How to keep your hard drive cool (and why it matters)

Overheating is one of the most common causes of hard drive failure. Hard drives use motors to rotate their platters and, as they’re capable of turning them at speeds of as much as 15,000 revolutions per minute, heat is an inevitable by-product.

Excess heat is bad news for hard drives. It can damage electrical components and, as it makes elements expand in size, can lead to the drive’s head coming into contact with its platters causing what is typically referred to as a ‘head crash’.

Whilst overheating may regularly cause data loss, though, it’s entirely preventable. Here are our top tips for keeping your hard drive cool:

Move your computer to improve air flow

This may be a low-tech solution, but it’s also very effective. A device that’s kept in a location where air can move around it freely is less likely to overheat than one that is kept in a confined environment.

Fans keep internal components cool by removing the hot air that builds up inside and device and replacing it with cooler air from the surrounding environment. If the device is located within a confined environment, the fan is effectively forced to simply recirculate hot air meaning that your hard drive will constantly be operating within a hot environment.

Be mindful of ambient temperature

A hard drive is more likely to overheat when it is being used in an already warm or humid setting. If you need to use your device on a particularly hot day, it’s worth remembering this and trying to minimise your usage accordingly. Speaking of which:

Consider your usage

If you’re the type of user that regularly has several programmes and files open at once, you’re pushing your hard drive to its limit and, as a direct result, are increasing the likelihood of it overheating.

When using your computer, consider whether you need to have so many things open at any one time. If you do, try and do what you need to do as quickly as possible.

Monitor running temperatures

If you have no option but to frequently push your hard drive to its limits for prolonged periods of time, you should consider installing programmes that will allow you to monitor its running temperature.

A large number of free programmes are available online. Use these to monitor your drive’s temperature and, if it goes above 40 degrees ©, save your work and power down your machine.

Clean your device’s vents

Over time, dust builds up in vents. This hinders both air flow and your fan’s ability to cool down your device’s internal components – including your hard drive.

Simply get yourself a can of compressed air and use it to clear your device’s vents every month. Doing so will go a long way towards preventing your hard drive from overheating.

Upgrade your cooling system

If you’re a fan of cars, you’ll know that models that are designed for performance will include more advanced cooling systems. Manufacturers know that these models will be pushed harder and that this will mean that a better system will be needed to cool the engine and other components. So, if you’re using your computer intensively, you should consider upgrading it’s cooling system.

Upgrading a PC’s cooling system will usually mean installing a more powerful fan or an advanced water-cooling system. The latter option is considerably more expensive but is also significantly more effective and, if you’re going to be using your PC for things like gaming or running other high-powered programmes, it’s an option you need to consider.

But don’t forget to backup

Keeping your hard drive cool will certainly help to keep your computer running smoothly and reduce the risk of data loss, but the importance of backing up your data to a separate piece of storage media cannot be understated.

Backing up your data doesn’t need to be expensive, either. Yes, if you have Terabytes of data you need to protect, you’re going to need a piece of storage media capable of storing it but, if you’re able to identify your key files, you’d be surprised just how little a pen drive capable of storing a few 100 Gigabytes costs.

So, keep your hard drive cool, but don’t forget to backup your data regularly or you might just find yourself shelling out for hard drive data recovery services.