Does not spinning down drives improve their life?

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
I have a 21.5" iMac that I never let sleep because of the long-time belief that desktop hard drives are most reliable when spinning 24/7, and that spin-up/spin-down cycles caused by sleeping or shutdowns stresses them and causes them to break. Is that still true for modern drives? Are the so-called "green" drives, seemingly designed to frequently stop/start what with their automatic sleep modes, hardened against this stress? By contrast, laptop drives are expected to be frequently spun up/down and so are specifically designed to handle it.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    john galtjohn galt Posts: 960member
    I'd let the drives spin down.



    "Sleeping" the computer will obviously cause the drives to spin down, but most drives' firmware will cause them to spin down upon lack of activity anyway.



    Bearing surfaces used in drive spindle motors are subject to mechanical wear that will eventually reach an operational limit. This will eventually cause the spindle motor to fail. Before that extreme is reached, radial movement in excess of the drive's tolerances will cause the platters to no longer reliably maintain alignment with respect to the read/write heads. This failure manifests itself in very long access times as repeated read and write attempts are made. If you're lucky, such behaviour will provide you with adequate warning that your drive has reached the end of its service life.



    Most newer drives use axial and radial fluid bearings that wear much better than ball bearing and race spindles, but the fluids themselves don't last forever. There is a degree of thermal stress involved in cycling drives up and down, but I believe this is preferable to having the motors run continuously.



    Pretty soon this will become a moot issue, as solid state "drives" become bigger, cheaper, and faster. Consumer electronics always evolves toward fewer moving parts, though the motivating factor is cost (as opposed to reliability).
  • Reply 2 of 16
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,430moderator
    I don't think it matters all that much. The drives are designed to last a long time even when stressed. There was a study conducted with 100,000 drives:



    http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=6404



    Interestingly, heat didn't have any effect. The MTBF estimates that manufacturers give out are apparently way off (big surprise) but still, they expect about 5-7 years average. Servers run drives 24/7 and can last 6 years or more.



    You will likely extend the life of your drive by sleeping it but it's no way of preventing a drive failure. You just need to keep a backup. It's also why Apple shouldn't seal the drive inside the machine. They should have 2 x 2.5" drives that slot in the bottom next to the RAM.
  • Reply 3 of 16
    john galtjohn galt Posts: 960member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post


    ... Apple shouldn't seal the drive inside the machine.



    Agreed. Any component subject to mechanical wear ought to be more readily accessible. All HDDs will fail, eventually. Unfortunately user-maintainability has become more difficult in almost every consumer product, from computers to cars. Again I think this is due to cost considerations.



    I've replaced the hard disks on every computer I've ever owned, not due to failure but an eventual desire for more capacity. Then again I probably keep my computers in service longer than most.



    I wonder if hard disk failure is more prevalent in Windows computers. My Windows PC drives are always churning and never sleep. God knows why. I have heard of many more instances of apparently premature drive failure with PCs than Macs, of course there are a lot more PCs around.
  • Reply 4 of 16
    dr millmossdr millmoss Posts: 5,403member
    I say let your Mac sleep and the drive spin down. If for no other reason, why waste the electricity? Heat is another issue -- the great killer of electronic components.



    Oddly enough, I have never had a single hard drive failure, going back to my first HD, a 20MG Jasmine SCSI external drive (ah, memory lane) which IIRC cost me $500, and I run them for years. I realize I've been somewhat lucky, but I have often wondered why some people seem to go through hard drives like water.
  • Reply 5 of 16
    wplj42wplj42 Posts: 439member
    I've had two hard drive failures in my life. Both were way back in my DOS days. I completely agree with Marvin. Hard drives are perhaps the most vulnerable element in a computer. The new mini has ready access to RAM. Big deal. Once you install what you need, chances are the sticks will never be touched again. I am curious to know if USB 3 is fast enough to support external hard drives with quality performance? I am also wondering if SSDs are reliable enough yet to replace traditional drives?



