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High-capacity drives and heat

By Rick Cook

Heat is a notorious computer killer and the new high-capacity hard drives can be a problem with desktop systems. According to the SCSI Trade Association (SCSITA at, "Most PCs are not adequately cooled for high performance SCSI drives." Potential troublemakers include:

  • CD-RW drives when writing more than one CD at a time, or when used to record graphics images;
  • The new generation of hard drives with 10 platters or more;
  • Drives that spin at more than 10,000 RPM.

Overheating drives will produce bus errors that can hang the system when accessing the device. The solution, SCSITA says, is to add an additional fan to the overheating system. The association notes that most cases have room for more than one fan. Before adding the fan, check to make sure of the following:

  • That the existing fan is working;
  • That the foam air filter (if the fan has one) is clean;
  • That the inside of the case is clean.

Dust is an excellent insulator. Cleaning the filter and blowing out the dust helps keep things cool. One thing not to do, SCSITA says, is to run the computer with the cover off. This disrupts the airflow pattern and may actually make the system run hotter. For more information, read SCSITA's FAQ at:

Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

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