Keep your laptop COOL
Well it happened – again. This time it was a circa-2004 HP Pavilion ze4600 laptop originally from Canada, that made it’s way down to Los Cabos sometime in the last couple years. Mid-way through installing Windows 7 Home Premium on this beast, the hard drive decided that enough was enough, threw up its’ hands, began to omit a strange clicking noise, and then finally, came to a screeching halt.
Not an uncommon occurrence in Los Cabos, unfortunately. In fact, I’d say the failure rate of hard drives and computers in general is double that of other, cooler climates. In this particular case, it was the original hard drive in the laptop – so a 6 year life on a laptop hard drive.
I would consider that a reasonable life expectancy.
Generally speaking, heat is not a friend of your computer. This is why your computer sounds like a 747 taking off when you turn it on; almost every major component in your computer has a fan spinning close to it, to pull heat away. Then the computer case itself has fans to push that heat out of the computer case. Heat is a major problem for delicate computer chips, circuit boards, and the like, and it WILL decrease the life of computer components – guaranteed.
Hard drives in particular, are at risk from excessive heat. The hard drive is where all your data is stored and thusly is usually the most catastrophic of common computer failures. No one likes losing all their files, photos, documents, etc..
Hard drives are complicated devices by design. The amount of precision and accuracy required for these devices to work properly is surprising and as a partially mechanical device, it is born to fail eventually.
Don’t warp the platters!
The most common heat-related hard drive injury is the platter warping. Avoiding all technical jargon, the platter is a spinning plate in your hard drive that must be near-perfect in motion and dimension in order to work properly. Depending on the size of the hard drive, typically they have around 5-10 platters.
With usage the hard drive heats up, then as it turns off or goes into hibernation, the hard disk cools down. This can cause minimal warping. The more extreme the temperature change, the more profound the warping effect. Under normal & ideal circumstances, this isn’t much of an issue.
But what if you live in hot Los Cabos (or similar)?
The problem is compounded. If it’s hot where you are reading this right now, rest assured your poor computer is also hot, and is probably over the recommended temperature for operating your hard drives. Among other things, this will eventually warp the platters and drastically reduce the life of your hard drive, and your data on it.
If you keep your hard drive cooler, the temperature change between on and off is less drastic, which is less stressful on your hard drive (platter).
OK, heat sucks, got it. What can I do to help?
Keep your laptop in the fridge while in use.
I’m actually only half-kidding here: many techs know very well the trick of putting a broken hard drive in the fridge for an hour or so (just the hard drive, not the entire computer people!) in order to make it work long enough to recover the data from it.
Seriously, you can do a couple things to help out:
- let your laptop breathe – all laptops have vents that allow the hot air to be blown out, usually both on the side AND the bottom of the laptop. Make sure these are unobstructed. If your laptop is flush with the surface it’s sitting on, chances are good you are blocking the vent from working efficiently. Soft surfaces such as blankets, laps, and pillows are especially bad.
- if the vents looked gunked up from dust, etc, DE-GUNK THEM.
- get a laptop cooler, a custom “docking” station for your laptop, with fans that blow up onto the bottom of your laptop. For Los Cabos, I strongly recommend these. While not really portable, they provide fantastic extra cooling that is necessary in hot humid climates.
I have seen these laptop cooling stations at the following stores in Los Cabos:
- Office Depot
- Office Max
- Costco (on occasion)
- Exacto Computers (in San Jose del Cabo)
Cost usually runs between 200 and 300 pesos.
Most laptops have little “feet”, that give you menial clearance underneath the laptop for cooling purposes – usually no more than 5 millimeters. This is barely adequate on a smooth hard, flat surface in normal operating temperatures . The heat and humidity of Los Cabos is not what I consider normal!
I’ve lost count how many computers (usually laptops) that have arrived on my doorstep with blown hard drives since I moved to Los Cabos – but it’s probably getting close to 50. Most of them laptops.
I digress, all hard drives die eventually; it is inherit in the design and engineering. However, due to the small compact space in laptop computers, the problem is exaggerated considerably.
Make your hard drive last MUCH longer by keeping the damn thing as cool as possible and for god sakes, back up your data regularly!