Ordinary cheap computer hard drives do not work reliably above 10,000ft in altitude, because they require a cushion of dense air for the magnetic head to float on. Without that air density, the head will scratch the disk. People who live above 10,000ft must buy special hard drives.

Interesting hard drive facts you probably didn’t know

Everybody has one, but nobody gives it much thought – the hard disk drive. It’s just another device, another component on their computer system. But those who care, here are some facts to ponder upon.

The hard drive head never touches the disk platter

You probably know this. The hard drive head never touches the disk platter it’s reading or writing data from. The reason why the hard drive head do not make contact with the media is due to the excessively high speed the disk platter spins and the need for the heads to frequently scan from side to side to different tracks. If the head is allowed to make contact with the disk it would result in unacceptable wear to both the delicate heads and the media. If the head were to touch the spi… Continue Reading (4 minute read)

10 thoughts on “Ordinary cheap computer hard drives do not work reliably above 10,000ft in altitude, because they require a cushion of dense air for the magnetic head to float on. Without that air density, the head will scratch the disk. People who live above 10,000ft must buy special hard drives.”

  1. Riptide360

    I thought new hard drives were pressure sealed with helium.

  2. sheepsleepdeep

    This doesn’t affect solid state drives does it?

  3. newsreadhjw

    This sounds like a plot point from an old Encyclopedia Brown story. “It wasn’t me doing those crimes, my alibi is right here on this perfectly ordinary hard drive!” said the man from the village at 12,000-ft.

  4. sonofabutch

    IIRC, this was one of the reasons for the fall of the Incan Empire.

  5. view-master

    I experienced this first hand about a decade ago. Went on vacation to Colorado (11k feet). Laptop would not boot. Came home and it worked. Later that year I went to the same spot. Same thing.

  6. Phrenzy

    This is why data stored in clouds is not safe.

  7. Ratmatazz

    Well now we have cheap ssd drives so it seems like a non-issue in lots of places

  8. Peter_Principle_

    Platter HDs and altitude? You kinda buried the lede there.

    “If the read/write head were a Boeing 747, and the hard-disk platter were the surface of the Earth:

    * The head would fly at Mach 800

    * At less than one centimeter from the ground

    * And count every blade of grass

    * Making fewer than 10 unrecoverable counting errors in an area equivalent to all of Ireland.”

  9. BlakAcid

    This sounds like Big SSD propaganda trying to convince people to buy solid state drives.

    (here’s a big ol’ fat /s just in case it’s needed)

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