Hard drives are hermetically sealed

Discussion in 'Computer Hardware' started by Timothy Daniels, Feb 27, 2004.

  1. Just for the record:

    http://www.tbwt.com/interaction/pcparts/html/1a.htm
    "... If smoke, dust or hair got trapped between the head and the platter, the
    hard drive would be ruined. That is why the hard drive is hermetically sealed
    against dust, smoke and moisture."

    http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/vol_4/chpt_15/6.html
    "If the hermetically-sealed environment inside a hard disk drive is contaminated
    with outside air, the hard drive will be rendered useless. Dust will lodge
    between the heads and the platters, causing damage to the surface of the media."

    http://www.atarimagazines.com/startv3n4/stcare.html
    "Finally, never, ever open up your hard disk to clean its heads. Hard drives are
    hermetically sealed and need no head cleaning"

    http://www.wsd1.org/kelvin/Departments/teched/TUTORIAL/harddrv.htm
    "The container is open in this illustration; however, it is normally
    hermetically sealed to keep out dust."

    http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag...ww.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/art98/hdrive.html
    "The very close working tolerances is partly why the hard drive has to be
    hermetically sealed, as tiny dust particles or any hint of condensation would
    interfere with its reliable operation. When I dismantled the drive there was a
    small woven pad enclosed, possibly a drying agent, to remove last traces of
    moisture."


    *TimDaniels
     
    Timothy Daniels, Feb 27, 2004
    #1
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  2. Timothy Daniels

    Alien Zord Guest

    "Timothy Daniels" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > Just for the record:
    >
    > http://www.tbwt.com/interaction/pcparts/html/1a.htm
    > http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/vol_4/chpt_15/6.html
    > http://www.atarimagazines.com/startv3n4/stcare.html
    > http://www.wsd1.org/kelvin/Departments/teched/TUTORIAL/harddrv.htm
    >

    http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag...ww.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/art98/hdrive.html
    >
    > *TimDaniels
    >
    >

    No they are NOT! They are sealed against dust but they do have filtered
    breathing holes to allow air inside to expand and contract with temperature
    and atmospheric pressure. Over the years I've dismantled many failed drives
    and saw the filters and breathing holes for myself. Some drives even have
    warning labels on the outside showing where the hole is and warning not to
    cover it (Hitachi DK23FB notebook drive and I've seen others).

    Internet is a wonderful medium for gathering information but do not always
    believe everything you read because there are frequently errors,
    inaccuracies and sometimes utter rubbish too.
     
    Alien Zord, Feb 27, 2004
    #2
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  3. Timothy Daniels

    kony Guest

    On Fri, 27 Feb 2004 14:01:12 -0000, "Alien Zord"
    <> wrote:

    >"Timothy Daniels" <> wrote in message
    >news:...
    >> Just for the record:
    >>
    >> http://www.tbwt.com/interaction/pcparts/html/1a.htm
    >> http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/vol_4/chpt_15/6.html
    >> http://www.atarimagazines.com/startv3n4/stcare.html
    >> http://www.wsd1.org/kelvin/Departments/teched/TUTORIAL/harddrv.htm
    >>

    >http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag...ww.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/art98/hdrive.html
    >>
    >> *TimDaniels
    >>
    >>

    >No they are NOT! They are sealed against dust but they do have filtered
    >breathing holes to allow air inside to expand and contract with temperature
    >and atmospheric pressure. Over the years I've dismantled many failed drives
    >and saw the filters and breathing holes for myself. Some drives even have
    >warning labels on the outside showing where the hole is and warning not to
    >cover it (Hitachi DK23FB notebook drive and I've seen others).
    >
    >Internet is a wonderful medium for gathering information but do not always
    >believe everything you read because there are frequently errors,
    >inaccuracies and sometimes utter rubbish too.
    >


    I too have dismantled many drives, and saw those filters & holes.
    However, some of the more recent drives I've opened, did not have any
    filter or vent I could find.
     
