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Hard drives crash too soon

Posted on 2003-03-08
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Last Modified: 2010-04-26
I am experiencing a very annoying and frustrating problem. My current machine seems to eat up hard drives. I don't know what the cause is, but the situation is causing me a lot of stress and lost files.

My drives seem to get noisy pretty quickly. My computer environment may be the culprit, but I am not sure, which is why I'm asking. My floor is carpeted, and the cables from the computer do touch the carpet. Could this be causing static? If so, how can I remedy the problem? Will putting a block of wood on the carpet for my wires to rest on do the trick? Or something else?

I have bought a surge protector and all my components are connected to it. The computer itself sits in a little compartment thing in my wood desk and it not actually touching the carpet.

Maybe it is the heat? My computer is sitting in a desk compartment that is basically closed on 3 sides except for a small hole in the back to run cables through. To increase airflow, I have taken off one side cover of my computer and 2 of the 5 1/2" bay covers. I don't know if this is helping anything. SpeedFan reports my hard drive is running at around 41C-44C at most times.

I am thinking of adding another hard drive so that just in case this one crashes again, at least it will be easier to do backup and get myself running again. However this (potentially?) poses another problem, for if I were to install another 7200rpm drive on top of my current one, won't they just exchange more heat and crap out on me even faster? My current one is sitting two slots below my floppy.

I will be happy to give any more information to anyone who requests it. This problem has been plaguing me for years. I realize hard drives are mechanical devices and will die eventually but mine are definitely dying prematurely.


Thanks!
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Question by:w3x
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13 Comments
 
LVL 13

Expert Comment

by:oldgreyguy
ID: 8095187
Although heat may be a problem... I am curious... what brand/model hard drives are you using/buying
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LVL 14

Accepted Solution

by:
nltech earned 340 total points
ID: 8095204
if you install a second drive, and you suspect heat-related issues, definately leave some space between the drives. you could mount the second drive in a 5 1/4" bay with a mounting bracket. that's what i do here when i have a build with two drives. and make sure the ribbon cables are tied back and don't restrict airflow inside the case (or consider using the 'round' drive cables). note that cd and dvd burners also generate a fair amount of heat (some even have their own fans in them), so if you can, you should leave an empty bay between those and a 7200 rpm hard drive too.

it is possible that your system doesn't have adequate airflow. air gets sucked in the front and blown out the back of a regular tower housing. if you've got a place for a secondary (60mm, 80mm and 92mm are common sizes) exaust fan in the rear, by all means install one.  intake fans in the front dont do as much good as exaust fans in the rear, so if you've got a place for both, start with the rear fan.

make sure there's adequate ventilation in the rear as well. a small hole for cables probably isnt enough to get the warm air from the system out of the cabinet, you don't want the exaust fan(s) in the rear blocked. if the airflow in the rear is blocked, then the warm air from the system stays inside the compartment the system is in instead of getting blown out (meaning the overall system temperature is warmer than it could be).

keeping the covers off the case probably isn't doing any good. for proper, front-to-back, airflow, the side covers need to be on. without them, the power supply fan and any rear exaust fans will simply suck air from nearby instead of drawing air from the front of the case, through and over components (including your hard drive) and out the rear. make sure the ventilation holes in the front and on the side panels aren't blocked in any way (dust bunnies have a tendancy to plug them up, especially in dustier environments).

hard drive makers recently moved to 1 year warranties on consumer hard drives. western digital offers a 3 year extended warranty on their standard drives for $20 bucks, and the 'special edition' drives with the 8mb cache come standard with a 3 year warranty. if you're having problems with drive reliability, make sure you get one with the longer warranty. link to story about the change in warranties: http://news.com.com/2100-1040-959831.html

the 'real-world' performance difference between 7200 and 5400 rpm drives isn't all that great and the slower drives do operate cooler. i have otherwise nearly identical systems, one with a maxtor 60 gb 5400 rpm drive and two others with 7200 rpm drives (one ibm and one western digital), and i cant really tell any difference between them. in tight spaces or poorly ventilated cases, i would recommend 5400 rpm drives (and not seagates with their rubber-covered drives).

