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Hard Disk Drive Myths Debunked Rev. 5.4
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Myth #61 :

Using an AV-optimized hard disk drive in a desktop / server can cause data corruption.

Truth :

It's ironic but we are the creators of a HDD myth ourselves!

In our AV-optimized hard disk drive reviews, we mentioned that the new ATA Streaming commands would skip error correction or even reads and writes if they were taking too long to complete. This is an intentional feature of the ATA Streaming command set because it allows for the smooth streaming of video and audio streams for the loss of a few pixels.

The confusion about whether these features would affect the proper recording of files in a desktop or server was further compounded by Western Digital's clarification of the time limit for error correction in their AV-GP drives.

Well, we are no longer confused now.

All those features are present in AV-optimized drives, and work as we described. However, they are only enabled and used in systems that are specifically designed to use the ATA Streaming commands, e.g. CCTV systems.

The SATA controllers used in desktop and server will not use these ATA Streaming commands and are therefore not be affected by these features.

For more information, please take a look at our article on this issue - AV-Optimized Hard Disk Drives Are Safe To Use. You can also take a look at the performance comparison of two AV-optimized drives and their desktop analogues.

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Myth #62 :

You cannot boot off GPT-formatted hard disk drives if you are using Microsoft Windows.

Truth :

This is only true for 32-bit versions of Microsoft Windows. As a rule of thumb, most users are advised to just stick to MBR, as superior as GPT is.

If you are using a 64-bit version of Microsoft Windows, you can actually boot off GPT-formatted drives, albeit with two caveats :

  • You must be using a 64-bit version of Microsoft Windows Vista (or newer).

  • Your computer must support and enable UEFI.

So while this myth may be true in the past, it is no longer true with the advent of UEFI-enabled computers and the 64-bit version of Microsoft Windows Vista.

For more details on GPT versus MBR, please take a look at our article - Should You Select MBR Or GPT When You Install A New Drive?

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Myth #63 :

Vacuuming the insides of your computer will fry the hard disk drive and other components.

Truth :

This myth has been circulating around since 2005 but we missed it, for some reason. Basically, the premise is that when you use a vacuum cleaner to suck away the dust inside your computer case, the dust particles will generate static electricity as they get sucked away, killing the hard disk drive and other sensitive components inside the computer.

The short version is that they have been needlessly worrying about nothing at all. Vacuuming inside your computer case isn't going to fry the hard disk drive or any component inside the case.

Static electricity is generated when the surface of two materials, one of which must be an electrical insulator, come in contact and separate. The static electricity charge though is left on the material that is the electrical insulator, which would be the dust particles. Any electrons transferred to the conductive metal wires and contact points in the electronics would be quickly channelled away or neutralised. That's why no matter how much dust you stir up when you vacuum the inside of your case, they won't generate enough static to fry any of the electronics.

There are also those who claim that the damage is wrought by the plastic vacuum tubing (usually made from PVC) when it touches the electronics. That's when an electrostatic discharge (or shock) happens, killing the electronics with the static charge accumulated from the dust that travels through the tubing. Well, that's not going to happen either.

If you don't believe us, take a look at the Static Cannon test in Episode 20 of MythBusters, where they blasted sand blasted a PVC pipe to try and generate static electricity. They discovered that even a prodigious amount of sand blasting through a PVC pipe did not generate any static electricity.

In some versions of this myth, use of "canned air" or "air dusters" is advocated as a safer choice. We would recommend that you do not, because most canned air dusters use fluorocarbon gases that may be potent greenhouse gases, unless they are specifically labelled as "ozone-friendly" or "Zero ODP". Canned air dusters also have a bitterant added, which leaves a residue on whatever it's sprayed on.

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Myth #64 :

SSHDs are impervious to vibration and shock.

Truth :

Ever since the first Solid State Hybrid Drive (SSHD) appeared, some users assumed it was a type of solid state drive (SSD) and was therefore impervious to vibration and shock. Needless to say, they were rudely awakened to the fact that it isn't a type of solid state drive.

The SSHD is a hard disk drive with a solid state cache. Therefore, it is every bit as sensitive to shock and vibration as any regular hard disk drive. In fact, if you check the specifications of SSHDs, you will notice that they have the same shock and vibration ratings as regular hard disk drives.

In short, if you are using an SSHD, please treat it as you would a hard disk drive - with great care.


Myth #65 :

SSHDs are more reliable than HDDs.

Truth :

This myth is again based on the (wrong) perception that the Solid State Hybrid Drive (SSHD) is a type of solid state drive (SSD). You can blame the catchy but ambiguous name for that.

Because SSHDs are a combination of a regular hard disk drive with a large SSD cache, they actually have more points of failure. If either component (SSD or HDD) fails, the entire drive fails. In fact, the SSHD has an additional lifespan limitation that the HDD does not - the number of writes the flash memory cells in the SSD cache can support before they "die".

In addition, the SSD cache itself imposes additional thermal load on the HDD, which could affect its long-term reliability, especially in the tight confines of a notebook.

