External Hard Disks: Spin Down, Spin Up

External hard disks are a must for keeping up to date back ups of your data. Be it USB, FireWire, or eSata, almost everyone is using one. There isn’t any argument about whether or not you should use one, but should you leave it spun up all the time? Let’s break down the pros and cons of leaving your external drive spun up:

Pros: Instant access to your files, no delay when opening save dialogues.
Cons: Incessant noise, potentially more wear and tear on the platters.

For some folks, time is the most important factor. They just cannot wait for the disk to spin up when they want to access it. Frankly, the delay while the drive spins up when you open a save dialogue is a tad ridiculous. If the OS handled the drive better, it would only spin them up if you attempted to access it.

On the other hand, external drives tend to be very noisy. My iMac is whisper-quiet. When I walk into my bedroom, I can’t even tell that anything is powered up… Until my godforsaken FireWire drive decides to spin up. I am then treated to the glorious sound of whirring for the next minute and a half. If I had to deal with that noise pollution all the time, I would go absolutely bonkers.

It should be noted that there is some debate about wear and tear on drives. Some people argue that they’ll last longer if you keep them spun up. Others argue the exact opposite. As far as I can tell, there is no conclusive scientific data either way. As long as your drive is stationary — therefore not likely to be dropped — this really shouldn’t be much of a factor.

So what about me? I let my drives spin down because I hate the noise so very much, but the decision is up to you. There are good reasons on both sides of the table. What do you do with your external drive? Comment on this post or hit me up on Twitter to let me know your thoughts..

Photo Credit: broma

Grant is a writer from Delaware. In his spare time, Grant maintains a personal blog, hosts The Weekly Roar, hosts Quadcast, and writes for video games.