My hard drive seems to be overheating… what should I do?

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QUESTION :

After a cold boot, the hard drive in my notebook jumps to 56℃ within an hour or so of idling. Is 56℃ a cause for alarm?

Notes:

  • The notebook is on a flat desk and none of the vents are obstructed.
  • The video card is currently at 55℃ and the CPU at 50℃.
  • It’s a Western Digital 250GB hard drive.
  • SMART reports the drive healthy but does warn that:

    enter image description here


Edit: this problem had a very surprise ending. I inverted the notebook and unscrewed some of the panels on the back (there was one covering the hard drive, and one that provided access to the memory). I couldn’t see any dust, so I simply screwed everything back together and powered it on… and it worked!

The temperature is now staying at 46℃, and it feels notable cooler to the touch. So I can only assume that some internal fan was malfunctioning or something. Whatever the case, it’s working now so I won’t complain.


Edit: I have an SSD now, so temperature isn’t as big an issue as it was when I had a mechanical drive.

ANSWER :

Over time, laptops (and computers, but moreso for laptops since they’re usually more compact) collect a lot of dust. This dust restricts airflow, which results in less efficient cooling.

If you can clear out the airflow paths on your laptop (do it after powering down because fans can actually get damaged more easily when they’re running while cleaning), this may resolve your problem. There are a few ways you can go about this:

  1. Pay a service centre to clean it (this is the most expensive option, unless this is covered by an extended warranty or maintenance program that you might have purchased with your laptop — if you have such a maintenance program, then this is the best option)

  2. Open the laptop and clean it yourself (this option requires technical knowledge on your part because laptops are tricky, unlike PCs which, in comparison, are usually fairly simple to open and clean/modify/etc.)

  3. Just get your household vacuum cleaner and use it to suck the dust through your airflow paths (this option is the easiest, and is usually effective for me — just make sure you repeat the process a few times on each vent because the first few attempts may only loosen some of the dirt without actually pulling it out)

I have a slim box and according to the S.M.A.R.T. data on my hard drives they both hit 72°C. At which point they both overheated with loud noises. I pulled the plug and left it off a couple of days. One drive has 99 bad sectors now, and the other only 1 bad sector… this is in balance with the usage. Fortunately they both are in working condition.

For Linux users I’ve created a cron job to protect your computer in case the hard drives are getting too hot. I put my maximum limit at 48°C with warnings before then. With basic usage I max at 45°C. With intense usage I average 55°C. Although I have pushed it to see how quickly it would go up.

If I can’t maintain a temp below 48°C I’ll have to better ventilate my computer and add more fans.

Here’s the script:

Hard drive temperature warning system with emergency shutdown

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