External Hard Drive,OK to leave running?

  dangerusone 00:17 19 Aug 2010

I have two external hard drives (both with power units) a Freecom 40GB and a Medion 320GB from Aldi.
I was running the Medion today for quite a while longer than I usually do and it seemed to get quite warm. Are these drives designed to run while the computer is on or should they be switched off when not in use, as I am doing at the present time.
In short would I damage them if I left them running hours?

  G4V1N 00:27 19 Aug 2010

This may damage them.. but it will take time.

i have a external and this came in a caddy with no fan in the back .. and it ran hot.. so i took it out of the caddy knowing that the warrenty had ran out on it

this seemed too cool it down a lot as there was air running thorugh it..

hope this helps


  [email protected] 01:50 19 Aug 2010

swings and roundabouts, they rate most motherboards and hard drives life spans on power on and spin up counts. this is when they are most stressed. both mine run at 46c twice the temp of my internal drives.
one has been on for 3 years the other 5 years.
check the temps are within manufactures guidelines.

  gazzaho 06:52 19 Aug 2010

As adman 2 says swings and roundabouts, I myself leave my drives on. The Western digital "My Book" drive powers off along with the system but two other drives, which came originally from Freecom Classic 250GB drives are now housed in Icybox enclosures stay on and do generate a fair amount of heat, work perfectly.

Both the Freecom drives failed, either through power supply problems or drive controllers but the drives themselves still work fine.

  Muergo 07:08 19 Aug 2010

All electronics last longer when kept on continuously but at a steady state temperature, as adman has said the shock and surge of turning on is more detrimental to all components.

When electronics are off, and this applies to motors as well, the resistance is low and the capacitors are discharged, then on startup a big current flows transiently through the circuits until they reach a steady state, charged up and running, as the temperature rises, so the resistance rises and the current reduces massively.

This is the case for leaving televisions and similar on standby, the turn on shock is minimal.

Electric motors at rest take a large current on starting but speed up rapidly, generating a back current which reduces the power flow to a minimum at top speed.
Small motors are not protected from this, when you move up to large traction motors as in say, Underground trains, the click click noise on starting is resistance banks coming out as it speeds up, if full current were applied from rest it would burn out straight away.

So it's heat that kills electronics, not uage.

  Nontek 07:56 19 Aug 2010

I leave both my external powered drives on all the time PC is on, have been doing so for years without problems.

  dangerusone 08:28 19 Aug 2010

Many thanks for all the replies, I think I will give it a go and leave them running when my computer is switched on.
I will monitor the temperatures first as adman2 suggested.

  Muergo 11:08 19 Aug 2010

I leave my PC on 24/7 unless I am going away for weeks, I reboot it every couple of days just for a refresh, it keeps the room warm! and with the illuminated keyboard I don't need to turn my room light on.

But it is used for multimedia, I have radio, Spotify, TV ,Listen again all day and night feeding the Sony amplifiers surround sound in my bedroom/ living/ den whatever, my wife allows me one big room which is only entered by the family at their peril!!!

Also fridge , en suite mini bathroom, communications hub.
Must upgrade electricity supply soon. Watt oh?

  skeletal 12:12 19 Aug 2010

The debate on whether or not to leave things powered up has gone on for years.

Any moving parts (e.g. conventional disc drives) will suffer from some wear due to friction, although modern materials and lubricants reduce this wear considerably.

Semiconductors (transistors, microprocessors etc.), will have imperfections that can be influenced by temperature and even cosmic rays (they can generate changes that can lead to failure).

When the chip is placed into its plastic case, the seal around the legs of the chip is not perfect. Over time, and temperature cycling, minute impurities can work their way between the leg and plastic and into the chip area itself.

Any minute chemical process that may start as a result of any of the above will speed up as temperature increases; eventually the changes may cause the device to fail.

Other components suffer as well. One of the most common is the “drying out” of some types of electrolytic capacitor, again this effect will increase with temperature.

The “switch-on” effect is debatable. It depends so much on the equipment.

There is no doubt that in the case of a stationary large industrial motor, without suitable precautions, there is so much current drawn it would suffer burnt out windings within seconds of power being applied.

Leaving motors aside, the switch-on surge for most electronics is not due to low resistance of the circuits, or absence of a motor’s back emf, but rather the smoothing capacitors in power supplies. They start off “empty” and take a large charging current (through other components such as diodes) until they are “full”.

Due to minute irregularities in the structure of diodes (etc.) some areas will pass more current than others. These areas may therefore become hotter than their surroundings setting off degradations as per my earlier comments. Eventually they will fail.

Typically the electrical resistance of components based on metallic compounds goes UP with an increase in temperature, but the electrical resistance of components based on semiconductors goes DOWN with an increase in temperature. In the case of transistors this can lead to “thermal run-away”. The transistor get hot, the resistance drops, so more current flows, so it gets hotter until it fails.

Every problem mentioned can be, largely, accommodated by the design of the equipment. One problem is that manufacturers, consistently, design down to a price; a slightly more expensive solution would invariable lead to a longer life.

Also, don’t forget that leaving stuff switched on is extremely wasteful. Although I’m cynical about killing polar bears as I drive down the road (etc etc), I am very conscious we should do our best to reduce our usage of energy.

So, what to do? Because we don’t know how well the equipment has been designed (but can assume it won’t be optimised for ultra-long life), it probably will be affected by switch-on, but it will also be affected by continually being left on (because it will be hotter). So, don’t leave things on 24/7, but don’t switch them on and off for a few minutes at a time. I would never leave our TV on standby, but I don’t switch it on and off every five minutes either. I leave my external drives off for a day or two when not in use then turn them on typically for around half a day; then turn off everything for the night.

Overall, if only considering reliability, your actions should be governed by how much you use equipment as the arguments are so finely balanced. To cut down energy usage, tend towards turning things off when not in use.


  woodchip 12:23 19 Aug 2010

I turn my Ex hard drives of as they would be running months without use. So as I sad if they are used all the time it may be a good idea to leave them running, but like my Car if i was in a Traffic jam for a while I would not leave the engine running. Tested a Kia Estate other day, it as Stop Start Where when you take the care out of gear and release the clutch the engine stop press the clutch down and it starts, adds 12% to fuel economy

  woodchip 12:34 19 Aug 2010

Car not Care

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