Minimizing Hard Disk Drive Failure and Data Loss/Electricity Control

Power protection edit

To protect against power spikes, it is important to use a surge protector for a computer, as well as for other expensive electronic equipment.

An energy spike can burn the circuitry of a drive and also destroy the data in it, in addition to damaging other system components. To deal with these and other power problems, a surge protector is essential.

An energy spike can also be transmitted into the computer via other cables, such as a telephone, coaxial or network cable. Special surge protectors to deal with surges from these sources are available. One such item for comprehensive surge protection for use in the U.S. is APC PF11VNT3. While the risk of a spike from these sources may depend upon the locality and is low, damage to a drive can ensue in the event of a surge.

How a UPS might handle a variety of events. Flow of power to the computer is marked in green.

In locations susceptible to brownouts or other power quality issues, a power conditioner or voltage regulator can be used. Some PSUs may be designed to work with variable or reduced voltages.

A power outage can also possibly result in damage to a drive. In locations that are particularly susceptible to power outages, a uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can be used at least for desktop computers. This is because desktops, unlike laptops, do not contain a battery to power them.

An external drive that obtains its power from the computer, such as via USB or Firewire, should not be unplugged until it has been prepared for removal first and has stopped spinning.

Electrostatic protection edit

The circuitry on a drive is electrostatic sensitive. It is therefore essential to ground oneself prior to coming in contact with a drive. In addition, antistatic devices such as an antistatic agent and an antistatic wrist strap can be used. A drive must be enclosed in an antistatic bag or antistatic bubble wrap if it is to be stored. The risk of an electrostatic discharge is higher when the humidity is low. In practice, however, an electrostatic discharge is generally not one of the causes of a drive failure.

Cabling edit

PATA drives use a molex connector for supplying power to the drive. This connector is polarized, so it cannot be incorrectly inserted into the drive. A poorly designed connector on a power cable, however, may not be polarized. A lack of polarization creates an opportunity for the connector to be inserted incorrectly. Incorrect insertion will switch the +12V yellow and +5V red cable connections. This will cause an overvoltage in the drive which will likely damage it. Cables with such connectors and PSUs that have such cables should therefore never be used. Due to the different type of power connector used by SATA drives, those drives do not carry this risk.

An incorrect power cord plugged into an external drive can cause overvoltage in the drive possibly damaging it. This is a risk when multiple power cords and adapters for different devices are present in the vicinity of the external drive. Power cords can be labeled if necessary to ensure that only the correct cord is used.