    If my iMac's hard drive fails, I am not going to pay Apple to fix it. So my iMac would be off to the boneyard. Apple computers don't always cost too much to own, but they do cost too much when you cannot access broken parts.



    I do not sleep my iMac. It is off when I am not using it. When I am away from it for a long time, I do press Option + Command + Eject, and it does sleep, but I do this manually.
  • Reply 6 of 16
    john galtjohn galt Posts: 960member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by WPLJ42 View Post


    If my iMac's hard drive fails, [it]would be off to the boneyard.



    Holy cow, I hope not! Even broken Macs fetch a lot on the used market. If you don't want to fix it, sell it to someone who will. You'll get a lot of interest.
  • Reply 7 of 16
    wplj42wplj42 Posts: 439member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by john galt View Post


    Holy cow, I hope not! Even broken Macs fetch a lot on the used market. If you don't want to fix it, sell it to someone who will. You'll get a lot of interest.



    Guess it depends on who you ask. I don't believe my iMac is worth even half of what I paid for it.
  • Reply 8 of 16
    john galtjohn galt Posts: 960member
    Half is still a lot, probably hundreds, even with a broken HD. Drives are cheap.



    Want to get more? Sell the parts.



    I sold an eleven year old iMac for $85, hockey puck mouse and all. Overall cost of ownership, less than two bucks a week. Try that with a PC.
  • Reply 9 of 16
    wplj42wplj42 Posts: 439member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by john galt View Post


    Half is still a lot, probably hundreds, even with a broken HD. Drives are cheap.



    Want to get more? Sell the parts.



    I sold an eleven year old iMac for $85, hockey puck mouse and all. Overall cost of ownership, less than two bucks a week. Try that with a PC.



    I use to have a Blueberry iMac G3 350. It died and I gave it to the Salvation Army. My iMac cost $1250 and is worth less than $500 if I were to attempt a trade-in with Best Buy. Selling my iMac would not be worth my trouble. That's just me.



    I will have to return to the PC, since you are mentioning it. My eyesight can't get better, and the iMac screens will never get lower resolution. My next computer will have to be accessible. Apple, and all the other guys, need to make the HD and the RAM easy to get to. With regard to this thread, sure, the HD is not going to last forever, no matter what. Some do believe in leaving computers on all the time. I do hope the SSDs grow in popularity, reliability, and affordability. Would be amazing if the iMac had a slot load HD, held into place with a couple of screws. Could sit next to the current optical drive. And yes, the optical drive needs to be removable. I don't engineer the boxes, just use them.
  • Reply 10 of 16
    john galtjohn galt Posts: 960member
    I understand if it's not worth your trouble, but I'd at least try to find out what "died" before giving something away. Any number of components could fail, including the power cord. At least you didn't dump your Blueberry in a landfill - the horrors!



    Thanks to Google, and lots of people with too much time on their hands, fixing stuff is easier today than ever. If not for sites like iFixit I may have shelved a lot of my equipment long ago. As you mentioned, an out-of-warranty factory repair is rarely cost effective.



    (And, thanks to Craigslist, selling old junk is easier than ever too)



    If your eyes aren't what they used to be, you'd have a tough time working on laptops. Some of them have hardware you have to be careful not to inhale. Compared to laptops, early iMacs are built like locomotives. They're all fixable though.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by WPLJ42 View Post


    I do hope the SSDs grow in popularity, reliability, and affordability. Would be amazing if the iMac had a slot load HD, held into place with a couple of screws.



    The former is certain; the latter, less so. \
  • Reply 11 of 16
    wplj42wplj42 Posts: 439member
    John ... I never understood my old G3 iMac, so it went back into the box when I returned to Windows. So, it was left in the dark for years. No wonder it didn't work. It would power up, and the optical drive worked, but the HD was not working. Anyone who knows me on this forum, knows I am low vision. This has to be my last iMac. I do agree with tiny parts I might inhale (giggles) is an issue. I read somewhere that the old hard card idea is on the rebound with SSD chips a plenty. Now that would be cool. If people were able to use SCSI hard drives on the old Macs, I would think USB 3 is fast enough for today. I did exchange RAM on my iMac, but that is as hard as I wish to push my vision. Something that "plugs in" is as far as I can go. I will never understand why Apple can't humor me on this.
  • Reply 12 of 16
    john galtjohn galt Posts: 960member
    Understood. I bought my Dad a 24" iMac, he has the display configured for 640x480 If the 27 inch were available then I'd have bought it instead.



