Do you let your laptop run when you’re on the move? If so, you might possibly be damaging your drive or overheating your CPU. The traveling gearheads at Stack Exchange chime in.
How safe is it to leave my laptop running a time-consuming task when I am traveling with it? I mostly travel on a two-wheeler, with my laptop in a backpack, strapped vertically to my back.
I have heard that damage can occur if the hard disk’s spinning platter comes in contact with the drive head. Do contemporary hard drives have that problem or is it an old hacker’s tale?
See the original question here.
Be Careful (Answered by Journeyman Geek)
In general, it’s not a good idea to leave your laptop running while you’re carrying it.
Hard drives with active protection systems will park the head if suddenly shocked (and these are more common than they used to be), and solid state drives are nearly insensitive to shock. There is more one type of implementation of this preventative system, so you’ll need to check your hard drive model to be sure.
That said, your system will likely cook in a closed bag—especially when running an processor-heavy task like building files. Its also probably not healthy for your cooling system, and your overheating system may shut down.
The Orientation Matters (Answered by LMSingh)
The orientation of hard drive was historically considered important. You would think that the drive orientation might not matter, with devices like the old iPod having their hard drives spinning all the time.
However, from personal experience with desktop drives, field knowledge from repair techs, as well as a wide variety of other comments in various forums, I’ve personally taken a cautious view that changing orientation of a drive during use could be a real problem.
This may be hearsay, but the common theme I’ve heard is that if you originally formatted the drive when it was horizontal, then using it vertically may make it more prone to read/write errors. Similarly, if you originally formatted it while vertical, then it would be problematic when used horizontally. However, laptop drives may be manufactured with the expectation that the drive will be moved around a lot more than desktop drives.
You should also consider the mechanical design of a hard drive when you place it vertically. Hard drive reader heads aren’t exactly an equal length lever on both sides of the fulcrum (the pivot point). One side of the head is long and thin while the other side is short and heavy. You can see an accurate view of the geometry of the drives on Wikipedia.
The design is engineered to have the same weight on both sides of the lever to minimize mechanical energy expended in starting and stopping the motion. When you closely examine the physical implications of having a hard drive turned on its side, there are two things that can happen:
1. When rotating the head on another axis besides it’s own pivot axis, the head is subject to gyroscopic forces, and as a result, subject to mechanical stress during motion.
2. When the drive is vertical, the pivot is then horizontal and so the weight of the head mechanism will cause the pivot to put pressure on the bearing, simply due to gravitational pull. No matter how precise the engineering, there will be some measurable effect on the bearings that will only come into play in vertical drives.
The gyroscopic forces could be a significant issue on multiple axes especially when the laptop is in a backpack and bouncing up and down on the owner’s back. Though human motion is much slower than drive platters’ or readers’ motion, so it’s possible the effect may not be as significant as expected.
Vertical positioning of the drive should be much less of an issue, and is likely automatically compensated for by modern drives .
In either case, don’t move your spinning drive.
Regarding heat build up, heat accumulation inside the bag can be a huge issue. I’d advise that you avoid putting a working laptop inside a bag for any longer than one or two minutes. Be careful with the sleep button, too, as sleep can fail if an error dialog pops up and you don’t realize it. If that happens, your laptop can overheat, and you could lose your work or worse.
If you really have to keep your laptop in the bag while it’s running, see if you’re able to get a vertical air path with at least one air entry in the bag near the bottom and at least one air exit near the top. And make sure your laptop has vents that align with the bag’s air entry points.
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