    kony, Feb 27, 2004
    #3
  4. Timothy Daniels

    Alien Zord Guest

    "kony" <> wrote in message
    news:p...
    > On Fri, 27 Feb 2004 14:01:12 -0000, "Alien Zord"
    > <> wrote:
    >
    > >"Timothy Daniels" <> wrote in message
    > >news:...
    > >> Just for the record:
    > >>
    > >> http://www.tbwt.com/interaction/pcparts/html/1a.htm
    > >> http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/vol_4/chpt_15/6.html
    > >> http://www.atarimagazines.com/startv3n4/stcare.html
    > >> http://www.wsd1.org/kelvin/Departments/teched/TUTORIAL/harddrv.htm
    > >>

    >
    >http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/indexmag.html?http://www.microscopy-uk.

    org.uk/mag/art98/hdrive.html
    > >>
    > >> *TimDaniels
    > >>
    > >>

    > >No they are NOT! They are sealed against dust but they do have filtered
    > >breathing holes to allow air inside to expand and contract with

    temperature
    > >and atmospheric pressure. Over the years I've dismantled many failed

    drives
    > >and saw the filters and breathing holes for myself. Some drives even have
    > >warning labels on the outside showing where the hole is and warning not

    to
    > >cover it (Hitachi DK23FB notebook drive and I've seen others).
    > >
    > >Internet is a wonderful medium for gathering information but do not

    always
    > >believe everything you read because there are frequently errors,
    > >inaccuracies and sometimes utter rubbish too.
    > >

    >
    > I too have dismantled many drives, and saw those filters & holes.
    > However, some of the more recent drives I've opened, did not have any
    > filter or vent I could find.
    >
    >

    Neither could I on some of them but then I came across this Seagate patent:
    "Breather vent assembly formed in a sealed disk drive housing"
    http://www.priorartdatabase.com/IPCOM/000001062/

    Also for more interesting reading just type
    hard+disk+drive+air+vent
    into Google.
     
    Alien Zord, Feb 27, 2004
    #4
  5. Timothy Daniels

    Noozer Guest

    "Timothy Daniels" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > Just for the record:
    >
    > http://www.tbwt.com/interaction/pcparts/html/1a.htm
    > "... If smoke, dust or hair got trapped between the head and the platter,

    the
    > hard drive would be ruined. That is why the hard drive is hermetically

    sealed
    > against dust, smoke and moisture."


    Wrong... Some drives may be sealed, but not all!!!

    I'm looking at a drive right now with a hole that specifically says DO NOT
    COVER!
     
    Noozer, Feb 27, 2004
    #5
  6. "Alien Zord" shared:
    > "kony" wrote:
    > > I too have dismantled many drives, and saw those filters & holes.
    > > However, some of the more recent drives I've opened, did not
    > > have any filter or vent I could find.
    > >
    > >

    > Neither could I on some of them but then I came across this
    > Seagate patent:
    > "Breather vent assembly formed in a sealed disk drive housing"
    > http://www.priorartdatabase.com/IPCOM/000001062/



    Evidently, Seagate thought it was worth patenting, and the
    patent office granted it in June of 1992, but did they or anyone
    else ever use it?

    I called Maxtor and spoke to their senior tech support supervisor,
    asking if Maxtor currently makes a HD with a vent hole that would
    allow at least equilization of air pressure between the platter chamber
    and the environment. He said no, but that he recalls one a vent hole
    that allowed air to get behind the circuit board for cooling. He stressed
    that the HDs are assembled inside a class 10 clean room and that
    even a smoke particle would be a problem for a HD, much less
    condensation. The following link is to Maxtor's tech manual for their
    DiamondMax Plus 9 line of HDs, which you may find interesting,
    but I couldn't find any mention of a vent hole or hermetic seal:
    http://maxtor.com/en/documentation/manuals/diamondmax_plus_9_manual.pdf

    *TimDaniels*
     
    Timothy Daniels, Feb 27, 2004
    #6
  7. "Noozer" wrote:
    >
    > I'm looking at a drive right now with a hole that specifically
    > says DO NOT COVER!



    So? That hole may not go through to the platter chamber
    but merely ventilate the back of the circuit board. Would
    you care to give the make and model no. of that hard drive?

