Can You Prevent
A "Head Crash"?


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How big is a Smoke Particle?

And just what is a smoke particle anyway? Smoke is made up of a few minute chemicals when something is burning. Most common is cigarette smoke.

How big is the gap between the platter and read-write head of your hard drive?

Do you smoke?

This is not a 'Ya gotta quit smokin' commercial or anything like that.

Did you know if you smoke around your computer and have a mechanical hard drive your cigarette/cigar smoke could cause your hard drive to crash.

Now I know you may not believe this but the gap between the platter and read/write head is a few microns (very small) wide and the platter is spinning anywhere from 5400 to 15,000 revolutions per second.

A smoke particle is just a few microns larger than the gap between the platter and read/write head of a hard drive.

Note: I do not use any numbers in this article because the size is very small and the numbers to you would be meaningless.

Did you know that your hard drive pulls cool air in one part of the drive case and expels it out another? There are two ports on the case of your hard drive (mechanical only) and the spinning of the platters acts like a small fan. The engineers have figured out where the largest vacuum point is and where the highest pressure point is when the platters are spinning.

Where the vacuum and pressure points are the manufacture makes two small openings for intake of air and exhaust of air. Now this air flow is very low, you can not feel the air being drawn in or being pushed out but it is there.

These two openings have a special filter that will allow air in and out but not allow dust and dirt to pass through. The size of the largest particle that will pass through is just a few microns larger than the smoke particle.

You may have seen these ports, they have a notice like this 'Do not push', 'Do not remove', or they may be the seal on the drive and say 'Warranty void if removed'. These little disks have very small holes drilled in them.

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Originally the hole size was the smallest that could be drilled but now with lasers the holes could be too small for a smoke particle to pass through. Why the manufactures don't make them smaller? That is an unknown.

When hard drives for the PC were first invented they had a problem with expansion and contraction. They would contract when cold, then expand when they were running because of the heat being generated by drive operating.

This expansion and contraction caused problems with the air sealed inside the drive. The expanding air would over time cause the case to crack. (I have seen some early Seagate's that the aluminum case was actually cracked).

So the manufactures created the ports for air to move in and out of the drive thus alleviating the pressure that caused the case to crack.

Later on these ports were also used to draw air though the drive. The cooling is negligible if you think of cooling that other fans do in the computer.

Now days there isn't that much problem with people smoking around computers, most companies do not allow smoking in their facilities. However people do smoke in their cars and at home.

Here is where the smoking part comes in:

If the air has smoke particles and the drive is spinning they will be drawn in to the drive. If a one lands on a platter and the read/write head hits that particle the head will rise up and then come back down, when it comes down it will impact the platter causing a "head crash".

This will damage the platter and crack or destroy the head.

So if you smoke around your computer you are taking a chance on crashing your hard drive, that chance is low but it is still there.

If you want to remove that chance of crashing your hard drive then don't smoke around your computer or install a SSD (Solid State Drive).

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This article on the size of a smoke particle goes to show that something doesn't have to be big to cause damage...

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