    My second-ever hard disk was a Hardcard, a whopping 20 MB - the largest one at the time, and huge compared to the 5 MB Winchester it replaced.
  • Reply 13 of 16
    wplj42wplj42 Posts: 439member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by john galt View Post


    Understood. I bought my Dad a 24" iMac, he has the display configured for 640x480 If the 27 inch were available then I'd have bought it instead.



    My second-ever hard disk was a Hardcard, a whopping 20 MB - the largest one at the time, and huge compared to the 5 MB Winchester it replaced.



    My vision is odd, to say the least. Shifting the resolution is so blurry, it would be useless. It is nice to know some can work past it.



    I seem to remember hardcards running in the ancient 8-bit PCs. I worked for Uncle Tandy (Radio Shack) during the TRS-80 days, and remember the 3rd party hardcards. Yes, 20 MB was huge! McAfee, at the time, was shareware. Ah, those were the days. Both McAfee and Norton fit on a floppy. HA!
  • Reply 14 of 16
    sequitursequitur Posts: 1,910member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by WPLJ42 View Post


    Yes, 20 MB was huge!



    My first computer didn't have a hard drive. Two 5 1/4" disks were used. My first hard drive in a computer was an RLL that bumped its 20 MB up to 30 MB. Talk about HUGE. Why would we ever need something larger? We'd never fill that one. I can't recall the memory (oxymoron?) though the number 64 sticks in my mind. The computer had a V chip that was 8 (was that kHz, mHz, or... ?) instead of the usual 4. Wasn't this the most technology we'd ever need?
  • Reply 15 of 16
    john galtjohn galt Posts: 960member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sequitur View Post


    I can't recall the memory (oxymoron?) though the number 64 sticks in my mind. The computer had a V chip that was 8 (was that kHz, mHz, or... ?) instead of the usual 4.



    Most likely that was 64 K, and 8 MHz.



    Your floppies were 180 K, unless they were double sided (360K). With a little ingenuity, Apple bumped things up a bit with 400/800 (SS/DS) KB floppies.



    Quote:

    ... this the most technology we'd ever need?



    Yes. 640 KB ought to be enough for anybody, too.
  • Reply 16 of 16
    wplj42wplj42 Posts: 439member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by john galt View Post


    Most likely that was 64 K, and 8 MHz.



    Your floppies were 180 K, unless they were double sided (360K). With a little ingenuity, Apple bumped things up a bit with 400/800 (SS/DS) KB floppies.







    Yes. 640 KB ought to be enough for anybody, too.



    My first computer, as a Tandy/Radio Shack employee, was a Color Computer, aka Coco. It used (originally) an optional tape drive. Yes, cassette @ 1500 baud. Modem was extra ... 300 baud. My first Coco was $399 and was loaded up with 4K of RAM. After booting, RAM was just over half remaining. I eventually got a Coco III, and pushed the RAM to 256K. Still no HD, never. Single sided 5.25 floppies, and I learned how to cut and notch, making them "flippies." Everyone said that was really a no-no as the discs were not designed to spin in two directions. The CPU was a 6809E, I think. Off the top of my head, it was .9 MHz, but using the "poke" command could double the clock speed. Just had to turn it back off for I/O to the tape drive, or you had the Chipmunks.



    It was Bill Gates who allegedly said we will never need more than 640K of RAM.



    Us Radio Shack people so made fun of Apple. It can do anything, "just plug in a card." In other words, if you got the dough, an Apple computer can do anything. All computers were frightfully expensive though.



    So spin 'em down, if you got 'em, might be a good idea.
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