    *TimDaniels*
     
    Timothy Daniels, Feb 27, 2004
    #7
  8. "Alien Zord" <> wrote in message news:<c1nnma$1js331$-berlin.de>...

    > "kony" <> wrote in message
    > news:p...


    > > I too have dismantled many drives, and saw those filters &
    > > holes. However, some of the more recent drives I've opened,
    > > did not have any filter or vent I could find.


    > Neither could I on some of them but then I came across this
    > Seagate patent:
    > "Breather vent assembly formed in a sealed disk drive housing"
    > http://www.priorartdatabase.com/IPCOM/000001062/
    >
    > Also for more interesting reading just type
    > hard+disk+drive+air+vent
    > into Google.


    So the vent can be a groove molded or machined into the casting?

    If there wasn't any vent, could the liquid magnetic shaft seal blow
    out? Are liquid magnetic seals still even used in hard drives?
     
    R. Anton Rave, Feb 29, 2004
    #8
  9. Timothy Daniels

    jamarno Guest

    "Timothy Daniels" <> wrote in message news:<>...

    > I called Maxtor and spoke to their senior tech support
    >supervisor, asking if Maxtor currently makes a HD with a
    >vent hole that would allow at least equilization of air
    >pressure between the platter chamber and the environment.
    >He said no, but that he recalls one a vent hole that
    >allowed air to get behind the circuit board for cooling.


    What were his qualifications? Most tech support people simply
    memorize a very basic training manual and have no understanding of its
    contents and unwittingly give out completely wrong information at
    times. For example I once spoke with a Panasonic monitor "technician"
    who didn't even know about convergence - "I don't know what
    convergence are." (sic), yet he was described by his manager as being
    one of the best "technicians." Another time I called CTX, another
    monitor maker but one that had been known for staffing its tech
    support with real technicians, to ask about what changes should be
    made when the horizontal output transistor was replaced (CTX had
    issued a bulletin about them), and a person who proudly referred to
    herself as a "technician" was clueless about this, and when I doubted
    her qualifications she pouted, "What makes you think that I'm not a
    technician?" It turned out that CTX had laid off all the real
    technicians from tech support.

    >He stressed that the HDs are assembled inside a class 10
    >clean room and that even a smoke particle would be a problem
    >for a HD, much less condensation.


    It's common for manual memorizers to embelish their words with
    irrelevant facts like that. I once asked Maxtor about their motor and
    voice coil driver chips running at 70 deg. Celcius. The tech support
    person said that it was exceeding the maximum allowed 55C and wanted
    to replace the drive, proof that he cared about customers but didn't
    understand the difference between maximum allowed ambient temperature
    and maximum allowed device temperature. I had to speak to 3 people
    before someone seemed to know about the chips themselves.
     
    jamarno, Feb 29, 2004
    #9
  10. "jamarno" wrote:
    > "Timothy Daniels" wrote:
    >
    > > I called Maxtor and spoke to their senior tech support
    > >supervisor...

    > What were his qualifications? Most tech support people simply
    > memorize a very basic training manual...



    In view of the qualifications presented on Usenet or the Web,
    how could his have been any worse? He said he was a direct
    employee of Maxtor, had access to the engineering department
    to ask questions, and that he had been around the longest
    among the tech support personnel. Admittedly, he may not
    know proprietary information, and if he did, he wouldn't
    divulge it if it would harm his employer, but who else here has
    presented anyone as a more convincing authority? As for
    an hermetic seal being possible, why not? I'd think that
    14.5 lbs/sq. in. is pretty easy pressure to seal against given
    the casting and there being no need for shaft seals. In most
    situations, the inside pressure and the outside pressure would
    be nearly equal. And just think about it - why would there be
    any need for pressure equalization at all?

    *TimDaniels*
     
    Timothy Daniels, Mar 1, 2004
    #10
  11. Timothy Daniels

    kony Guest

    On Sun, 29 Feb 2004 17:00:48 -0800, "Timothy Daniels"
    <> wrote:


    > In view of the qualifications presented on Usenet or the Web,
    > how could his have been any worse? He said he was a direct
    > employee of Maxtor, had access to the engineering department
    > to ask questions, and that he had been around the longest
    > among the tech support personnel. Admittedly, he may not
    > know proprietary information, and if he did, he wouldn't
    > divulge it if it would harm his employer, but who else here has
    > presented anyone as a more convincing authority?


