My article on the life-expectancy of magnetic signals on hard disks in this month’s newsletter has really touched a nerve!
If you want to read it, we’ve turned it into an article, which you can read here: /articles/hard-disk-warning/
Since that was published, I wanted to share some more information that is relevant to this discussion. First, and most important, hard disks vary. One person wrote saying they lost media after a year. Another wrote to say he checked drives that were eight years old, and they were OK.
The key point is to CHECK YOUR HARD DRIVES! Don’t assume, as I did, that once its on the disk everything is OK.
This article also opened a debate on the shelf-life of hard drives. This, too, is currently impossible to quantify. As one engineer wrote:
The toughest thing to do is to get a disk platter spinning at start-up. In the early days of disk drives, “stiction” prevented many drives from starting up if the power supply was insufficient, or the disk lubricants were more viscous than when originally applied. The modern drives improve the situation immensely — lubricants that are more stable in their use over the entire storage and operating
temperature range; these lubricants are in the bearings and no longer on the disk surface. Heads automatically retract to a safe area off the disk surface when drive is powered down, rather than resting on the surface. Disk material is more “flat and perfect” eliminating the need for any lubricant coating on the surface. All told, the improvements over time require less power and concern for initial disc spin up.
Recording technology and reading technology have significantly improved. Combined with new disk surface material, the disk surfaces are more tolerant of recorded data fading. There are shelf life studies in various journals that track this phenomena. The good news is that drives built over the past several years have made significant improvements. However, no manufacturer has developed an actual spec to define the data retention lifetime.
The narrow point I made was data readability of disk drives used for archives. The simple advice of spinning the drive up on occasion, and refreshing the data touches on only part of the solution. Users will also need to consider what data formats they are reliant on, and the need to migrate their assets as the technology changes over the years.
Here’s my point — as we all are discovering as we move into HD, tapeless media, and file-based editing, what we don’t know can often cripple a project.
Keep asking questions — test your ENTRE workflow — and keep in mind what I taught my daughter as she was learning to drive: “Remember, drive as though everyone was out to get you.”
Let me know what you think.
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