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May 22, 2008
Hot or Not: Average HDD Temperatures
by windshell / General
Is your hard drive hot or not? Check is it really within what is called average temperature.
Most recent IDE hard drives come with internal temperature sensors, and they’re capable of reporting their operating temperature via SMART.
However, this temperature readout is not very precise, but it’s definitely sufficient enough to give you a hint whether your drive is ‘hot or not’.
To affirm that your HDD is running on normal temperatures, you first have to consult the website of your HDD manufacturer to learn about the maximum operating temperature of your hard drive. Typical maximum temperature range is usually 50-55°C, with some drives being able to operate at up to 60°C.
Failure & Damage
Unlike CPUs, which are parts that fail rarely, even when they operate very close to their maximum temperature, hard drives tend to fail more often than any other part in the PC, especially if they reach operational temperature maximum.
It’s been suggested however, that even if your drive never exceeds its maximum allowed operating temperature, additional cooling will improve the drive's reliability and functionality.
With hard drives, overheating typically causes long-term failure of the mechanical and electrical parts of the drive. The magnetic platters that carry the data are less affected. Of course, it’s possible to recover lost data from damaged HDDs, but that process costs a lot more than simple installation of additional system fans or heatsinks.
Temperature & Performance
It’s often claimed by manufacturers of HDD cooling products, that hard drive cooling affects performance. But truth is that the temperature does not directly affect the performance of the drive in any significant way - seek times and data transfer rate will stay the same, no matter how hot the drive is running.
With old hard drives, which had a thermal recalibration loop and the hard drives used to make a short pause and recalibrate themselves, good cooling resulted in better performance by cooling the platters and restoring the geometry, which resulted in less frequent recalibration of the hard drive. But, all recent drives do not have a thermal recalibration loop, so temperature will not affect performance in any way.
What generates most heat in a drive is the friction between the platters and the air that surrounds them. The magnetic plates inside the drive rotate at a high speed, but the air inside the drive doesn't, and even if the plate is perfectly flat, there's a lot of air resistance, so a powerful spindle motor is required to keep the drive spinning at high speed.
So basically that means that drives do not get hot only when accessed often. They can be just turned on and with bad air flow, for example, hard drives can reach their max temperature.
Ok I figured out what is max, but what’s the average then?
Average HDD temperatures vary among the different manufacturers. It’s usually temperature between 25 and 35 Celsius degrees.
It’s sort of optimum, but most of hard drives work without any nuisance on much higher temperatures. Some work even below 20 degrees if being properly cooled.
Reason to worry should be if the temperature of your HDD is approaching 55 degrees. Then you should think about how to low down the temperature and to exceed a lifetime of your hard drive. You can do that by simply installing few cooling solutions.
Hard drive cooling solutions
The best solution for cooling hard drive is one that is well-integrated with the case cooling concept. Most of the cases have places for additional fans. A place right in front of the drive bays, in the front panel of your case, is perfect for the cooling of the hard drive. Have in mind that the bigger fan is better, but you will probably pick the 120mm fan.
Second important thing is to ensure a proper airflow within the case. That basically means that if you have one fan in front that sucks the air in, then you must have the second on the rear, to blow that air out. Most of medium cases have place for one or two additional fans in the rear. If there are two, then place the fan on the top bay and that will ensure better airflow in the shape of reversed letter ‘S’. But, then keep an eye on dust which will be collected on the fans and inside the case and which can be an obstacle for proper cooling.
This solution with case fans is cheaper than buying a dedicated hard drive cooler.
Dedicated hard drive coolers are solution if your case does not allow proper ventilation of the drives by using normal case fans. A variety of different models are available on the market; they usually come with small 40mm fans, which are less efficient and typically are louder than larger case fans. Some come with heatsinks for hard drive cooling, while others rely on fans alone.
More advanced drive coolers come with a heatsink/fan combination, or are just large passive heatsinks that should be mounted on the drive.
Once when you installed fan(s), hard drive temperature should be constant and lowered to average. However, have in mind that it’s not recommended to low the temperatures too much (for example below 10 Celsius degrees), because unlike the CPUs, which can work and has excellent performances even on extremely low temperatures, hard drives can become inoperative.
As a conclusion. The most important thing is to keep your hard drive temperature within the average range of 25-35 degrees.
If it exceeds the value of 35, it’s not reason for panic. If it reaches the maximum operating temperature of 55 or 60 degrees, still it’s not reason for panic. It’s just a reminder that you should think about better ways on how to cool your hard drive.
So, all within the range of 15-50 degrees, could be considered as average HDD temperature.
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