Hard Disks (in Apple Computers)
Disks Will (Likely) Fail…Eventually
I’ve been repairing and upgrading computers for years now and one thing I do a lot is replace the internal hard disk. It could be for any number of reasons: the laptop was dropped and the disk is damaged, the disk is getting full, the disk is simply old (4+ years) and showing signs of deterioration.
Deterioration of older disks is not uncommon. It might happen after 2-3 years. It might not happen for 5-6 years. But, with a high degree of probability, it will happen. The reason is because a hard disk is a mechanical device, with a metal platter (or platters) that spin at least 5400 rpm. Whenever the computer is on and actively being used, the disk is spinning, spinning, spinning. Over time, it will take its toll.
After I’d done this for a few years, I had a stack of old hard disks, so I decided to group them by brand. There are roughly six manufacturers of hard disks: Hitachi/IBM, Fujitsu, Samsung, Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital. And, while not at all scientific, what I found was pretty interesting.
Brands: Good, Worse, Worst
By a factor of 4 or 5, I had replaced significantly more Hitachi and Fujitsu disks than any other brand. Toshiba disks were also a significantly sized group, but only 2-3 times more than the other three brands. I had far fewer Samsung, Seagate, and Western Digital disks that I had replaced.
Now, when I visit a client I always check the brand of the disk and I tell them what I’ve experienced and, especially if their computer’s disk is made by Fujuitsu, Hitachi or Toshiba, I make sure they are backing up their computer’s data regularly, preferably with something like Apple’s Time Machine.
Disks in Apple Computers
But, the most surprising thing about my little study was that many of the bad disks came from Apple computers. As much as I like Apple computers, as much as I think they are excellent computers (hardware and software), I’m quite disappointed that they use inferior hard disks. What’s worse, I’ve had several cases of clients with Apple computers who took their computer to the Apple store to deal with disk issues and they always replace a bad disk with a refurbished one by the same brand. Invariably, these don’t last very long.
What Do I Have?
There are numerous ways to find out what brand hard disk you have.
With Mac OS X, use Disk Utility. When you select a disk, you’ll see the Disk Description near the bottom of the screen.
With Windows, you can use programs such as Speccy, or Disk Management (Start > Run… > diskmgmt.msc > select a disk > Right-click > Properties).
Once you have information for the disk displayed, you need to look at the Disk Description or Disk ID. You’ll see letters and numbers, but usually the first few letters will be the brand.
WDC is Western Digital. HTS is Hitachi. ST is Seagate. Fujitsu, Samsung and Toshiba appear to use their full name.
The Good News
Replacing a hard disk is not terribly expensive, if your computer is relatively modern. You see, hard disks have what’s called an interface, which is how it is connected to the computer itself. For the last decade (?), SATA has been the common interface. This was preceded by IDE.
SATA is still quite common and is readily available in computer stores; IDE is being phased out of stores, but can still be found online at places like Amazon or NewEgg.
If your computer is taking forever to startup or to launch programs, or you get spinning wheels of death, or you dropped the laptop and it won’t start, or if your disk is just getting full – consider replacing your internal hard disk. Chances are excellent that you can replace it with a bigger one (laptops go to 1 TB now, desktops can have 3 TB) to have more room for your photos, music, videos, downloads, etc.