    One would hope a maxtor employee has accurate info, and futher that the
    tech conveys this accurate info instead of pulling something out of the
    ass.

    On the other hand, consider phone tech support personnel for what they
    are- entry level employees. They may be brillant at (something) but if it
    were hard drives you'd think maxtor would have them doing something more
    useful than talking to end-users.


    > As for
    > an hermetic seal being possible, why not? I'd think that
    > 14.5 lbs/sq. in. is pretty easy pressure to seal against given
    > the casting and there being no need for shaft seals.


    Irrelevant. The bearing IS sealed.

    > In most
    > situations, the inside pressure and the outside pressure would
    > be nearly equal.


    No, they'll never be equal unless the drive is at room temp, OR if it has
    a vent.


    > And just think about it - why would there be
    > any need for pressure equalization at all?


    Now you're trying to both oversimplify and outguess the engineers, who
    obvously did think there was a need for pressure equalization since drives
    have had them. Clearly the air pressure can affect the heigh of the head
    over the platters... the only remaining question is whether drives are now
    engineered to overcome a pressure difference without that vent (which it
    apears likely), and if so, how?
     
    kony, Mar 1, 2004
    #11
  12. "kony" wrote:
    > > As for
    > > an hermetic seal being possible, why not? I'd think that
    > > 14.5 lbs/sq. in. is pretty easy pressure to seal against given
    > > the casting and there being no need for shaft seals.

    >
    > Irrelevant. The bearing IS sealed.



    Therefore, there is no need for any motion to be communicated
    between inside and outside. All communication can be
    electrical - for both power and information. Why would there
    be a need for a vent hole on current hard drives?


    > > In most situations, the inside pressure and the outside
    > > pressure would be nearly equal.

    >
    > No, they'll never be equal unless the drive is at room temp,
    > OR if it has a vent.



    Play it again, Sam: "In most situations.... .... be nearly equal".
    Most situations would involve room temp, right?
    And what you mean is "temp of the room at the time of assembly".

    But I ask again, why does the pressure inside have to equal
    the ambient pressure?


    > > And just think about it - why would there be
    > > any need for pressure equalization at all?

    >
    > Now you're trying to both oversimplify and outguess the engineers,
    > who obvously did think there was a need for pressure equalization
    > since drives have had them.



    Is it really more complex than I envision? If so, how do you know?
    Maybe drive casings were larger and more flexible in the old days.


    > Clearly the air pressure can affect the heigh of the head over the platters...



    Good point! Maybe that's why Maxtor HDs are hermetically sealed -
    to maintain the internal air pressure, that is, to keep in enough air
    so the heads can be held off the platter - i.e. "fly".


    > the only remaining question is whether drives are now
    > engineered to overcome a pressure difference without that vent
    > (which it apears likely), and if so, how?



    By having a small internal volume and a rigid casing.

    *TimDaniels*
     
    Timothy Daniels, Mar 1, 2004
    #12
  13. Timothy Daniels

    kony Guest

    On Sun, 29 Feb 2004 18:13:55 -0800, "Timothy Daniels"
    <> wrote:


    > Play it again, Sam: "In most situations.... .... be nearly equal".
    > Most situations would involve room temp, right?
    > And what you mean is "temp of the room at the time of assembly".


    Most situations would not involve room temp, to the extent that the air
    inside the hard drive will not be at that temp.

    I did not mean "temp of the room at time of assembly", and while they
    could try to estimate the operational temp of the air inside the drive, it
    could not be considered a constant.

    > But I ask again, why does the pressure inside have to equal
    > the ambient pressure?


    It doesn't, but can you not see why it might need to remain constant even
    though the drive temp changes from cold/off to warm/on?



    > Is it really more complex than I envision? If so, how do you know?
    > Maybe drive casings were larger and more flexible in the old days.
    >
    >
    >> Clearly the air pressure can affect the heigh of the head over the platters...

