As is known by all PC users, from the most advanced to those just starting out in the world of computing, the hard drive is one of the most important components of our equipment , since it allows us to store our data in a permanent.
As most users know, computers use part of the RAM memory to temporarily protect the information that is being processed on the PC. However, when you turn off the computer, all that data will be lost. This is where hard drives, also called hard drives, come into play.
What is a hard drive?
To protect the information that we want to keep, files, documents and others, we use the so-called “Hard Disk”, also called Hard Disk, HD, HDD or Hard Disk, in which the data that we need to save will be permanently stored .
Likewise, the operating system itself that is used on the PC and all the applications that we have installed will be saved on the hard disk, so that they are there every time we start our computer.
One of the first discs most similar to those we know today was created by the IBM company in 1979, and it was the 62PC model, called “Piccolo”, which only had 64.5 Mb of storage space.
However, the first hard disk in history was the IBM 3501 , also called Ramac I, manufactured by the company in 1956. Although it could only store up to 5 Mb of data, its size was gigantic, since it weighed one ton and its dimensions were similar to those of a home refrigerator.
At present, not only has the size of this type of device been significantly reduced, but the technology with which they work has changed considerably, offering increasingly better solutions to computer users.
It was especially in the 90s, and after a series of important discoveries made by different researchers in the field of computer science, that hard drives with increasing storage capacity began to be offered .
In the middle of the said decade, disks underwent the change from being able to store megabytes (Mb) to being able to store gigabytes (Gb), and today hard drives are marketed that have a storage capacity of more than 100 terabytes (Tb), that is to say, almost one hundred million megabytes, which gives us the guideline that there are no limits for the future.
How does a hard drive work?
At this stage of events, there should be no user who is unaware that the computer’s hard drive is the device where the operating system is stored and that it allows us to save the information that we are manipulating to use it again later.
Also known as Hard Disk or by its initials HD, this device is an extremely delicate piece of engineering, mechanical part and electronic part, and whose best characteristic, without a doubt, resides in that it does not lose the information stored inside when we disconnect it from the power supply.
That is why it is considered a non-volatile memory, thus causing the confusion of many who claim that their PC “has 500 GB of memory”, when in reality it is talking about storage capacity.
Today, a hard disk can reach storage capacities that were unthinkable years ago, when a disk of the most expensive and complex like those of the Quantum Bigfoot series had 1.2 GB of space to store documents. Current hard drives reach up to 100 Tb. capacity, which allows us to have an almost unlimited amount of video, music and documents stored.
As we can see, the hard disk plays a fundamental role in the PC, even of equal importance to the memory or the processor that it has, and that is why in this article we will learn a little more about this type of device.
What was the first hard drive in history?
The first hard drive was developed by IBM in the mid-1950s, and it offered a storage capacity of 5 MB of data and weighed close to 1,000 kilos. Developed mainly for military and scientific use, after that, hard drives have made their way first in the company and then, by getting cheaper and smaller in size to the point of being able to fit in a PC cabinet, they have been able to position themselves as the world’s most important data storage method.
Since that time in 1956, the hard disk has made a much more than interesting journey, its capacity has not stopped increasing, and at the same time they have been reducing more and more in size . In this sense, there is no other technology that can be equated with this phenomenon.
How is a hard disk composed?
Although over the years the technology of hard drives has advanced dramatically, the truth is that many of the elements and mechanisms that make it up have not changed much. Basically, a rigid disk has in its interior some plates moving at very high speed, between 3600 and 7200 RPM thanks to a motor that drives this movement. These platters are made of aluminum and are coated on both sides with a metallic alloy material and a protective layer developed to store information in the form of magnetic patterns.
To read the information contained in the dishes or to record new data , electromagnetic reading and writing devices called heads are used, which are suspended above these dishes at a really very close distance. Generally, the rigid disks incorporate several plates mounted on a central axis, acting like support. The more plates, the greater the capacity of the hard disk.
As for the heads, the elements that allow the reading-writing of the data, these are fixed to an element called “Actuator” and float on an extremely thin layer of air of the order of 10 millionth of an inch, which will reduce the Wear suffered on the surface of the disc during its operation.
