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Two Hard Drive Coolers Compared

Configuration And Benchmarks

The Configuration

ProcessorIntel 2.4 GHz Pentium 4
MotherboardCompaq D51S
RAMCorsair Value RAM 2 x 512MB PC3200
Hard Disk DriveSeagate Cheetah Ultra 320 ST336607LW
NetworkOn-board 100 Mb/s Ethernet
PSUCompaq proprietary
CaseCompaq SFF
OSWindows XP with all updates

The choice of using a SFF PC to test drive coolers was made in an effort to limit the cooling capacity attributable to the case itself. This chassis only receives internal airflow from its small PSU.

For this test, we installed the drive as a secondary disk so that we tax it without affecting the performance of the OS. We picked the 10,000 RPM Seagate Cheetah Ultra 320 model ST336607LW to generate as much heat as possible.

We then installed the drive in the normal optical drive slot. Drive temperatures were taken off the top of the drive on the platter area near the Seagate sticker and on the spindle at the bottom of the drive. Testing was performed with no cooler attached, each cooler attached with no fans, and each cooler attached with both fans running. To create as much activity (and thus, heat) as possible on the drive, a format was started on one portion of the drive, HDTach was run against the drive, and a 12 GB single file plus 4 GB of small files were copied to it. This created an exceedingly busy storage environment, and therefore a very warm drive.

The Benchmarks

To measure idle temperatures, the unit was left off overnight, then powered on for 30 minutes before reading any temperatures. The room temperature was monitored and any changes are accounted for here. All temperatures are shown in degrees C and are the peak temperatures achieved after running the tests for a minimum of 30 minutes and until no changes were seen for more than 10 minutes.

Hard Drive CoolerPeak BottomPeak TopPeak Room
iSurf II393327
iSurf II no fans484126
SHF-1 no fans464126

This testing revealed that both drive coolers worked pretty much as advertised. Our workout really put the coolers to the test—the table below shows the cooling results :

Hard Drive CoolerDifference From RoomCooling Improvement Over Air-OnlyVariation Top to Bottom
iSurf II12-146
iSurf II no fans22-47
SHF-1 no fans20-65

Clearly in these test the coolers provided excellent cooling of the drives, reaching up to 15 C cooler than with case cooling only. It was also interesting to see that even just installing the coolers helps to lower the temperature—the coolers by themselves really do work.

  • virtualban
    I once got two hdd coolers that were just fans that were mounted under the hdd, and they were cheap enough and performed good enough. Seeing the small difference between heatsink or no heatsink, I believe just fans can do it most of the time. Anyway, a well ventilated case is the better choice!
  • I wonder how they longevity of the fans work.

    I've tried two disk cooler models ($10 ea) that were
    types of fans that screwed onto the drive (15K SCSI). One used 2 tiny fans, maybe 2x50mm? -- the other a fan as wide as the HD -- about 70mm. They were by the same company, vantec, and the larger fan had about 80% more airflow at lower RPM's. Rated dB's were about the same. They both brought down the drive between 15C-20C (from +50C -> low 30's (as low as 30C). They both were made from Aluminum. I liked the double-fan model better, on aesthetics -- and it had a lower profile, but after 6 months, the fans wore out! -- I'd open her up and see the fans barely turning. So I'm hoping the larger fan at a lower RPM will have a longer life -- it also might be I got a bum unit. But for $10 ea, they're worth a try. I had a drive cooler that installed in the entire 5" drive space and it also had a real tiny fan -- (fitting vertically in the drive case) -- but the little fan was the first thing to stop working. So I'm a bit leary about those little fans.

    I'm looking for some remote monitoring solutions, -- something to allow me to place probes in the computer and can be read by software -- at least the computer would know when there was a problem. As it is now, it's such an old computer, it just hangs when it gets too hot and on bootup, you might see a thermal failure if it was a cpu fan that stopped....bear skins and stone knives (440BX motherboard, circa 1999)
  • nirgal
    How does a 2.5" slot mount compare to the results?
    And which 2.5" slot do I want compared? All of them.
    A floppy disk slot is different from the extra HD slots in terms of air flow - even if there were no front fan or even an option for it.
  • colthorn
    The variation for the SHF-1 is 6 not 4 ;)
  • Good article Bob!
  • jhansonxi
    According to a white paper from Google Labs which details their drive failure statistics for nine months (they have thousands in their server farms) drives aren't really affected by heat:
  • kittle
    Got any noise measurements handy? The term "low fan noise" is rather subjective.

    Personally I found it much easier to mount a fan at the back of my case and put my HDDs near the front and let the fan draw air over the 3 drives that needed cooling. with the above approach you would need 1 cooler for each drive. $10 per cooler is $30 total. my single case fan cost me about $7 -- and its probably quieter than the above coolers.

    As for drives getting too hot? ive seen several die in my past due to overheating.
  • Peter Mauritius
    During my long experience in assembling PC's, the very first thing I would stay away from is adding a fan on a hard disk to cool it! In a desktop casing, the hard disk is already being cooled, first by conduction, since the disk is screwed along both its sides to the casing chassis. Secondly, a casing or chassis fan, if installed, is already extracting or blowing air within the casing, causing such airflow to cool down the hard disk.

    The real problem with installing hard disk fans is that the forced air actually forces much increased air volumes across the disk, resulting in dust accumulating on its underside, i.e. the PCB. Now, depending on the environment in which the PC is working, this accumulated dust in fact damages the hard disks through the controller! What I'm saying is that the theoretical life increase in letting a disk run cooler is negated several folds by the shorts on its PCB.

    This has been my experience. Morever I remember reading somewhere that normal high temperature running of a hard disk is NOT detrimental to its lifespan.

  • jkflipflop98
    . . .or you can just point a case fan at your drives.
  • bydesign
    Nearly pointless devices. Heat simpley isn't an issue 99% of the time. Your review should spell that out.