    >
    >
    > Good point! Maybe that's why Maxtor HDs are hermetically sealed -
    > to maintain the internal air pressure, that is, to keep in enough air
    > so the heads can be held off the platter - i.e. "fly".


    No, you're getting it backwards. The head height would be calibrated,
    would be at a precise height at a certain air pressure. That air pressue
    will change in a sealed drive when it heats or cools, and thus the head
    height, distance from the platter, might be (apparently was) expected to
    change.

    The issue is then, how to counteract that mechanically or electronically.

    >
    >
    >> the only remaining question is whether drives are now
    >> engineered to overcome a pressure difference without that vent
    >> (which it apears likely), and if so, how?

    >
    >
    > By having a small internal volume and a rigid casing.


    No.
     
    kony, Mar 1, 2004
    #13
  14. "kony" wrote:
    > "Timothy Daniels" wrote:
    > > But I ask again, why does the pressure inside
    > > have to equal the ambient pressure?

    >
    > It doesn't, but can you not see why it might need to
    > remain constant even though the drive temp changes
    > from cold/off to warm/on?



    No, it's the density that has to remain a constant
    to provide a constant "flyability" for the heads.
    Any pilot knows that it's *density* of the air that
    gives the wings their lift and the prop its thrust,
    and that temperature and pressure effects have
    their primary aerodynamic significance in their
    effects on air density (and to lesser extents, on
    air viscosity and drag). Remember that wings
    don't care how much pressure there is all around
    them, but they *do* react to the pressure
    *differential* created by air flow to give them lift.
    And the effects of air flow are a function of the
    air's density.


    > >> Clearly the air pressure can affect the heigh of the head
    > >> over the platters...

    > >
    > > Good point! Maybe that's why Maxtor HDs are hermetically
    > > sealed - to maintain the internal air pressure, that is, to keep
    > > in enough air so the heads can be held off the platter - i.e. "fly".

    >
    > No, you're getting it backwards. The head height would be calibrated,
    > would be at a precise height at a certain air pressure.



    We both got it backwards. It's not pressure that's important,
    it's air *density*, and a sealed platter chamber would provide
    the constant density for a controlled head "altitude" above the
    platter. And this density would be maintained by a rigid case.
    Take a look at a modern hard drive. Notice the webbing
    around the motor "can"? It provides stiffness and strength to
    keep the chamber from flexing in or out. If air were allowed to
    flow into and out of the chamber, such rigidity wouldn't be
    needed. But given a constant volume and a constant mass
    afforded by sealing and riditity, the air will have a constant
    *density*.

    *TimDaniels*
     
    Timothy Daniels, Mar 1, 2004
    #14
  15. Timothy Daniels

    kony Guest

    On Sun, 29 Feb 2004 21:13:47 -0800, "Timothy Daniels"
    <> wrote:


    > We both got it backwards. It's not pressure that's important,
    > it's air *density*, and a sealed platter chamber would provide
    > the constant density for a controlled head "altitude" above the
    > platter. And this density would be maintained by a rigid case.
    > Take a look at a modern hard drive. Notice the webbing
    > around the motor "can"? It provides stiffness and strength to
    > keep the chamber from flexing in or out. If air were allowed to
    > flow into and out of the chamber, such rigidity wouldn't be
    > needed. But given a constant volume and a constant mass
    > afforded by sealing and riditity, the air will have a constant
    > *density*.


    Then why did/do some drives have the air vents?

    You're right that the air density is an issue, but not the issue you're
    claiming. When a drive casing heats up, it expands, and the internal
    volume of that casing increases, moreso when the drive is very rigid.
    Rigidity would have a negative effect in this regard, but still important
    since it houses rapidly moving mechanisms.

    If it's flexible, perhaps the TOP of the drive, then it can flex inward
    to counteract that frame expansion and retain the density, except that I
    don't know if it's THAT flexible, and the heating of the air increases the
    pressure against that top panel if the drive is sealed. The pressure
    would increase but the density may drop. Perhaps this is countered by
    a precision machining that results in a precise internal volume, a
    machining that wasn't cost-effective prior to a technological advance.
    Possibly those thin metallic stickers on the drive(s) are flexing enough
    to get the density to the needed level.