This type of operation also prevents any foreign particle from damaging the heads or plates when being dragged by them.
Disc / PC communication standards
At present, there are two main types of communication standard, the first of them called IDE (Integrated Device Electronics), a specification already practically forgotten, and which is being replaced by the SATA specification (Serial ATA or S-ATA ) due to a large number of advantages, the main one being the speed of transfer and data security, but it also offers other characteristics such as the possibility of connecting it “Hot” or Hot Swap , that is to say, being able to connect or disconnect the device with PC turned on.
Hard drive connection types
When we are about to purchase a hard drive to our PC, considering that in today ‘s market there are a host of alternatives, of course we must consider a series of guidelines to make the right choice, and remember that you It is about the physical device where we can protect all the data that we want to keep.
Among the fundamental aspects that we must take into account when choosing a hard drive, we must not only emphasize the storage capacity and the characteristics that make up the speed of the device, but we must also select the type of connection interface that we will require for communication between the disk and the motherboard.
Currently there are three types of connection are often the most populare s and differ not only by the technology they use but also by a number of features in their operation and performance.
According to the type of connection, the disks can be SATA, IDE or SCSI and basically refers to the type of port that the disk uses to connect to the motherboard.
In principle, IDE (Integrated Device Electronics) type hard drives , also known as ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment), currently also known as PATA, have been one of the most widely used types of devices in common computers for years, due to the fact that They are usually relatively inexpensive, versatile, and provide significant performance.
However, nowadays ATA-type disks are being increasingly replaced by so-called SATA , since the latter offer greater stability and speed, due to the higher transfer rate of their data bus.
If we compare both types of devices, one of the most noticeable aspects in which they differ is the speed of each of them , since IDE-type disks generally allow data transmission of up to 133 Mps in the most Its modes are fast, while SATA disks have an effective data transmission speed of 300 Mps, which also depends on whether it is a SATA 1, 2 or 3 disk, in which the transmission speed is also increasing .
Another of the hard drives currently used, although to a lesser extent, are those that have a SCSI (Small Computers System Interface) connection.
Although they are usually considered fast disks, due to their powerful transfer rate, current motherboards do not include this type of connector , and adapter plates are necessary, and in general the devices that use SCSI ports tend to have a very high cost in comparison to SATA or ATA type disks.
They are generally used in equipment that requires high work performance , such as servers and equipment where a significant volume of data handling is necessary.
SATA Drives: Why are they so popular?
Currently most motherboards have SATA connectors , so that the user can use any device that works with this type of connection, because as we have already mentioned, SATA technology allows an excellent speed range and a very good power ratio. quality and price.
Hard drives with SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) technology have increasingly replaced their predecessor, the ATA device, due to a series of features that offer the user a more stable computer and a notable improvement in speed data transfer.
L as main advantages offered by the SATA hard drives, in addition to faster data transfer, have to do with their performance because they offer a bandwidth greater, a potential best for speed increases in future generations and a significant improvement in terms of data integrity, thanks to the incorporation of a new advanced command set.
Regarding their physical appearance, SATA disks also offer notable advantages, since they use more compact cables, which allows better internal ventilation of the PC, as well as a maximum length in the cables that reaches up to 2 meters.
Likewise, the format of its connector allows to make HotPlug , which means to be able to connect and disconnect the device while the machine is turned on.
In order to improve the performance of this type of device, manufacturers have developed in recent years new types of SATA hard disk , which offer excellent stability, such as the first to hit the market, the SATA I, but which incorporate a noticeable improvement in speed.
Today we can find SATA hard drives of the type 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 , which basically differ by the data transmission speeds that they can reach.
In the case of the SATA 1.0 hard drive , it works at 1.5Gb / s , and allows a real speed of 150MB / s to be reached .
The SATA 2.0 hard disk , which has been the second version of this type of disk, reaches 3Gb / s and a speed of 300MB / s.
In the case of SATA 3.0 , which is the standard used by almost all new hard drives on the market today, it has a transmission speed of 6Gb / s and a maximum speed of 600 MB / s.
We cannot fail to mention the SATA Express version , which is a type of connection that allows working with SATA hard drives and also with PCI-Express units , which is capable of reaching 16 Gbps, that is, 1.97 GB / s.
