How Does A Hard Drive Work ?

In the world of computers and current technology there is a term that is more than likely used more than any other: Hard disk drive.  But for the average computer user who only pushes the power button on his PC and who doesn’t know what is going on in that little buzzing box under his desk, just what exactly is a hard disk drive?  How does it work?  What makes this device so popular today, and what are some pros and cons?  Well you are definitely reading the right article if you want to know the answer to these questions.  So let’s take a moment and discuss this subject in depth.

To begin, we start with the age old question: What is a hard disk drive? Put simply, a hard disk drive is a device commonly used to store and retrieve information.  The term “disk” comes about because in order to do its functions a hard disk drive uses rapidly rotating disks (called platters) coated with a magnetic material.  Kind of in the same way a record player spins and the needle plays the song, well there is a read and write head (needle) that hovers over the disk writing and reading information.  Who would have thought all of that was going on in that little metal box?

Let’s talk statistics and measurements for a bit.  If you were to look at your hard disk drive in your computer you would see it isn’t very large.  It is roughly the size of your average paperback book, but definitely heavier.  Most hard drives have a three and a half inch drive bay (where it is located) and if you are installing one, you will notice it has pre-drilled holes on the sides for easy mounting.  If you notice you have a five and a quarter inch bay, there is an adapter that will allow you to continue yet.  Always be sure that the end with the connections faces inside the computer.

Inside a hard disk driveThe back end of your device has the port for the power supply as well as the plugs to mount it securely onto your motherboard.  If you would like to install multiple hard disk drives you will notice on the back there are jumper settings.  These will come in handy in helping the motherboard know how to recognize and utilize each individual drive.

So do you have a better picture as to what the hard disk drive is and what its functions are?  Good! So what is it that makes hard disk drives so popular today?  Well for starters there’s a popular saying that can be applied to this subject “it is hard to transition when you’re stuck in tradition”.  It’s just the way it has always been done. Most people don’t know their options or just what is available aside from hard disk drives.  When it comes to data storage and digital information, the average consumer only thinks in the physical.  Hardware, computers, laptops, and the like.

Also, lack of knowledge in the risks involved with hard disk drives can be a reason why they are so popular. If you don’t think something will fail, there is hardly a reason to change it, but unfortunately since hard disk drives are a mechanical device they will all eventually fail.  What are some reasons for hard disk failure?

Of course external factors can play a key role.  Exposure to high heat, fire, or water are large factors.  Also as mentioned before the disks have a magnetic coating, so being exposed to a high magnetic field can also lead to failure.  Probably the most common failure though, is a head crash.  This occurs when an impact or environmental contaminate causes the head to touch the disk.  The head usually hovers over the disk, so when it touches, this can lead to disk failure.

Hard disk failure basically means you have lost your ability to retrieve your information.  All of your documents, files, folders or work, anything digital is lost.  Any attempts on your part to retrieve the information again can lead to even further damage.  A specialist must be called who can use special equipment.

So all in all, a hard disk drive has its benefits but also it failures.  Knowing its inner workings will help you a  lot in your choosing hard disk or not.

For a more in depth and technical article about how hard drives work click here.

Hard disk manufacturer web sites: Seagate, Western Digital