    The "webbing' around the bottom is simply a structural support for the
    bearing.
     
    kony, Mar 1, 2004
    #15
  16. "kony" wrote:
    >
    > Then why did/do some drives have the air vents?



    I don't know. But I suspect that the allowed
    operational environment was more restrictive (i.e. not
    as high as 10,000 feet as Maxtor currently allows).

    *TimDaniels*
     
    Timothy Daniels, Mar 1, 2004
    #16
  17. "Timothy Daniels" <> wrote in message news:<>...

    > It's not pressure that's important, it's air *density*, and
    > a sealed platter chamber would provide the constant density
    > for a controlled head "altitude" above the platter. And
    > this density would be maintained by a rigid case. Take a
    > look at a modern hard drive. Notice the webbing around the
    > motor "can"? It provides stiffness and strength to keep the
    > chamber from flexing in or out. If air were allowed to flow
    > into and out of the chamber, such rigidity wouldn't be needed.
    > But given a constant volume and a constant mass afforded by
    > sealing and riditity, the air will have a constant *density*.


    I'd think that the thin steel cover on top would flex far more than
    the aluminum casting, and changes in temperature would cause greater
    changes in air density than any flexing would. My guess is that drive
    castings are made rigid simply to reduce acoustical resonances and
    reduce vibration during head seeks that would require longer settling
    times before the track can be read or written.

    While I'm hardly an authority, I know of only one case where lack of
    body rigidity caused problems, and that was with the old 5.25" Seagate
    ST-225/238 drives, where overly long mounting screw pressing against
    the domed cast aluminum top could bend it enough to upset the
    alignment between the platters and the head arms pivot enough to cause
    the index track to be erased during low level formatting. This drive
    positioned its heads with a stepper motor and no servo, unless you
    include the outer index track that was read during head
    recalibrations, and I believe Seagate tried to further reduce flexing
    by putting a plastic washer under one of the circuit board mounting
    screws.
     
    do_not_spam_me, Mar 2, 2004
    #17
  18. "Timothy Daniels" <> wrote in message news:<>...

    > "kony" wrote:
    > >
    > > Then why did/do some drives have the air vents?


    > I don't know. But I suspect that the allowed
    > operational environment was more restrictive (i.e. not
    > as high as 10,000 feet as Maxtor currently allows).


    The old Western Digital drives that were vented to the atmosphere were
    rated for operation from -1,000 to +10,000 feet.
     
    do_not_spam_me, Mar 2, 2004
    #18
  19. Timothy Daniels

    Manny Guest

    "Timothy Daniels" <> wrote in message news:<>...
    > "Noozer" wrote:
    > >
    > > I'm looking at a drive right now with a hole that
    > > specifically says DO NOT COVER!


    > So? That hole may not go through to the platter chamber
    > but merely ventilate the back of the circuit board.


    Why do you need a hole in the aluminum to ventilate
    the PCB? They're not sealed to one another, and any
    additional ventilation could simply be molded into
    the aluminum or better yet, holes could be drilled
    in the PCB.
     
    Manny, Mar 4, 2004
    #19
  20. "Manny" wrote:
    > "Timothy Daniels" wrote:
    > > "Noozer" wrote:
    > > >
    > > > I'm looking at a drive right now with a hole that
    > > > specifically says DO NOT COVER!

    >
    > > So? That hole may not go through to the platter chamber
    > > but merely ventilate the back of the circuit board.

    >
    > Why do you need a hole in the aluminum to ventilate
    > the PCB? They're not sealed to one another, and any
    > additional ventilation could simply be molded into
    > the aluminum or better yet, holes could be drilled
    > in the PCB.


    I have no idea. It was merely a theory offerred by
    a Maxtor support tech to explain such a hole which he
    had seen in older hard drives (which Maxtor no longer
    makes). His term was "ventilation" of the back of the
    PCB. Perhaps it was to allow component cooling or
    release of air heated by hot components on the board.

    *TimDaniels*
     
    Timothy Daniels, Mar 4, 2004
    #20
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