality of hardware enthusiests to sell some product that really isn't needed?

I know that hard drives get hot, that's not really the issue. My question is, does it matter? Has anyone ever done any Perfomance tests on uncooled drives versus cooled drives?

I understand that a hot hard drive can also contribute to the overall heat of the case, even if the heat doesn't effect the drive itself - but is spreading the heat around using fans and heatsinks really helping anything?

More about : hard drive heat issue

March 7, 2007 5:42:26 AM

well, as far as heat affecting hdds themselves, you would have to check the specifics from the hdd manufacturers site to find out the temperature tolerance range of the drive

as far as hdd heat affecting other components, you really only have to worry when theyre also nearing uncomfortably close to the threshold of instability/failure... which would also be dependant on what youre comfortable with, as far as temperatures... some people prefer as cool as possible, other people arent quite as bothered by somewhat higher temperatures

also, its a good idea nonetheless to keep case ventilation optimal, to reduce the likelyhood of heat building up to begin with... without proper airflow, youre likely to push your components closer to, and even beyond their individual tolerance levels, which also affects their lifespan if kept that way for a relatively long amount of time

in the end, an excessive amount of heat exposure, *will* lead to individual component failure, just a matter of when, at that point
March 7, 2007 5:52:12 AM

well i for one sometimes get kinda worried about my harddrives getting too hot..

i have a system with lots of stuff in it. and when you combine them all together they will generate lots of case heat.. but very strangely believe my hdds contribute the most to that..

i have 4x250gb hdds in raid 0 and one 30gb system disk and th e4x250s are sometimes very hot to tough...

i also have 6800gs' in SLI but they just dont seem to make as much ambient heat as the hdd..(ie when running games the ambient heat does not increase anywere near as much as when doing hdd heavy operations.)

and my rig rarely accesses hdds during games(4gb ram)


i added an extra fan to push air out and it made them alot better.. but in AU we sometimes get pretty friggen hot days in summer and i tend to avoid extensive gaming or hdd tasks for long periods.. i would like to get some hdd coolers but because the hdds are contained in a hdd cage(lower one in a P180) it means that i cant just stick a 5.25 hdd cooler for them.. so a fan is all that i can doo.. maybe i could get some big heatsinks made and strap them on with adhesive thermal tape...
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March 7, 2007 5:58:23 AM

Yes, and No. In the enterprise market it is an issue. In the home user market, ie. drives typically spinning at 7200 or 5400 RPM not so much. However, this site offers information on the affect of heat on the HDD. I have read that cooler is better only to about 15C, at that point you start to lose performance. The best temp is something in the realm of 20-30C, which is relatively easy to attain with a fan blowing on it. Notebook HDD’s are designed to handle a higher temperature due to the nature of notebooks typically having little ventilation, especially on the HDD, they solve this by using slower RPM like 5400 HDD, and/or using higher temperature threshold HDD. In most cases, desktop PC's cool the HDD sufficiently just with convection alone (no fan blowing directly on HDD). Most people don't run their HDD at max load all the time, thus giving sufficient time between read/writes for the HDD to cool down.

If you have a raptor, you should have a fan blowing on it as the heat generated is both higher and is created faster than the bigger, slower 7200RPM drives. In the latter, case, my previous point stands. Concluding, Raptors should have active cooling encorporated while regular 7200RPM drives dont really need it, though if you do heavy HDD work like loads of gaming/encoding a cooling fan would be a good idea.


My 2 cents.
March 7, 2007 6:07:37 AM

just a question. i know raptors contain heatsinks that are build into the drive casing, i guess mainly because of how hot they do get, but im wondering if other consumer hdds have heatsinks too?
March 7, 2007 6:55:57 AM

Seems the overall concensus is that if you have a normal PC, even a high-end one, as long as you have a case thats ventalated even moderately well - you won't ever have any problems. Then of course there are exceptions like running many HDD's or using high-rpm HDD's.
March 7, 2007 8:04:11 AM

oh, and thanks for the speedy, polite and informative replies.
March 8, 2007 2:38:19 PM

Quote:
just a question. i know raptors contain heatsinks that are build into the drive casing, i guess mainly because of how hot they do get, but im wondering if other consumer hdds have heatsinks too?


In the techical sense, everything is a heatsink.

The issue is: How many watts of heat (joules per second) is the hard drive producing? Whatever that figure is, you have to be able to transfer that amount of heat at the same rate to the atmosphere around the drive. If you don't transfer at the same rate, the hard drive's temperature will go up.

As the temperature of the drive goes up, there becomes a larger difference between the temperature of the drive and the temperature of the air. The larger difference in temperature speeds up the heat transfer.

Thus, eventually an equilibrium is reached where the drive temperature is such that the difference in temperature between the drive and the air has gotten large enough that the heat transfer rate from the drive to the air matches the heat production rate inside the drive, and the temperature now stays steady.

I won't bore you with the heat transfer equation, but the factors that affect the rate of heat transfer from the drive to the air are:

1. The temperature difference between the drive and the air.
2. The amount of surface area that the heat is moving through.
3. The heat transfer coefficient of the surface-air interface.

Thus, the ways to move more heat out of the drive are:

1. Lower the air temperature or raise the hard drive temperature.
2. Increase the surface area of the drive.
3. Increase the heat transfer coefficient.

The Raptor uses a casing molded with metal fins, which increases the surface area of the drive. This increases the heat transfer rate.

Other drives may not have the metal fins, primarily because they don't need them. Those drives produce less heat internally, thus the heat transfer rate doesn't need to be as high. Those drives can get by without increasing the surface area.

The other way to move more heat out of a drive is obvious -- increase the heat transfer coefficient. The heat transfer coefficient between the hard drive surface and the air is low if the air is still. This also causes the air immediately surrounding the hard drive to rise in temperature, decreasing the temperature difference between the air and the hard drive. If the air is moving slowly, the large temperature difference is maintained. When the air is moving quickly, the heat transfer coefficient increases a lot. Thus, we get to our old standby, the fan. :) 

Please note that this discussion involves heat transfer by convection, which is a means of heat transfer where heat moves from a solid into a liquid or gas (in this case, air). There are other methods of heat transfer, such as heat transfer by conduction, where heat moves through a solid, like a metal (this is how heat moves from the hard drive's voice coil to the outside of the casing -- by conduction through the metal). Also, there is heat transfer by radiation, which is how the Sun heats the Earth.
March 8, 2007 3:22:22 PM

One of the main things to remember is that heat is a common cause of premature failure in electronic components. Even if the hard drives are designed to withstand the heat they generate there are other components in the case that are affected by the higher ambient temps caused by heat from avery component inside the case.

A few years ago I had a CD burner that was located in the top slot of my micro tower die due to long exposure to heat, since then I don't put my optical drives in the top slot of my cases if I have a choice and I have increased forced ventilation.
March 8, 2007 4:34:39 PM

Quote:
Seems the overall concensus is that if you have a normal PC, even a high-end one, as long as you have a case thats ventalated even moderately well - you won't ever have any problems. Then of course there are exceptions like running many HDD's or using high-rpm HDD's.



I run 2 Raptor 150's and 2 Barracuda 320's in RAID0 setups in a HDD cage in a NZXT Nemesis case, and according to the HDD temp gauge the cage temp never gets much above ambient (about 70 degrees F). The cage has a 120mm fan right in front of the HDD cage so there's lots of airflow around the drives. However I don't run a server or lots of database-type apps that would thrash the drives but then this is a gamer's case anyway :) .
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