Therefore, we can conclude knowing that while most SATA I disks can reach an effective data transfer speed of up to 150 MB / s, current SATA Express technology disks can reach speeds of up to 1.97 GB / s.
What care should we take with hard drives?
Although hard drives are well protected against accidents and shocks, the truth is that taking care of them will increase their useful life, which is why we offer some very practical tips to prevent abuse.
Whenever we handle a hard drive, we must do it carefully, trying not to shake it or hit it against hard surfaces. The best thing to do if you have to transport it is to keep it in a well-padded bag or box.
Another point in which we must take special consideration is not to leave the hard disk near or on magnets or other devices that produce magnetism, this could result in data loss or general disk damage.
It is also very important not to expose the hard drive to high temperatures. Heat is the main enemy of the hard drive. For this reason we have to be careful not to cover the ventilation grills of the PC, and in the case of considering that our computer is not well cooled, add fans or another means of cooling.
Do not expose the unit to dust, as this could seep into the housing and cause terrible damage. When we are handling the disc, it is best to wrap it or store it in a box.
The true capacity of a hard drive
We have surely noticed that when we buy a new hard drive, it is most likely that the operating system we are using does not reflect the capacity mentioned on the device labels. This is because when we buy a new disk, the operating system must perform a low-level format to define the partitions that will make it up. This operation will require a small portion of the available disk space.
Another consideration is that manufacturers use multiples of powers of 1000 instead of binary prefixes, which use multiples of powers of 1024, resulting in confusion when for example a disk with 1 Tb capacity is listed as approximately 931 Gb.
Next, we present a table with the values of the manufacturers and those provided by Windows.
|160 GB||149 GB|
|250 GB||232 GB|
|500 GB||465 GB|
|640 GB||596 GB|
|750 GB||698 GB|
|1 TB||931 GB|
|2 TB||1662 GB|
|3 TB||2783 GB|
|4 TB||3725 GB|
|6 TB||5587 GB|
What is the lifespan of a hard drive?
The hard drives of our PC are undoubtedly the most delicate part of the whole set, since they are made up of small parts, magnetized plates and many other incredibly fragile parts, and that in the event of any fall or blow can be easily damaged.
Whenever we have a hard drive in our hands, we treat it as if it were a newborn, however they are much more resistant than we imagine, as long as we treat it with consideration.
This brings us to a fairly common question among computer users: How long will a hard drive last? The answer has two variants, the first one depends on the work to which it is subjected, that is, how long will the disk last working normally, and the second how long it will last stored, that is, without being used or connected at all.
Wear and tear on a hard drive with normal use
The lifespan of a hard drive is fundamentally dependent on the quality of the moving parts and the conditions in the assembly plant. These two factors are what determine the duration of the disc itself, this means that the manufacturer plays a fundamental role in the duration of this device. In addition, other actors that play a role in this act are the type of interface of the disc, the capacity, the brand and the model.
However, the usual consensus for the duration of a hard disk is approximately four years, which after this period, hopefully, we will have to think about replacing it even if it has not shown symptoms of wear.
Duration of a stored hard drive
Storing a hard drive is a common practice when backing up very important information . In the event that we are thinking about the use of this methodology, we must bear in mind that we will have to worry about two more important factors.
The first of them is how long the data recorded on the plates will last, and the second, the deterioration of the parts and materials used for its movement, that is, the oil for its bearings and others.
We will also have to worry about the storage conditions, since if these are adverse, that is, excess heat or cold, humidity and other factors can ruin a hard disk much faster than the data it contains could be degraded, than for true this process can take decades to happen.
A hard drive has a fairly traceable life cycle, and if it is not damaged by accidents, excess current or any other external problem, it will last around four years, however, after three years of use, the best we can do is to make a backup every time we can, or better yet, replace the hard drive, preferably with an SSD type.
SSDs are not yet a very widespread technology, due to their high price and low capacity, however, with the passage of time, this will be reversed, that is, larger SSDs for less price.
Solid state drives are less prone to damage, faster and much more durable, all of which leads us to believe that these types of solid state drives would be suitable for long-term data storage, as well as offering us a normal use period of more than 50 years.
