What Can Kill A Hard Drive?

elpresidente2075

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I have started having problems with one of my older hard drives, and it got me to thinking about this. Whenever you format a drive that was formatted in NTFS to some other file system, say RiserFS or ext3, there is a warning that it may damage the drive.

I was wondering about the actual validity of this statement. I have been expecting my drive to fail for some time now due to its age (4-5 years old I believe), and it does seem to be showing its age. However, only recently has it been showing signs of its age. I was wondering if this may have partially been caused by the several times being written as NTFS and the others.

Just fyi, the symptoms are extremely slow loading from it, and just today it started dying on me while in use. This may be related to something else, but the system suddenly locks up, then restarts itself. When it POSTs it doesn't see the drive and isn't able to access it until after I jiggle its connections a bit. Of course, the slowness may be related to its 5400Rpm and its 2mb cache.

Don't worry, just ordered a new drive with more than 6x the capacity. Not to mention 16mb cache.

Question is, will the frequent reformatting actually lower the life expectancy of my drives? I would appreciate any knowledge that anyone can give me.
 

michaelahess

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By a negligable margin at best, formatting is the same as accessing data across the entire drive at once. Not exactly different from what most users do anyway, just all at once instead of spread out. And that depends also on the type of format.

I would venture to say nobody has ever killed a drive by formating it to death.

And 4-5 years isn't a great run for a well kept hd, they should last upwards of 8-10 if taken care of properly, even under heavy use. Most HD manufacturers state a 5 year life span, same as car companies stating 10 year life spans, they only do this so you don't bitch when the drive craters right after 5 years of life.
 

Lord-Ilpolazzo

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Why?

Surely formatting a drive is simply writing data to it, which is no different from when one reads and writed during normal use. Therefore it wont suffer any more wear than the equivelent ammount of time spent writinh during normal use.. Explain..
 

elpresidente2075

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Why?

Surely formatting a drive is simply writing data to it, which is no different from when one reads and writed during normal use. Therefore it wont suffer any more wear than the equivelent ammount of time spent writinh during normal use.. Explain..
Perhaps its the way the different file systems that are implemented on the hard drive's MFT. Keep in mind that I was using wildly different filesystems on some formats. Maybe the extra wear was on the memory of the file table? That would explain why you are often able to find the data lost to a failing hard drive. Anyone with any REAL knowledge of file systems and the like would surely be able to give some good information.

And yes, a hammer is a great way to kill a hard drive.
 

michaelahess

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Surely you mean the MBR not MFT, the first chunck of space for the MASTER BOOT RECORD. The Master File Table, analogis to the FAT table, that NTFS uses is stored in various areas over the disc (duplicates exist incase one ever fails) and won't end up in the same place everytime, hell it moves around just by writing/deleting files anyway as it's size changes.

You know how many times you'd have to rewrite the MBR? You could spend a week just doing fdisk/mbr and not write to it as many times as the windows swap file writes to the spame place on the hd.

Trust me, you can't format a disk to death, you just can't.
 

elpresidente2075

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Thank you for the correction. The "damage" that the formatter speaks of when going from NTFS -> anything must be speaking of the data itself. Still makes me wonder, why even say that at all? If you are formatting, it does warn you of total data loss. And as I recall, it is only in the case of NTFS-> anything else. Strange to see such warnings...
 

MrsD

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I've never seen a message saying it will damage the hd, course I never bother to read anything when formating a drive, I'm formatting it after all :)
I have never seen a message saying that either. I always to a full format, never a quick format. I dont see how it could shorten the life of the drive. It just erases date. Much like defrag moves the data around.
 

FLA94FD

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By a negligable margin at best, formatting is the same as accessing data across the entire drive at once. Not exactly different from what most users do anyway, just all at once instead of spread out. And that depends also on the type of format.

I would venture to say nobody has ever killed a drive by formating it to death.

