Are smaller HHDs bad?


Mar 15, 2012
Hi, I am working on a computer and I don't have a ton of money left for hard drives but I found some at a local store. They are 40 gb drives and they were on sale for $4, so I was thinking that I could hook a few of them together and that would work for a while. So I was looking for a opinion on whether or not it's a good temporary fix or not. Thanks for your opinion.



The reason is age and condition. Drives of that size have not been made and sold for some time. So, there is a HIGH probability that they are used. That means two things. One is that much of their useful life (before they start to fail) is already used up. The other is that, too often, the reason an older drive has been replaced is that it HAS already shown early signs of failure to come, but it still seems to work. So you could be buying a used drive that already has some failures, and may develop more soon. Unless you know how to test for these problems, you are taking a risk.

There is a second type of problem - compatibility and future use. Many drives of this age and size were made with the IDE interface, whereas the newer type is SATA. IDE is being phased out, so that today's modern motherboards may have only one or NO IDE ports on them to connect older drives to. To identify by sight, start by reading the label on the drive. Then look at the back edge of the drive where the connectors plug in. On and IDE drive you will find one connector at the right hand end with four round pins in a straight line - this is the Molex 4-pin power input. Next to it will be a very wide connector with 40 pins, in two rows of 20 (well, one pin will be missing), and this is for the data ribbon cable. There also are likely to be a set of 8 pins (2 rows of 4) with one jumper on a pin pair, used for setting Master or Slave. A SATA drive, on the other hand, usually has no 4-pin Molex connector (although some older ones do). Its power connector is a single row of 15 connection points (not actually pins), and its data connector is a similar design but with only 7 points.

Don't forget that an IDE port can handle up to TWO HDD's on one shared ribbon cable. On mobos that do have IDE ports, you almost never see more than 2 such ports, so the maximum number of IDE drives you could connect would be 4.


The biggest problem, as Paperdoc said, is age and interface. Most 40GB hard drives will be IDE. However, for $4, what do you have to lose? The one thing I would be worried about is keeping sensitive data on them due to the age.


Dec 25, 2011
My recommendation is if you decide to buy them, run HD Tune's error scan on the drives as soon as you can. Also check the SMART status. But I will guarantee that the 40gb IDE drives will be pretty slow. There's a chart on HD Tune's website that graphs HD capacity with transfer rates. The results show that the smaller the drive, the worse the performance, probably just due to the advances in mechanical technology and controller chips over the years.

Actually I have no problems in general with used or refurbished drives. I currently run a PC with both HDDs bought as used/refurbs and they've been running fine (although they're not on 24/7) for two and four years respectively.


"Slow" may not be a big concern for you, OP. The IDE interface's maximum data transfer rate is 133 MB/s, versus 150 for the original SATA spec. Even though we've been through two SATA revisions now, the fact is that the ACTUAL average data transfer rate on any SATA mechanical (i.e., spinning disks) HDD is in the range 120 to 160 typically. So, even if the IDE drive is only delivering 100 MB/s, that's not disastrously slow compared to a new SATA drive. Since you're trying to work with limited $$, maybe you can accept that performance.

I still say I think your main thing to consider is the reliability factor. Other posters here have also made good points on this - it's really your comfort level with used drives.

One thing you might want to check. You can download and use free diagnostic tools from some HDD makers like WD and Seagate, and many of these include disk problem-solving tools like Zero Fills, etc. Some of these are completely destructive to old data already on the drives, but ideal for you because you do NOT want any old data on a used drive. Using the "fixer" tools and the thorough diagnostic tools from these, you can determine whether any particular drive has big problems, minor ones, or no troubles at all. You also can buy (I know, you'd rather not) third-party tools, and/or download some other free utility toolkits for these tasks.

HOWEVER, having those tools and knowledge won't help unless you can return any HDD you decide is defective to the seller for a full refund or exchange. So check out the conditions of sale at the place that is offering these cheap older drives.


Feb 11, 2008
If you can put the drives in a RAID-5 configuration, then its worth doing. Even RAID-1 would work. Buy 2-3 extra drives to act as spares. As mentioned, be careful to know what interface you are getting on the drives, and make sure you can match it with your board (or add-on board if you go RAID).

neon neophyte


a used 40 gb hdd is NOT going to transfer at 100 MB/s. it will be much slower
If your pc can attach ide, then ok. Yes, they are slow, and you can attach two at most.

If your pc has only sata ports, only forget about it.

Look on e-bay for sata hard drives. You should be able to buy a 80-160gb drive for the same $5 plus shipping.