[nSLUG] Re Failing Hard drive

Jim Haliburton jim at on-site.ns.ca
Tue Dec 13 20:09:34 AST 2005

Good day:

When the good lady's hard drive died for the 2nd time I bet the vendor 
supplied an exact replacement mounted in exactly the same way.

Hard drives are relatively tough units.  But like humans they need to 
breathe.  Having them in enclosures, or without open free air space above 
and below will kill them as sure as you can suffocate.

Recently Dell have shipped a very defective product with similar 
failures.  It is a combination of very poor air circulation within the 
case and a batch of hard drives that were heat sensitive.  Many failures 
and some repeats in 6 months or less!

The power supply was likely only a contributor.  Buying an off brand 
drive, or a drive with only a 12 month warranty, or having it mounted  
inappropriately are the more likely causes.  A big cause of failures is 
the fan in the power supply.  Cheap power supplies have very cheap fans. 
The reason they use $.59 fans is they are all out of $.49 fans.

Having a computer in a cabinet or pushed hard against a wall will 
restrict the air outlet from the power supply fan.  In some cases the sir 
will go out, up, around and back in the front.  Now hot heated air is 
entering the computer not cool air.  

Some vendors complicate life by putting the hard drive at the top of the 
case above the power supply where the air stagnates.  Others insist on 
having the floppy mounted in close contact above the hard drive, or even 
worse having two hard drives one above each other and then the floppy.  
The meat in this sandwhich, the upper hard drive, will die very quickly, 
as in months.

Probably the greatest shame in all this is the vendor is not aware enough 
to realize that they could have prevented most of these faults.  Careful 
assembly and placement will allow the worst of case designs to still 
provide enough air to the Hard Drive.

I gave up on Maxtor a long while ago and then dropped WD when they went 
to 1 year warranty for some models.  I currently buy Seagate as they have 
a 5 year warranty.  I have pressed the Seagate rep repeatedly to confirm 
that they have made engineering changes to allow them to offer this 
warranty.  They have assured me that they do not expect to have to make 
good on very many warranty claims.

I don't consider Samsung, Fujitsu or other such names as Brand Name 

Some drives have internal temperature monitoring.  They record the 
duration of elevated temperatures, on the engineering tracks.  If a drive 
goes back with failures that are found to be caused by overheating, the 
warranty is denied.  

Most drive makers are very careful to say that drives MUST have certain 
volumes of air flow over them.  Most resellers have never heard or read 
such documentation.  Others plain and simply don't care.

It must be said that if the lady referred to in the original posting has 
high speed Internet and no router or other secure firewall, her hard 
drive failures could in some cases have been  some of the more crippling 
virii that have been about.  Some actually can damage the hard drive, or 
give symptoms that mimic hard drive failure.

Finally the AOpen motherboard may have a case of bad caps.  These will 
sometimes give hard drive failure symptoms.  The computer lights but the 
drives don't.  Check the MB for swollen or ruptured caps around the CPU 
or RAM.  I have had two with these defects in the last month.  Both 
worked fine with new caps, but exhibited hard drive failure before 
replacing the caps.  I stock hundreds of High Temp, Panasonic brand 
replacements for this very reason.

Enought rant.  


Jim H


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