And 4-5 years isn't a great run for a well kept hd, they should last upwards of 8-10 if taken care of properly, even under heavy use. Most HD manufacturers state a 5 year life span, same as car companies stating 10 year life spans, they only do this so you don't bitch when the drive craters right after 5 years of life.
BS Please don't mislead people if you don't what you're talking about.

3-5 years is far more accurate. I replace mine for my primary system every three years just to be safe. In an office setting they may last longer but generally don't do the trashing the my home computer does. The newer drives may also last longer but no drive with 5 years on it should be trusted for anything important and no drive that is 5 years old or older is worth having. 10 years ago drives were measure in Megabytes it couldn't even hold my windows folder...

Frequently defragging on these large drives will significantly reduce their life if not done incrementally over time.
 

The_Prophecy

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Why?

Surely formatting a drive is simply writing data to it, which is no different from when one reads and writed during normal use. Therefore it wont suffer any more wear than the equivelent ammount of time spent writinh during normal use.. Explain..
actually formatting a drive doesn't write alot of data to the drive.... barely any actually.. just enough to write out the MFT and boot sector... the whole reason full formats take so long is because the drive is being mapped. The format utility reads (not writes) every sector on the drive and flags any that are bad so they don't get used.
 

sailer

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What can kill a hard drive? Bearings wearing out, platters touching each other, coca cola being spilled on it, static electricy from being laid on a carpet while working on the computer, lightening strikes, bullets at the rifle range, and probably a lot of other things.

I doubt formating would have any effect. Who knows, that might even lengthen its life. I have one drive that is 8 years old and going strong. Came out of a Dell computer with a Pentium II 450 mhz machine. Sure, its only a whopping 4 gig in size, but that still holds a lot of word files.
 

michaelahess

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I'm not saying you would want to use them that long, just that they will easily last that long. Thousands of hard drives through my hands and only a handful of failures, speaks for itself.
 

ir_efrem

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What can kill a hard drive? Bearings wearing out, platters touching each other, coca cola being spilled on it, static electricy from being laid on a carpet while working on the computer, lightening strikes, bullets at the rifle range, and probably a lot of other things.

I doubt formating would have any effect. Who knows, that might even lengthen its life. I have one drive that is 8 years old and going strong. Came out of a Dell computer with a Pentium II 450 mhz machine. Sure, its only a whopping 4 gig in size, but that still holds a lot of word files.
finally some one with a semi intelligent answer.....

and btw *coca cola being spilled* is a definate afirmative.... (don't ask)

saying formatting a drive shortens it's life is like saying accessing a drive shortens it's life......

its a mechanical thing - the longer it sits there plugged in and turned on - the shorter it's life will be... that my friend is what kills a hard drive (well that and Coke)
 

ZOldDude

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By a negligable margin at best, formatting is the same as accessing data across the entire drive at once. Not exactly different from what most users do anyway, just all at once instead of spread out. And that depends also on the type of format.

I would venture to say nobody has ever killed a drive by formating it to death.

And 4-5 years isn't a great run for a well kept hd, they should last upwards of 8-10 if taken care of properly, even under heavy use. Most HD manufacturers state a 5 year life span, same as car companies stating 10 year life spans, they only do this so you don't bitch when the drive craters right after 5 years of life.
BS Please don't mislead people if you don't what you're talking about.

3-5 years is far more accurate. I replace mine for my primary system every three years just to be safe. In an office setting they may last longer but generally don't do the trashing the my home computer does. The newer drives may also last longer but no drive with 5 years on it should be trusted for anything important and no drive that is 5 years old or older is worth having. 10 years ago drives were measure in Megabytes it couldn't even hold my windows folder...

Frequently defragging on these large drives will significantly reduce their life if not done incrementally over time.

I have some 7 year old drives that work as well as when they were new....slow.

I even have drives that have XP installed from the first week it was in the stores.

What I do EACH month is:

1) Clean the registry.
2) Defrag the registry.
3) Defrag the HD.
4) Run BootVis.

That keeps the drive clean and fast (as fast as it can be).

