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An overheating hard drive is serious. Before replacing it, it's best to solve the heat issue. Oh yes, and are you backed up?

I have a Compaq Presario and I've installed System Mechanic and it has said that my hard drive is overheating. It said 113 degrees, failure is imminent. This PC is only for home use to check emails, search the web, and online card games - not gambling. I've searched hard drives and they go from 10 GB to 250 GB. Would you give me some idea of how to choose a hard drive for simple use?

In this excerpt from Answercast #24, I outline a few steps to take that may reduce heating on a hard drive and give some criteria to look for in a replacement drive.

Cool the machine

Before you go choosing a hard drive, I would prefer that you first look into the underlying problem that's been reported.

If your hard drive is overheating, replacing the hard drive may not fix the problem:

  • The problem may simply be that your computer does not have sufficient ventilation.

  • It may be that your computer has malware on it and it is driving the hard disk continually.

  • It may be that the hard drive is failing; but there are other things to look at.

This is a symptom of a potential larger problem that I would suggest that you look at first.

Check ventilation

So, check the ventilation on your system and make sure that there's no dust in there; that it's all cleaned out; that it has lots of good airflow; that the fans are all working and so forth.

Make sure that this overheating problem that's currently manifesting in your hard drive doesn't become an overheating problem that manifests in a new hard drive or somewhere else on your system after the hard drive is replaced.

Replacing the hard drive

Now, when it comes to replacing a hard drive, I would say the size doesn't matter.

What you have is a hard drive that is a certain size. You probably have something like 100 or 200 GB hard drive. I would recommend that you get something that is at least that big. In other words if you've got a 100 GB hard drive you'd be safe getting 100 GB or bigger.

That being said, in reality, I haven't found any hard drives in the 10 GB range for a long time. 250 GB seems to be a minimum right now. Hard drives are currently going into the 3 TB range.

Go bigger

I would suggest (based on price and making sure it fits) that you go ahead and get yourself a hard drive that has a bunch more room. This would be the time to do it. If you're going to replace a hard disk this would be the time to do it.

Match interface

The thing you need to realize is that the hard drive needs to have the same interface. In other words, it needs to be IDE or SATA depending on what your computer supports. You'll be able to tell that from the old hard drive.

The old hard drive will either be IDE or SATA and you simply need to make sure that the new one is the same.

Match physical size

The other thing is, literally, the physical size of the drive (if it's 2 ½ to ¾, or whatever.)

Make sure that you're getting a drive that is physically the same size so that it will go into the same slot that the old hard drive was in.

Are you backed up?

What I do want to recommend you do... and I hope you're doing it...

  • Is make sure you're backing up!

Back up early, back up often. There is no substitute for the backup and you're going to need an image backup to replace your hard drive anyway.

Replacing a hard drive

The mechanism for replacing a hard drive that's still functional is to take an image backup of that hard drive. Replace it and then restore that image backup to the new hard drive. That way, you'll get your system working in almost exactly the same configuration that you left it in... except it will have a working hard drive.

There are a couple of articles that I'll point you at.

Article C5435 - June 7, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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11 Comments
Michael Horowitz
June 7, 2012 12:43 PM

113 degrees may or not be too hot for a hard drive. You need to check the specs from the hard drive manufacturer.

Speaking of that, each hard drive vendor also offers free diagnostic software. That should tell you if its too hot and if there are any other problems.

Another thing to do is insure that Windows is configured to spin the hard drive down when it hasn't been used for a few minutes. This is in the Power options in the control panel.

Typo alert: hard drive interface is SATA not SADTA

Mark J
June 7, 2012 1:26 PM

@Michael
Thanks for the heads up on the typo. It's now fixed.

Mary
June 7, 2012 8:07 PM

It might not hurt to run a different utility just to double check what System Mechanic is reporting. I prefer a freebie called Speccy, made by the same folks who make CCleaner.

http://www.piriform.com/speccy

Some utilities will report temperatures as degrees Celcius or centigrade. My Sony Vaio hard drive idles at about 38 degrees and peaks at about 50 degrees depending on how much it's being used. That's a range of 100F - 122F. So 114F doesn't seem excessive. The CPU on the other hand is a different story.

Jonny B
June 8, 2012 9:30 AM

What are you telling this guy to get a 100 gb hard drive when he doesn't do alot on his computer. What is the matter with 20, 40? I have yet to fill up a 40GB hard drive. Note that hard drives run hotter than 113 degrees F. Remember that the body is only 98.6 + 113 is not that much higher than that. Did you ever have a hard drive sitting on your desk as an external drive hookup. These run more than 113?

Snert
June 8, 2012 10:56 AM

As for the interface - there are adapters that might let you use an IDE with an SATA system or vice versa. Your milage may vary.

Alex Dow
June 8, 2012 11:07 AM

After cleanig the fans, vent holes etc, be careful to NOT PUSH them hard up against a wall; or stack books, gear etc up against them.

Gwyn
June 8, 2012 1:44 PM

From the article and the comments it's not clear whether we are talking about degrees fahrenheit or centigrade here. Can we have some clarification please?

Unfortunately it's what I was given, but you raise a good point. As others have pointed out 113F isn't a big deal - 113C on the other hand is an issue. I do believe most drive reports in degrees centigrade, so my *guess* is that it's 113C.
Leo
09-Jun-2012
KRS
June 8, 2012 2:22 PM

I use SpeedFan, recommended by Leo's friend Bob Rankin. It reads the temperatures of various components and lets you speed up fans to help bring tempertures down. It's at .

I have to reset the speed each time I boot, plus clicking through a warning screen. There's supposed to be a way to set the defaults, but I haven't been able to work it out. Perhaps Leo can walk us through both solutions.

KRS
June 8, 2012 2:25 PM

Sorry. SpeedFan is at www [dot] almico [dot] com [slash] speedfan.php

Just Me
June 10, 2012 1:33 PM

It's been my experience with reading the Temps from the smart data published by the HDD is not always accurate in every software:

eg. WD DLG (Western Digital DataLifeGuard) tools says no Temperature problems with my WD disks

but if I run any other tool on the same WD disk
eg. SpinRite or Tools for another HDD Mfg. eg. Seatools which is for Seagate / Maxtor
they will report Temps on the WD HDD that are way out of whack
Seatools, will report a stone cold brand new WD HDD as being over temp immediately after system booting up

so it's best to use the appropriate tools from the HDD Mfg. to get reasonably accurate measurements

Frank
June 23, 2012 5:43 PM

My laptop was overheating to the point that it kept shutting down. Turned out that a slip of paper was blocking the ventilator intake. No air, no cooling!
Additionally, there was heavy accumulation of dust inside the computer, a result of living in the desert. Since cleaning the inside and removing the paper, the computer has been running perfectly. I use CPU Thermometer - a very simple and reliable program - and it reports 50C (113F) most of the time. Question: why is it that Windows 7 was not alerting me to the overheating situation and kept shutting down the computer?

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