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Hard Disk Drive Myths Debunked Rev. 5.4
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Myth #1 :

Formatting a hard disk drive will kill it!

Truth :

To put it shortly, formatting your hard disk drive will NOT reduce its lifespan. Yes, formatting is popularly thought to reduce hard disk drive's lifespan but that is nothing more than a myth.

Formatting is NOT a stressful event for a hard disk drive. The read/write heads do NOT touch the platter surface, so damage to the platter only occurs if there is any shock to the drive during operation.

You can format your hard disk drive 20 times a day, 365 days a year and it will be no more likely to fail than a hard disk drive that is not formatted at all.

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Myth #2 :

Formatting a hard disk drive causes a layer of <insert material / dust of choice> to be deposited on the platter surface, creating bad sectors.

Truth :

Formatting will not deposit any layer of "anything" on the platter. The read/write heads are not in contact with the platters, so it is physically impossible for them to deposit anything on the platter surface.

In addition, the hard disk drive is a sealed environment assembled under clean room conditions, so there is very little dust inside the hard disk drive. Even if there is dust, why would formatting deposit anything on the platter? The platters are constantly spinning - any dust would not be able to deposit itself on the platter, much less create bad sectors or an alien colony.

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Myth #3 :

Formatting the hard disk drive will stress the needle (head actuator).

Truth :

Formatting is done contiguously. This means formatting is done in a serial order - sector 500, sector 501, sector 502, etc. There is very little movement of the head actuators. Therefore, formatting will NOT stress the head actuators, which is why you don't see jokes about psychiatrists prescribing Prozac to head actuators.

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Myth #4 :

Defragmenting the hard disk drive will stress the needle (head actuator).

Truth :

This myth has some truth in it, albeit misplaced. Defragmenting the hard disk drive may involve a lot of seeking as the hard disk drive rearranges its data in a contiguous fashion. This allows the read/write heads to read large amounts of data without seeking all over the platters.

However, after defragmentation, the hard disk drive no longer needs to seek all over the platters for your data. This reduces the amount of head actuator movements as well as greatly increase the hard disk drive's performance.

Therefore, while it may be technically correct to say that defragmenting your hard disk drive will stress the head actuators, the truth is defragmenting your hard disk drive will reduce the amount of seeking from then on and thus reduce the head actuators' workload.

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Myth #5 :

If your hard disk drive has bad sectors, formatting it will cause more bad sectors to appear!

Truth :

If your hard disk drive has developed bad sectors from recurrent head crashes, then the number of bad sectors is GUARANTEED to increase as time goes by. It doesn't matter if you are formatting it or just using it.

There is some truth in this myth though. You will probably notice more bad sectors after formatting. However, the reason is because when you format your hard disk drive, the format utility also checks for bad sectors. Hence, the appearance of new bad sectors after a format. They were already there, the formatting process just reveals them.

So, formatting will not increase the number of bad sectors in a failing hard disk drive. It just reveals the presence of bad sectors.

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Myth #6 :

Downloading too much *stuff* from the Internet will reduce your hard disk drive's lifespan.

Truth :

Downloading "stuff" into your hard disk drive all the time will not reduce its lifespan. Even filling up the hard disk drive completely will not make a difference in its reliability.

Hard disk drives are like a car's fuel tank. They are designed to store data, like the fuel tank is designed to store fuel. Will your car be more likely to die if you keep filling it up with fuel, or even fill it up completely? Illogical, isn't it?

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Myth #7 :

Insufficient power causes bad sectors in hard disk drives.

Truth :

Insufficient power or power cuts won't create bad sectors in your hard disk drives. Whenever there is no power, or insufficient power, the head actuators automatically park the heads so that there is no risk of head crashes on the platters. So, there is no way insufficient power can cause bad sectors.

However, a bad power supply can kill your hard disk drive. It won't cause bad sectors, it will just fry the circuit board and maybe burn out the motor.

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Myth #8 :

Cheap power supplies will "slowly kill" your hard disk drive.

Truth :

Cheap power supplies will NOT "slowly kill" hard disk drives. If a cheap power supply fries and sends a power surge to your hard disk drive, it kills the drive instantly.

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Myth #9 :

If your hard disk drive keeps spinning up and down, that is because the power supply does not have enough power to keep the platters spinning.

Truth :

The spin-up, spin-down activity is actually a symptom of the hard disk drive's recalibration process. The hard disk drive recalibrates to account for changes in temperature (which changes the position of data bits on the platter).

It also recalibrates when it cannot read data off the platters properly. Therefore, if your drive does that a lot, it could be a symptom of a dying hard disk drive. Do note though that hard disk drives are often programmed to spin down to save power, and only spin up when there's work to be done.

However, it's unlikely for insufficient power to cause such symptoms. If insufficient power is supplied to hard disk drives that do not support hot-plugging, they will power down and cause the computer to hang. Even if full power is restored, the hard disk drive will not resume normal operation. You will need to reboot the computer.

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Myth #10 :

Head parking is the cause of loud clicks from your hard disk drive.

Truth :

Loud clicks are usually a symptom of the hard disk drive's thermal recalibration process or they can be due to head crashes on the platters. Head parking is a quiet process in all 3.5" and most 2.5" hard disk drives.

In some 2.5" hard disk drives that use ramp load/unload mechanism (to park the drive heads), audible clicks can be heard when the heads park. Manufacturers have successfully dealt with the problem in newer generations of 2.5" hard disk drives and they no longer produce audible clicks whenever they park their drive heads.

3.5" hard disk drives that employ ramp load/unload technology, on the other hand, do not produce any click noises whenever their heads are parked.

Thanks, Espen Overaae and mikegas!

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Page

Hard Disk Drive Myths

1

Introduction, Questions & Comments, Revision History

2

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.

3

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.

4

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.

5

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.

6

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.

7

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.

8

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.



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