Now to keep them from getting out of "wack" and data corruption issues I run SpinRite on each drive two times a year.
This can take 9-12 hours for 150GB drive...but it refreshs all the data,repairs bad sectors ect so that the heads now line up with the magnetic emulsion that tends to "move" to the outside of the disk over the years of spinning.

The big hardware problems I have all seem to come from PSU's haveing bad caps after the 3 year mark.
My cure for that is to now only use PC Power & Cooling PSU's and they will put new caps and fan in for me after the 5 year warrenty runs out and re-warrent them for a low price.

Z
 

O_oPremium

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By a negligable margin at best, formatting is the same as accessing data across the entire drive at once. Not exactly different from what most users do anyway, just all at once instead of spread out. And that depends also on the type of format.

I would venture to say nobody has ever killed a drive by formating it to death.

And 4-5 years isn't a great run for a well kept hd, they should last upwards of 8-10 if taken care of properly, even under heavy use. Most HD manufacturers state a 5 year life span, same as car companies stating 10 year life spans, they only do this so you don't bitch when the drive craters right after 5 years of life.
BS Please don't mislead people if you don't what you're talking about.

3-5 years is far more accurate. I replace mine for my primary system every three years just to be safe. In an office setting they may last longer but generally don't do the trashing the my home computer does. The newer drives may also last longer but no drive with 5 years on it should be trusted for anything important and no drive that is 5 years old or older is worth having. 10 years ago drives were measure in Megabytes it couldn't even hold my windows folder...

Frequently defragging on these large drives will significantly reduce their life if not done incrementally over time.

I have some 7 year old drives that work as well as when they were new....slow.

I even have drives that have XP installed from the first week it was in the stores.

What I do EACH month is:

1) Clean the registry.
2) Defrag the registry.
3) Defrag the HD.
4) Run BootVis.

That keeps the drive clean and fast (as fast as it can be).

Now to keep them from getting out of "wack" and data corruption issues I run SpinRite on each drive two times a year.
This can take 9-12 hours for 150GB drive...but it refreshs all the data,repairs bad sectors ect so that the heads now line up with the magnetic emulsion that tends to "move" to the outside of the disk over the years of spinning.

The big hardware problems I have all seem to come from PSU's haveing bad caps after the 3 year mark.
My cure for that is to now only use PC Power & Cooling PSU's and they will put new caps and fan in for me after the 5 year warrenty runs out and re-warrent them for a low price.

Z
magnetic emulsion that tends to move to the outside of the disk over the years of spinning? I have to admit I have never heard of this. So eventually the only part of the platter you can read/write to is on the outside tracks where the "magnetic emulsion" has not spun off the drive?
 

elpresidente2075

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Has anyone ever formatted an NTFS drive with some other filesystem, like RiserFS or ext3? Within the formatter program, it gives a warning that this MAY hurt the drive. I too thought it was BS, until my primary (nothing important, just windows and SUSE) started randomly crashing and it got a very low score in speedfan's SMART analysis. Now I am beginning to think maybe there is something to this.

Just so everyone knows, before I started messing with linux on this hard drive, it was completely NTFS and came off with a clean bill of health with a fitness level of about 90 percent. Now, 9 months and about 10 os' later, I have started experiencing technical difficulties and the like. It now comes out with a horrible bill of health and a Zero fitness level.

Could be the drive going the way of the dodo due to its old age, or maybe its just what they said. I guess I'll never know. I may just use this drive as a nice paperweight or a test drive for new/refurbished PC's that I may build.

Woulda been nice not to have to buy a new hard drive out of my very meager budget though.
 

clue69less

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This can take 9-12 hours for 150GB drive...but it refreshs all the data,repairs bad sectors ect so that the heads now line up with the magnetic emulsion that tends to "move" to the outside of the disk over the years of spinning.
magnetic emulsion that tends to move to the outside of the disk over the years of spinning? I have to admit I have never heard of this. So eventually the only part of the platter you can read/write to is on the outside tracks where the "magnetic emulsion" has not spun off the drive?

