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Computer Hard Drives


Hard Drive Specifications

The three main specifications to use to compare hard drives are the storage capacity, speed and the cache size. For instance, the minimum hard-drive should have:

  • Size: 250G
  • RPM: 7200 or faster
  • Cache: 8MB or larger

In addition, look for the length and terms of the warranty. The longer the warranty the better. Look for three or five years.


Hard Drive Types

  1. SATA
  2. PATA

If the computer can accommodate SATA hard drives, go for those instead of PATA. These are commonly referred to as Ultra ATA, ATA/100, ATA/133). The computer hardware industry is trying to phase out PATA drives.

SATA is often better in short bursts, but testing average reads and writes are about the same for both.

Hard Drive Performance Comparisons


Hard Drive Brands & Manufacturers

The main hard drive manufacturers are:

  • Seagate
  • Maxtor [owned by Seagate] – variable lifetimes. High replacement percentage after 12-14 months.
  • Western Digital
  • Hitachi
  • Seagate Momentus [notebooks]

Hard Drive Speed

Your hard drive does not operate at the same speed as your processor. This is why files are pulled up into RAM during processing, then written back to the hard drive upon saving. The slower the hard drive, the bigger the bottleneck in file accessing and saving operations. For this reason, you should get the fastest hard drive you can find.


Hard Drive Cache

The hard drive cache stores recently used data in RAM. Using the cache reduces the number of times the hard drive is accessed, and therefore speeds up your system.


Hard Drive Uses

Hard drives are purchased for many reasons:

  • Replacing a corrupt or non-functioning hard-drive
  • Upgrading hard drive capacity
  • External Back up drives - keep these unconnected and unpowered unless in use.

Buying A Computer Hard Drive

First rule of buying computer hard drives is never, ever buy second hand. Hard drives today are not inexpensive, and it is very difficult to test the operational integrity of a hard-drive prior to purchase, especially if buying online.


Caring For Your Computer Hard Drive

Electronic components hate excess heat. Overheating is a major cause of computer failure, especially in laptops. The extreme heat cracks the motherboards. Make sure there is plenty of air flow over the hard-drive. Do not obscure fan ducts. You can even go the extra step to make an additional duct from stiff paper that directs air flow from the computer fan directly on the bottom of the drive.

Make sure your computer heat management system is sufficient for the size of any new hard drive you add. A 7200 rpm drives run hotter than the 5400 rpm drives. If you are upgrading, consider adding additional cooling fans. Hard drive coolers are a standard accessory today.

Run disc check and disk clean software over the drive at least weekly. I have a great widget that monitors any bad sectors and the heat of my hard drive to alert me of any potential problematic environment.

Make sure you back up data regularly. You can never trust a hard drive. Hard drives with 5 year warranty's do not account for lost or corrupt data.

Next: Back Up Software

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