Interesting bit of computer hard-drive trivia if you're planning a trip to a high-altitude country...

tonydca

Member
You learn something every day.

For anyone taking a computer/laptop with them on the road - if it has an old-school mechanical hard-drive with heads, read-write arms and spinning disks, you might want to give this article a quick read:


In a nutshell, you may already know that the read/write mechanism inside the hard drive floats above the spinning disks on an infinitesimally-thin layer of air.

Apparently, above 10,000 feet (3,000 m), the air becomes thin enough to the point that the heads can actually start crashing into the disks and corrupting/ruining your hard drive.

If this is (or will be) you, you might want to consider upgrading to a solid-state disk (SSD) which has no internal moving parts and does not suffer from these problems.
 

BagiMT

Naturalist
Given how many people use hard drives in high elevation cities in the Andes and Himalayas I think the issue is more theoretically than practical, at least up to 4000-5000 m.

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alanymarce

Well-known member
Given how many people use hard drives in high elevation cities in the Andes and Himalayas I think the issue is more theoretically than practical, at least up to 4000-5000 m.

Sent from my HTC 10 using Tapatalk
It's true that lots of people use laptops/HDs in high altitude cities, however the unknown is the frequency of damage in these cities. When our laptop failed in Bolivia, after having travelled many Km above 4000m and some over 5000m, we found a specialist who repaired it, and who told us that most people didn't know that the specifications stated clearly that the altitude limit was 3000m.
 

roving1

Well-known member
My experience with HD failure while traveling is that almost always it is someone with a Mac and that they fail with much more regularity than your average budget PC in a traveling environment. Running hot all the time and running even hotter in thin air probably does not help things either.

I doubt altitude even winds up being a factor though. Vibration and moisture, besides just being a Mac lol, gotta be way up the list compared to altitude damage.
 

Rando

Explorer
I ran into this building instrumentation for high altitude aircraft (altitudes above 20km/70,000'). Spinning disks would last a flight or two. Ended up needing to use solid state drives, which were incredibly expensive at the time, or a pressure vessel for the drive, also incredibly expensive. Once Compact Flash cards were up to 100's of MB, the problem was solved. We could use spinning disks on flights up to about 5 - 6000m with no issues, so it is really not an issue a casual user will encounter.
 
It's true that lots of people use laptops/HDs in high altitude cities, however the unknown is the frequency of damage in these cities. When our laptop failed in Bolivia, after having travelled many Km above 4000m and some over 5000m, we found a specialist who repaired it, and who told us that most people didn't know that the specifications stated clearly that the altitude limit was 3000m.
I wonder if they use 3000m because commercial airliners maintain an internal air pressure around 2400m.
 
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