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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.

Manufacturers measure off quite a modest range of operating temperatures for hard drives, from +5 to +55? as a rule, and occasionally to +60?. This operating range is much lower than processors, video cards, or chipsets. Moreover, hard drive reliability depends heavily on their operating temperatures. According to our research, increasing HDD temperature by 5? has the same effect on reliability as switching from 10% to 100% HDD workload. Each one-degree drop of HDD temperature is equivalent to a 10% increase of HDD service life.

There are in fact several different temperature limits that are specified for hard disks:

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? (-40?) to 70? (158?). 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.

* Minimum Operating Temperature: The lowest acceptable temperature for the drive when in operation. A single number is normally provided for this value, with 5? (41?) 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. 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.

High temperatures are much more risky for the hard drive than any other component inside your computer. with the front fan disconnected, both drives inched up to 46? in 15 minutes. And that was at idle. Of course, hard drives don’t generate nearly as much heat as your CPU and video card do. They only consume around 10 or 12 watts under load, and around 7 watts at idle. But unlike your CPU, they’re generating a lot of mechanical movement, which means friction– and heat disproportionate to the power input. They still need some airflow to stay at a reasonable temperature.

Hard drive temperature is arguably the most important temperature to monitor in your computer. If you regularly see temperatures of 45? or higher on your drive, consider improving airflow in your case. If you don’t, you’ve substantially increased your risk of hard drive failure or data loss.

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