Factors That Can Cause Hard Drive Damage
As we saw above, a hard drive is very prone to damage, especially if it is subjected to heavy workloads or mistreatment. That is why, when we face failures that are caused by a damaged disk, we are in a moment of great tension since we cannot use our PC in a normal way.
There are various breakdowns that hard drives can suffer, the most common being electrical power supply failures, wear, corrosion, shocks, vibrations, friction, humidity, dirt and high temperatures inside the drive. enclosure , can seriously damage the internal mechanism of the hard disk.
How do you know when a hard drive starts to fail?
The most frequent symptoms that we can notice to verify that our hard drive is damaged are several, such as strange noises and obstacles when moving or pasting files, but most likely they are adjusted to two specific problems, such as failures due to Data corruption in the System32 folder or the inability to boot the system, better known as “Boot Failure”.
What can we do when a hard drive fails?
In these cases, it is possible that the computer starts but when the Windows screen is reached, the system automatically restarts. If we notice this error, we must press the F8 key while the PC is booting, to prevent the automatic restart from occurring.
In this way we will access the famous blue screen, in which we can confirm if it really is a damage to the hard drive of our computer. Once we have evaluated the faults, and come to the correct conclusion that the problem is in the hard disk, we will have to carry out a repair and maintenance of the software that controls the device.
From this point on we will explain the fundamentals of these two problems and their safest solutions.
One of the most common symptoms is that the hard disk does not boot , a failure that occurs when the system has not been able to find different startup files that are located in the System32 folder, a sign of loss or corruption of the boot system files , located in the System32 folder.
To solve this problem, in principle we must start the PC with the Windows CD placed in the CD / DVD reader. When the first options screen is displayed, we will press the R key, to repair the fault.
Then a second screen of options will be displayed in which we will have to press the C key, which will allow us to enter the Windows repair console .
Once there we will enter the disk that is damaged, surely disk 1 by default , and the system will enter directly to C: \, which will indicate that the disk does not have a system.
There we must enter the administrator password that will be requested, or press the Enter key if it lacks a password, in order to enter C: \ windows \, where we must type FIXBOOT and then press the Enter key. We will immediately restart our PC and thus we can enter Windows.
On the other hand, it can also happen that an error called Boot Failure occurs , during which a screen will be displayed that will indicate that the disk is incorrect or that it does not exist, since the system has not been able to read the unit during its startup. .
Other frequent failures are when the computer turns on but cannot start the system , and it only shows us a black screen and the cursor flashing in the upper left corner, or when a sign is displayed that indicates a failure of the NTLDR type, that is, that it is not possible to boot the hard disk.
Also, one of the most frequent failures, experienced by most Windows users, is the famous blue screen that reports the error to us.
The Boot Failure error can be caused by a bad connection of the cables that go from the hard disk to the motherboard , so we must check the IDE / SATA ports, and automatically check in the system Setup if it is possible to detect the devices.
If the error continues to appear, then it is possible that it is a larger problem caused by fatal file system damage , that is, it lacks NTLDR.
To solve this problem, software tools developed for these purposes should be used, such as the HD Tune and HDD Regenerator applications .
The first thing we must do is use the HD Tune program, booting the PC with a live CD of said application , which will allow us to analyze the hard drive in search of the causes that produce the failure.
Then it is convenient to use the HDD Regenerator tool , in the same way as the previous program, that is, by booting our computer with a live CD of said program.
The HDD Regenerator will not only find the faults, but also perform a scan and recovery of the errors that cause the failures in our hard disk.
Once this operation is finished, it is convenient to carry out another evaluation with the HD Tune program , in order to verify that all the faults have been repaired, and that our hard disk can function normally again.
What if all else fails?
If the errors are still reported, in some cases it is advisable to reinstall the Windows operating system , to perform a complete cleaning of the software.
However, before carrying out any type of software repair on our PC, it is convenient to carry out a complete check of the physical appearance of the hard disk, that is, if it is correctly connected to the motherboard , evaluating the cables and IDE / SATA ports, and that the jumper configuration is adequate, since many times it can be a failure caused by a bad connection.