how many drives have you been through? what makes/models? can you post more info about the system? (brand and model  if it's a major brand-name or processor and motherboard make/model)? age of system? how dusty does it get inside the case? are there children in the house? can you relocate the system outside of the enclosed compartment it's in?
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Author Comment

by:w3x
ID: 8095313
I bought my system in mid-August 2000, and am on my third hard drive. My second one died in late June 2002. I suspect that I may have had something to do with that one, as several times I took my computer out of its compartment, and placed in on the floor, all while the computer was still running. Stupid I know, I don't do that any more.

Pentium III 733mhz
Asus CUSL2-C i815e
128mb SDRAM
HP CD-RW 9100 (top 5 1/2" bay)

All my hard drives for past and present computers have been Quantums, and now Maxtors. Currently I'm using MAXTOR 6L040L2 (40gb). I installed it in August 2002. SMART reports everything is perfect except Spin Up Time (89), Powers On Count (95), Temperature (85). Fitness is at 75%, Performance at 100% of 75% depending on which monitor I use. Also it's been making grinding noises for quite a while, something I've attributed in the past with impending crashes but it hasn't happened with this drive.

The case can get pretty dusty, I guess there's more dust accumulating now due to the removed side cover. I could take the system out of the compartment, although it's saving space by sitting there. If this is really killing my system then I guess I have no choice and would take it out.
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Author Comment

by:w3x
ID: 8095317
I bought my system in mid-August 2000, and am on my third hard drive. My second one died in late June 2002. I suspect that I may have had something to do with that one, as several times I took my computer out of its compartment, and placed in on the floor, all while the computer was still running. Stupid I know, I don't do that any more.

Pentium III 733mhz
Asus CUSL2-C i815e
128mb SDRAM
HP CD-RW 9100 (top 5 1/2" bay)

All my hard drives for past and present computers have been Quantums, and now Maxtors. Currently I'm using MAXTOR 6L040L2 (40gb). I installed it in August 2002. SMART reports everything is perfect except Spin Up Time (89), Powers On Count (95), Temperature (85). Fitness is at 75%, Performance at 100% of 75% depending on which monitor I use. Also it's been making grinding noises for quite a while, something I've attributed in the past with impending crashes but it hasn't happened with this drive.

The case can get pretty dusty, I guess there's more dust accumulating now due to the removed side cover. I could take the system out of the compartment, although it's saving space by sitting there. If this is really killing my system then I guess I have no choice and would take it out.
0
 

Assisted Solution

by:onesandzeros
onesandzeros earned 100 total points
ID: 8095470
Static is proberly not the issues. But, DON'T put the computer on wooden blocks this will only allow more static to collect (wood is an insulator). If you suspect static it needs to be discharged away. You could get an anti-static mat or even use some anti-static spray. As far as heat goes this may be an issue here. If all the fans are running OK in the computer I would look into adding some more air holes in the back of the cabnet,  so the air can flow OUT of the cabinet. Air comming in is nice, but it's air GOING OUT of a space (ie cabnet, case etc..)that takes the heat away. If you check you power supply fan is pulling air OUT of the PS. Air pushed IN can get "trapped" and just increase the air pressure (extreme case to illustrate point) and the heat is still present. Pulling air out of the case into a place where it gets confined will result in little or no heat flow. Use an electric drill with a hole cutter attacment and drill a couple of 2-21/2inch holes towards the top of the cabnet. Then drill a couple more towards the bottom.
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LVL 14

Assisted Solution

by:nltech
nltech earned 340 total points
ID: 8095471
for your next drive, i would suggest a western digital caviar (their 7200 rpm line), and extend the warranty through wdc to three years for the extra twenty bucks (or a special edition drive that comes with the three year warranty).

get it now so you can transfer the data from the current drive to the new one. western digital's install utility can do that easily (maxtor's can too). or you can use something like ghost (from symantec, also comes bundled with systemworks pro).

