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Google’s hard disk study shows temperature is not as important as once thought


When building computers, I’ve been through this situation many times; I was always concerned about heat. I would generally find a way to mount the HD vertically, and usually end up installing a fan right next to it. Now, Google is telling me it was a waste of time. People believe in HD temperature; some even go as far as to put their HD in a freezer overnight for one last attempt at recovering files off their crashed drive.

Over the last 5 years, Google has been examining thousands of hard drives in an effort to determine why hard drives fail; yet, surprisingly the hard drive’s heat doesn’t seem to play an important role in keeping your drive alive.

Presented at a storage conference last week, Google’s authors of the paper, Eduardo Pinheiro, Wolf-Dietrich Weber and Luiz Andre Barroso, indicated that hard drives are not as susceptible to high temperatures as once thought.

The authors did not release the sample size of the drives, but said that the study covered at least five years, using drives from several manufacturers and with different capacities.

“One of our key findings has been the lack of a consistent pattern of higher failure rates for higher temperature drives or for those drives at higher utilization levels,” the paper concluded. “Such correlations have been repeatedly highlighted by previous studies, but we are unable to confirm them by observing our population. Although our data do not allow us to conclude that there is no such correlation, it provides strong evidence to suggest that other effects may be more prominent in affecting disk drive reliability in the context of a professionally managed data center deployment.”

The study did show, however, that new hard drives (typically within their first 6 months) were more sensitive to temperature, but after the initial break-in, temperature related failure rates remained balanced until the drive reached the 3 year old mark.

On a surprising note, the study concluded that there was a clear trend showing lower temperatures (around 68 Fahrenheit) did increase failure rates.

This article originally appeared in on February 20, 2007.