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Introduction of HDD cooling

  As 7200rpm hard drives are the standard today, and high-rpm drives are found in most desktop PCs, and not just in servers, hard drive cooling has become a more important issue.

  Most recent IDE hard drives come with internal temperature sensors, and are capable of reporting their operating temperature via SMART; software utilities are available for displaying the temperature of your hard drive. This temperature readout is not very precise, but definitely good enough to give you a hint whether your drive is running too hot or not. Consult the website of your hard drive manufacturer to learn about the maximum operating temperature of your hard drive. Typical maximum temperature range is 50-55°C, with some drives being able to operate at up to 60°C.

  There is, however, an important factor to consider:

  Unlike CPUs, which are reliable parts, and fail rarely (even when operated very close to their maximum temperature), hard drives tend to fail more often than any other part in the PC. The MTBF (mean time between failure) of a hard drive can be substantially increased by lowering the drive's temperature. Some drive manufacturers even state this fact in their drives data sheets; but even if this information isn't included there, it is still true. So, even if your drive never exceeds its maximum allowed operating temperature, additional cooling will improve the drive's reliability. Unless you do daily backups, a hard drive failure usually results in substantial data loss - investing a small amount of time and money in your drive's cooling solution can often prevent the need for data recovery (which isn't cheap).

  With optical disks, overheating usually results in destruction of the surface that actually contains the data (e.g. chemical dye in the case of CD-R/DVD-R media). However, with hard drives, overheating typically causes long-term failure of the mechanical and electrical parts of the drive; the magnetic platters that carry the data are less affected. Therefore, data recovery companies will normally be able to recover data from damaged overheated drives - but be prepared to pay much more for getting your data back than for a new drive.

  Hard drive cooling solutions

  The best solution for cooling hard drive is one that is well-integrated with the case cooling concept. When purchasing a case, make sure that fan intakes and drive bays are located in a way that proper cooling of the drives is possible. A fan bay for a large fan (the bigger, the better - server cases usually come with 120mm fan bays) right in front of the drive bays is perfect. If your case has a fan bay suitable for cooling drives, get a good fan and install it there. This is cheaper than buying a dedicated hard drive cooler, provides good cooling for the drive, and will have a positive effect on overall case ventilation.

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