Now, SSHDs are a great way to get pseudo-SSD performance without shelling out top dollar for an SSD, or living with limited storage capacity. Take a look at our review of the 1 TB Seagate Laptop SSHD, for example. Just don't make the mistake of thinking that they are more reliable than regular hard disk drives.


That's It For Now!

Even though this guide already lists over 60 myths, it is still a work in progress. I will add more to this guide whenever I come upon any interesting myths about hard disk drives. If you have any hard disk drive myth you would like to see debunked, tell us!


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Hard Disk Drive Myths


Introduction, Questions & Comments, Revision History


Formatting a hard disk drive will kill it!
Formatting a hard disk drive deposits a layer of dust on the platter.
Formatting the hard disk drive will stress the head actuator.
Defragmenting the hard disk drive will stress the head actuator.
If your drive has bad sectors, formatting it causes more bad sectors!
Downloading too much *stuff* will reduce your hard disk drive's lifespan.
Insufficient power causes bad sectors.
Cheap power supplies will "slowly kill" your hard disk drive.
Your drive keeps spinning up and down because of insufficient power.
Head parking is the cause of loud clicks.


The head actuators' motor can fail due to excessive use.
Frequent parking of the heads will make the head actuators' motor fail earlier.
The hard disk drive only spins up when it needs to read or write data.
It is better to spin down the hard disk drive to reduce stress on the motor.
Sudden power cuts can cause bad sectors!
Bad sectors can be repaired by reformatting the hard disk drive.
You can "erase" bad sectors by formatting the hard disk drive.
You must format your hard disk drive to improve performance.
The hard disk drive can only be installed in the horizontal position.
You must reformat the drive in the vertical position before using it in that position.


Scanning for viruses several times a day can kill your hard disk drive.
"Excessive" head movements are bad for high-speed hard disk drives.
The small holes on the hard disk drive allow dust to enter and damage it.
It's okay to drop a hard disk drive as long as it is not running.
Hard disk drive companies cheat in the way they calculate storage space!
If your hard disk drive dies, freeze it to retrieve its data.
Hard disk drives run better / last longer below ambient temperatures.
You will lose 64 KB of capacity every time you format the hard disk drive.
The platters lose their magnetic propeties after being formatted xxxx times.
The more you write or modify data, the deeper you burn into the substrate.


Quick NTFS formatting causes bad sectors to appear.
Constantly rebooting the computer will damage the hard disk drive.
Formatting the hard disk drive causes changes in the surface of the platters.
The hard disk drive is more vulnerable to damage if not installed inside a case.
Touching the exposed PCB can damage it.
Shaking or moving a computer that has been put into the Hibernate or Sleep mode will damage its hard disk drive.
The read/write heads of a hibernating or sleeping hard disk drive sit on the platters for a quicker start-up.
Hibernating the computer will damage the hard disk drive.
4K Advanced Format hard disk drives are faster.
A higher areal density increases random access time.


Sticking magnets onto your PC will corrupt its hard disk drive's data.
You can quickly degauss or erase a hard disk drive by sweeping a magnet over it.
Degaussed hard disk drives can be reused later.
It is safe to move an external HDD that is still connected to the computer, as long as you first disconnect it using the Safely Remove Hardware feature.
You can fix hard disk drives by swapping their damaged PCBs.
7200 RPM hard disk drives are not good for notebooks because they use more power and generate more heat than regular 5400 RPM hard disk drives.
7200 RPM hard disk drives are not good for notebooks because they are more sensitive to shock and vibration.
Short stroking your 7200 RPM hard disk drive will make it faster than a 10,000 RPM hard disk drive!
You need to overwrite your hard disk drive at least x number of times with zeros and ones to prevent any recovery of data.
A 7200 RPM hard disk drive is faster than a 5400 RPM hard disk drive.


A dead hard disk drive can be revived by smacking the drive on the side when it spins up.
You can rescue your data from a dead hard disk drive by moving its platters to an identical "donor" hard disk drive.
A computer's weight increases as information is added to the hard disk drive.
You can overclock your hard disk drive!
Dust is bad for HDDs so they should always be kept inside a proper PC case.
The platters spin in a vacuum inside the hard disk drive.
It is easy for the CIA (or any other nefarious government agency) to recover overwritten data from a hard disk drive.
If your hard disk drive fails to spin up, knocking it with a hammer will unlock the bearings and get it spinning again.
Hard disk drives cannot spin faster than 15K RPM because the edge of the platters would break the sound barrier and cause the platters to shatter.
Never put a tablet (iPad / Nexus / Surface) with a magnetic cover in the same bag with a notebook, or the magnets in their cover will erase the date in your notebook's hard disk drive.


Using an AV-optimized hard disk drive in a desktop / server can cause data corruption.
You cannot boot off GPT-formatted hard disk drives if you are using Microsoft Windows.
Vacuuming the insides of your computer will fry the hard disk drive and other components.
SSHDs are impervious to vibration and shock.
SSHDs are more reliable than HDDs.

<<< Myths #50 - #59 : Previous Page

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