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Hard Disk Drive Myths Debunked Rev. 5.4
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Myth #11 :

The head actuators are powered by a motor that can fail due to excessive use.

Truth :

Current head actuators are actually not powered by any motor. In the past, head actuators were powered by a stepper motor. But current head actuators use the voice coil mechanism which uses electromagnetic force to move the heads.

So, if the head actuators are not powered by any mechanical motor, how can "its motor" fail?

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Myth #12 :

Frequent parking of the read/write heads will make the head actuators' motor fail earlier.

Truth :

See Myth #11 regarding the head actuator's "motor".

In addition, please note that head parking in current hard disk drives occurs automatically whenever power is cut or when the hard disk drive powers down. It is not an active process.

The head actuators either use springs or the platters' rotation energy to park. In drives that use a spring, the actuators are moved against the spring tension. But when power is cut, the spring automatically retracts the actuators.

Therefore, even if head actuators are powered by a motor, head parking will never cause that motor to fail.

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Myth #13 :

The hard disk drive only spins up when it needs to read or write data. It spins down when it is idle.

Truth :

The platters are kept spinning all the time, unless you have set it to spin down to save power after a period of inactivity. Spinning up the platters take a lot of time and power, hence it is inefficient for the hard disk drive to constantly spin down the platters.

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Myth #14 :

It is better to spin down the hard disk drive whenever you can to reduce stress on the spindle motor.

Truth :

Normally, the platters are spun up at start up and kept spinning after that. The spinning up process is the most taxing part on the hard disk drive's spindle motor. Maintaining the spindle speed thereafter requires a lot less effort.

If the platters have spun down and you need to read/write something on the platters, you will need to spin up the platters to full speed before you can read or write. Therefore, if you want maximum performance, it's better to keep the hard disk drive spinning.

However, spinning down the hard disk drive during periods of inactivity can not only reduce power consumption, it can also reduce the heat produced. The reduced thermal output will increase the longevity of your hard disk drive.

So, while spinning down the hard disk drive will not reduce stress on the spindle motor, it can reduce the hard disk drive's power consumption and thermal output as well as increase its lifespan.

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Myth #15 :

Sudden power cuts can cause bad sectors!

Truth :

Bad sectors are not caused by shutting off your computer suddenly. That used to be true in the old, OLD days when you had to park the hard disk drive heads before you turned off your computer.

Modern voice coil actuators will automatically park the read/write heads whenever power to the hard disk drive is cut off. Therefore, there is no risk of any head crashes that can create bad sectors.

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Myth #16 :

Bad sectors can be repaired just by reformatting the hard disk drive.

Truth :

A bad sector is a sector that cannot be written to or read from properly. It can be due to a software related issue, resulting in a logical bad sector. These bad sectors can be restored by formatting or using a logical bad sector repair utility.

In the worst case scenario, the problem may be due to eroded media or direct physical damage to the media. Such physical bad sectors cannot be repaired by any software and formatting will not restore them. However, formatting can replace these bad sectors with spare sectors reserved for that very purpose.

Replacing the bad sectors with spare sectors will inevitably cause some degradation in performance as the spare sector is often physically located some distance away from the bad sector. In some cases, this performance degradation can be mitigated by reformatting the drive.

IBM (now Hitachi Global Storage Technologies) uses a custom "Format Unit" command that merges the remaining good sectors with the spare sectors and reassigns their sector numbers so that they are all in sequence. This does not actually fix the bad sectors but it greatly reduces the performance-sapping effect of using a spare sector. It will also reset the SMART counter #5 : Reallocated Sector Count. Thanks for the tip, cypherpunks!

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Myth #17 :

There is nothing to worry about bad sectors because you can "erase" them by formatting the hard disk drive.

Truth :

True, formatting can replace bad sectors with good sectors on the spare tracks that are part of every hard disk drive. However, performance suffers because the heads have to seek to the spare tracks for those replacement sectors.

In addition, there are only a limited number of spare sectors available on any hard disk drive. Once you run out of spare sectors, formatting will not be able to replace them.

Finally, bad sectors are a sign that something is wrong with the hard disk drive. Even if it was due to a single head crash, that traumatic event would have created debris within the platter compartment and a damaged head. The debris can gradually cause scratches and erosions on other parts of the platter while a damaged head will not be aerodynamically stable and will be more likely to crash in the future.

In other words, if you have critical data, it would be a smart thing to back up your data and replace the hard disk drive when you start detecting bad sectors. The hard disk drive may go on for a long time without more bad sectors appearing but the risk of it dying is real and should not be ignored.

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Myth #18 :

You must format your hard disk drive every <insert duration of choice> to improve performance.

Truth :

This is yet another common fallacy, probably borne from the experience of users who noted improved responsiveness of their PCs after formatting and reinstalling their operating systems. However, this is due the freshly-installed operating system which has not yet been saddled by software that have to be loaded at start-up.

Formatting your hard disk regularly will NOT improve your hard disk drive's performance. If you notice a significant degradation in your hard disk drive's performance after several months, this is because the data in the drive has become so fragmented that the read/write heads have to seek all over the platters while reading or writing data. Try defragmenting your hard disk drive, instead of simply formatting it.

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Myth #19 :

The hard disk drive can only be installed in the horizontal position.

Truth :

Current hard disk drives can be installed in any position - horizontal, vertical, even upside down!

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Myth #20 :

If you want to use a hard disk drive in the vertical position, you must first reformat it in the vertical position!

Truth :

Current hard disk drives will work in any position. You do NOT need to reformat it before using it in vertical position or even upside down!

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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 #1 - #10 : Previous Page   |   Next Page : Myths #21 - #30 >>>

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