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hard disk options

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After two decades using a PC in which the only time I worried about my hard disk was if it was getting full, going from 8 to 20 to 80 GB, while none went bad, in the last year I've had two die in service.

The last a victim of a lightning bolt that took out quite a few of my neighbour's PCs too, regardless of surge protectors.

Anyway, now while I'm waiting to see if my backup actually worked, I've become rather anxious about my data.

For my work, (DTP) I need maybe 1-2 GB of data (mainly text, few images). Plus maybe another 2 GB for the programmes, though the latter can be restored by reinstalling, tediously.

The OS, XP, maybe 4-8 GB all told.

Of course, when you have 100s of GB you find ways to use it. But that isn't critical data.

My PC is pretty long in the tooth and doesn't have SATA. That is a problem, as locally it's impossible to find new IDE disks, so I can only buy used, or if I'm lucky, unused old stock. (Please don't suggest EBay or Newegg, etc, I can't use them.)

I talked to my local hardware guru/repair guy about upgrading my PC and he said that basically all hard disks now run very hot and burn out in a year or two at best. He thought it was a bad idea to have more than one hard disk in a case as they're both likely to die from heat. He told me that I could get server grade disks for about twice the price which would be more durable.

SSDs were more reliable, expensive, and might last 5 years.

Cloud storage is useless with the flaky DSL I have.

So, is this others' experience?

I assume 5400 rpm run cooler than 7200. Are they in fact longer lived?

I do like having two disks, with external drives in case of the PC geting nuked. It's just too easy to put off doing backup when it's external though.

Maybe I could use a 64GB SSD (or 128 GB if I can afford it) as a system disk and a real disk as internal storage/backup.

Edited by Asp

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Most of what you have been told is correct, though seemingly (to me at least) it has been greatly exaggerated. :ph34r:

It is true that recent hard disk run hotter than old ones, but up to a point.

You can have plain SATA cards, i.e. a PCI card that offers a SATA interface for a SATA hard disk for a few bucks.

They are perfectly "safe".

There are also IDE to SATA converters, though you have to be a bit careful about those as there "good" ones and "bad" ones.

You may even find in scrapyard or for really some peanuts a SCSI Card (possibly even RAID) and some (very high quality) used (from server) SCSI ULTRA 320 disks, typically a 73 Gb 10K SCSI (used) can be found for anything between 10 and 30 bucks, 36 Gb ones can be had for next to nothing.

Right now they are the best thing you can have in terms of reliability/price.

Obviously you need to cool them appropriately, adding if needed one or two fans to your case.

Among IDE's it's not IMHO as much rotating speed (which of course matters, i.e. it is true that 5,400 rpm's run "cooler" than 7,200) but rather magnetic density.

Basically, the more capacity a hard disk (of same form factor) has, the more compacted the info is written to it, and the more everything needs to have tighter tolerances (that might produce more heat) but also computing power (i.e. a part of the increased heat does not come from the disk, but from the chips on the PCB attached to it), additionally (but this is only a guess of mine) perpendicular recording (what most if not all "modern" hard disks"and data extraction may need

A 5,400 rpm (set apart the 2.5" "low power" disks sometimes used in netbooks and notebooks) is normally "one generation" or two earlier and have lower magnetic density, this may be another factor that reduces the amount of heat generated.

Finally another possibly useful in your case setup could be that of getting a card with some e-sata connectors and use external sata cases and disks.


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First of all, get a new computer guy. Modern quality can be dodgy but not like he describes. He is completely wrong about "a year or two at best".

Secondly, get a spare computer or two. Single core computers are not desired by much of anyone so you should be able to get one for a song. PATA drives are getting tough. I regret letting some get away over the years that I should have kept. If you have a recycle/dump nearby, go down there when they have the schedule dropoffs and befriend a worker ( maybe slip him a $50 or $100 tip ) and grab a bunch of computers destined for scrap. You might get lucky with some HDD's intact and you will probably get well over a hundred dollars in other usable parts, perhaps even entire working systems.

Thirdly, it is probably theoretically trues that 5400 rpm run cooler than 7200 rpm, but there are much more significant variables than spindle speed. If the drive has no active airflow over it from a fan that will immediately cause higher temps. Allow dust to accumulate, same thing. I can say for sure that I have never seen a spindle speed caused problem. It would be a complete mistake IMHO to base the purchase of a 5400 over a 7200 because of belief it will be cooler. There are other reasons, also hypothetical, that say the 5400 will last longer, something I also cannot agree with. I wrote some stuff about HDD reliability here, but in a nutshell: keep them cool, dust free, don't move them while running.

Fourthly, there is no problem using multiple disk drives as long as you mind cooling. If you can space them out better than the default tightly packed cages allow you will aid in airflow. I always cut a hole in the front bottom of my cases and put in a 120mm fan. Then I put all HDDs immediately in front of it in a separate removeable 3.5" drive cage. I'll get a picture one of these days but imagine the standard 3.5" cage removed and with rubber feet and a handle attached ( I also bevel the sharp edges and paint it ). This means I can quickly pull the power and data cables and pull out the whole set of drives at once for case cleaning and updating. The important thing is that my HDDs are not allowed to gather dust ( I blow them off with canned air if any dust has accumulated ) and there is always a big fan on them. I usually have no reason to run four or six drives at once, but I can, and it happens like once a week when I do an incremental backup ( update ). So I usually operate computers with two running drives, with two others also in the rack set up as mirrors of the first two. Open the computer, pop in the power and data cables, reboot, run the incremental backup apps, power down, yank the two, reboot. Yes, this is much easier with SATA drives. :yes:

All the other stuff is tricky and unreliable, especially cloud backups. The only advantage is offsite storage in case of catastrophe. I would like to see how someone who's system boot drive dies, gets up and running again from his cloud backup :whistle: After trying a ton of different ways I now just go for simple. Clone the HDD to another equal or larger HDD ( outside of Windows using HDD manufacturer tools ). Swap them and boot the clone to make sure it works. Keep running the newer one day-to-day and hook up the spare one for incremental backups ( inside Windows, it mirrors any file changes since last backup but leaving the boot sector as it was ). In case of a lightning strike or any other failure it is a simple matter of swapping in the spare ( and then getting yet another spare to clone to and repeat the procedure ).

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Open the computer, pop in the power and data cables, reboot, run the incremental backup apps, power down, yank the two, reboot. Yes, this is much easier with SATA drives. :yes:

And ALSO (JFYI) extremely risky. :w00t::ph34r:

See if you can find data about the intended lifetime of a SATA connector? :whistle:

It's in the spoiler, just in case ;):


  • The eSATA connector has a design-life of 5,000 matings; the ordinary SATA connector is only specified for 50.

It is not like on 51th connection/disconnection (roughly one year at once a week) it will self-destroy :no: , but still it has to be taken into account how it was NOT designed to be frequently connected/disconnected.


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