Hard Drive Stresses and Their Effects

Hard drives are precision instruments and have been carefully designed to provide years of trouble free operation. There are some key factors that will stress a drive, and if not accounted for, these stresses will adversely affect the reliability and longevity of these amazing devices.

We have created a 35 slide presentation with significant detail and background for you on this subject which we encourage you to download:  Hard Drive Stressor Presentation.  In this presentation, our goal is to provide enough detail on each of the key hard drive stressors, so that you can design or modify your system to accomplish the best mix of reliability, performance and cost. By understanding what drives are sensitive to, you can better select the best drive for your system.

For each stressor, we will go into some significant detail and examine why it occurs, as well as to outline its effect on the hard drive. Once the stressor has been outlined, we will then discuss the state of the art for hard drives and what features have been incorporated to combat these particular stressors, paying specific attention to which drives are best suited to deal with each stressor.

Some of the stress mechanisms are universal, such as heat, while others are unique to, or more prevalent in, a specific industry.  We encourage you to learn more about your system’s specific stresses in our YOUR SYSTEM section of our website.

Below are the 5 most common “hard drive stressors”:


While high heat is bad for all electronics and needs to be controlled, hard drives can be a bit more sensitive than solid state technologies, simply because of their use of magnetic materials. By using forced air convection (fans) and conductive cooling techniques (heat sinks), keeping the drives under 50 degrees C at all times is the goal.

Rotational Vibration

Rotational vibrations experienced by the drive will cause the heads to be moved off-track. Higher frequency of these vibrations are more difficult to compensate for. In high density chassis’, you may need a hard drive designed for this type of energy in order to get performance and reliability.

Power On Hours (24/7 Usage)

Consumer grade drives are just not designed for this much usage. Using components that are designed and tailored for industrial use prevents a lot of issues later.


The speed of data transfer as well as the overall volume can work lesser drives to an early failure. Only the most robust drives are equipped to handle this heavy use, and this is the key reason they cost more.

RAID File Systems

A RAID 5 (or higher) file system adds workload to the drive, as it divides incoming data up into groups known as stripes. For the drives designed to handle this, it’s manageable, but try it with a consumer grade drive and often your failure rate will double, or worse.

Many systems have some combination of these stressors, but not all of them, making drive model selection sometimes unclear. These are the cases that really require lab testing in order to determine the required component selection. HDSTOR can help you design a test plan, and advise the best selection based on your test results. Let us be your hard drive expert.