What I read some time ago is that each track can move a tiny bit, so if you don't occsionally re-write, which realligns the tracks, the head doesn't stay cenetered during reads and the data can get noisy or "go away", even though it's still there, just displaced slightly. Each written bit will diffuse over time at a rate in part dependant on the magnetic properties of the emulsion, so drives that are not spun can die even if the motor, head transport, etc., is still functional. I've never seen any supporting measurements, but I know of IT people that do the maintenance ZOD describes for the same reason. I also know IT managers that run HDs till they either bite it or have problems that are obvious. Others cycle in new drives on a schedule then either sell, give away or relegate the old ones to a low priority position in the network.
 

ares_wargames

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A good hard punch.

Someone actually came into the comp repair place I was working at and was complaining that their OS wasnt loading. We determined that it was a hard drive error, and when we opened his shuttle case to look at the drive, there was a big dent in it. When we asked the customer about it, he replied "I was mad about my load times."

As soon as he left we all cracked up.
 

michaelahess

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I have installed probably 20 distro's of linux on a 10 gig laptop drive and multiple times with some of those distro's. I'm always trying new versions, never had a problem or a message saying it would damage the disk. I've also tried about a dozen firewall distros on a 20gig wd and no probs ever.

Long ago i.e. 10meg hd's, you needed to rewrite each sector occasionally to keep the magnetic particles charged, current drives don't need that, and sure the material may slowly migrate to the edge but I bet it would be slower than glass running.

I do run spinrite on my main systems and all my servers once a year, more as an overall health check than anything else.
 

ASk

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I've been reading this thread, and I couldn't resist commenting on some of the fallacies and misconceptions

1)
Yes, frequent formatting will play into the expected life of the drive, especially full formats instead of quick ones.
Wrong - during format, the only thing that's written are the filesystem structures, and if you elect to do a full format, the HDD surface is scanned. Read/writes do not shorten the drive's life expectancy, spin hours do.


2)
Now to keep them from getting out of "wack" and data corruption issues I run SpinRite on each drive two times a year.
This can take 9-12 hours for 150GB drive...but it refreshs all the data,repairs bad sectors ect so that the heads now line up with the magnetic emulsion that tends to "move" to the outside of the disk over the years of spinning.
SpinRite is made by Steve Gibson, and if you use it, you should at least not believe every piece of FUD that comes out of his mouth.

a - there's no such thing as 'magnetic emulsion that tends to 'move' - if in a modern drive, the heads become misaligned with the tracks in a manner uncorrectable by the drive's innards automatically, your drive dies. Kaput.
b - all that SpinRite ever does is forces your drive (by reading the sector then writing to it) to move the sector to a 'bad list', and replace it with one of the spares from the spare cylinders set aside for such purpose. Your drive already does it automatically (on read/write to bad sector) - SpinRite just goes over the entire drive. It's not a magic solution that makes your drive all better for future use - you use it once, recover what data you can and trash the drive.

What I read some time ago is that each track can move a tiny bit, so if you don't occsionally re-write, which realligns the tracks, the head doesn't stay cenetered during reads and the data can get noisy or "go away", even though it's still there, just displaced slightly. Each written bit will diffuse over time at a rate in part dependant on the magnetic properties of the emulsion,
You are thinking of MFM drives, which had to be frequently 'low-level' (true low-level, not zero-fill) formatted, because the heads' frequent temperature changes caused them to misalign. On modern (read: > 10 year old) drives, all the servo and track information is written at the factory, and it's written permanently - your drive's innards don't even let you know it exists. You can't change it, or affect it in any way (and if you could - it would make your drive a brick, instantly)

EMP would be my favourite...
EMPs don't erase magnetic storage that easily. To erase a hard drive, you need a constant magnetic field of 20 Terra (Earth's field is only around 0.4 Terra, if I remember correctly), for around 2 hours.
 

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