keep the case as clean as possible on the inside, and make sure the it has room to breathe, particularily front and rear. you may need to cut-out some additional space in the back of the cabinet that the computer sits in to allow warm air to exaust easier. where the fan(s) blow out in the back should be open, not blocked by the cabinet. if your desk has a door that covers the computer compartment, don't operate the computer with the door closed.

if you want to get a cooling solution specific for hard drives, take a look here:
http://www.casecooler.com/hardrivcoold.html

you may also want to check out your power supply to ensure that it's supplying the proper voltages to components. voltages on some can fluctuate by as much as 15-20 percent or more. if you replace it, i would suggest an antec, sparkle or similar that has dual fans in it for better airflow. note that a quality power supply can cost as much as an inexpensive case. something like this antec 330w with dual fans (runs $65 at best buy):

http://www.bestbuy.com/Detail.asp?m=488&cat=552&scat=553&e=11210470

you can do a search at www.pricewatch.com in the case power supply category for keywords: "amd p4 dual" or "antec dual" (exercise caution when buying from unknown dealers online).
0
 
LVL 31

Assisted Solution

by:rid
rid earned 100 total points
ID: 8095585
If your computer is connected to a grounded outlet, static shouldn't be an issue at all, unless you charge yourself up (by shuffling along the carpet) and put your finger to a sensitive spot inside the casing.

Heat may be involved here. These boxes you put the computers in do affect air flow, for the worse. Rather than converting your computer to a vaccuum cleaner by adding a number of fans, I would suggest finding another solution to where you put the computer. Having many fans may just mean shuffling the hot air around a bit quicker.

These HD noises, are you referring to a high-pitched whining, that could be bad motor/platter beraings, or to the grating sound produced by head movement? Head activity may increase over time as data becomes fragmented and more things are installed etc.

Regards
/RID
0
 

Author Comment

by:w3x
ID: 8095746
Thanks to all for your helpful suggestions.

nltech, how effective are hard drive coolers? I have heard conflicting reports as to whether it would be worth it for me to buy one. Also, how do I check my power supply to ensure that it's supplying proper voltage? This is something I have heard in the past as a potential culprit. How do I know if I have a "quality" power supply?

rid, it's not the whining sounds that I'm hearing. I'm all to familiar with those noises and they send chills down my spine. I'm hearing the grating which is probably, as you say, due to the fragmented data.
0
 
LVL 14

Assisted Solution

by:nltech
nltech earned 340 total points
ID: 8095896
hard drive coolers aren't really necessary as long as you've got adequate airflow around the drive. see the faq bit at the casecooler link i gave you. an intake fan above or below the drive may be enough.

as far as the power supply, your cmos setup may have some hardware monitoring tools that report voltage. you can also take a multimeter to the drive power connectors. refer to:

http://www.experts-exchange.com/Hardware/Q_20453524.html (2nd comment).

do you know who made your case? mfg and model of power supply?

any other unexplained problems, lockups or crashes that happen more than normal?
0
 
LVL 49

Expert Comment

by:dbrunton
ID: 8096373
How are these drives mounted, flat or on edge?

Although drives are supposed to be capable of use either way, flat is the way to go.
0
 
LVL 45

Expert Comment

by:patrickab
ID: 8097287
Interesting that the thought is that hdd's should be placed horizontally. Perhaps it's correct but ball races are more often than not assessed for their failure rate in a test rig that mounts them virtically. Perhaps ball races for hdd's are tested horizontally. I'd be interested to know. It sounds to me that the failures are usually due to the main bearings rather than the read/write head failure although that part of the assemble is more complex and I would have thought more likely to fail.

On EE I have read all sorts of things written by many on hdd's but I have yet to read many extolling the virtues of IBM drives. WD, Maxtor - yes.
0
 

Expert Comment

by:apiarist
ID: 8097639
Quantums and Maxtors are your propblem. I have a box of dead drives all of them are maxtors and quantums coincidence, I think not. Switch to western digital.
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