Hard Drives – How They Work

Where does all your data get written when you save something (anything) onto your system? The Hard Drive. The Hard Drive is a data storage device that stores all the digital information that is fed into the system. After having installed a hard drive into a computer, it has to be partitioned before being formatted. Then it is ready to be used.

The device is unaffected by power loss as some fear, and stores data for a long period of time. But it is advised to keep a back-up of the stored data. The hard drive houses the operating system and the other areas of storage including the memory spaces, cores, partitions and system files. The data is safe and unaltered except when it is disassembled or physically tampered with or undergoes any sort of malfunction. If it is damaged, it is impossible to boot the system and you can say goodbye to all the data written on it.


What is a Hard Drive made of?

The Hard Drive is the physical component of the storage device that contains the stored data. It is either made of aluminum or a mixture of glass and ceramic content. These are the different parts of the hard drive:

  1. Magnetic Platters – A hard drive contains one or more platters and a maximum of five. Platters are round plates. Each of the magnetic platters stores a specific amount of data. The number of platters depends on the storage capacity of the hard drive. Tracks are the information saved or recovered from, that are in concentric circles on the platters. The tracks are made up of many sectors.
  1. Arm – The arm consists of the read and write heads. They are used to read and store the magnetic information onto the platters. Each platter has an arm of its own and is placed above the platter. The arm reads and writes data on the platter.
  1. Motor – The motor spins the platters. The rotations per minute (RPM) is from 4,500 to 15,000. The RPM determines the efficiency of the drive.


How does the Hard Drive function?

When the computer reads or stores data, the motor will spin the platters. The arm above the platter will move and stops at the spot where the specific information is stored or should be stored depending on the function given to the system. The read and write arms will detect or transfer the magnetic properties on the platters. The data is then converted from the magnetic form to the appropriate viewable form to be displayed to the user. The data is in a magnetic form, so it is important to be aware that magnets should be kept away from the hard drive.


The Hard Drive Interface

The Hard Drive works with the motherboard through a specific type of interface. If the motherboard and the hard drive are not compatible with each other, the system will not function. Currently, there are three common types of interfaces that are known to be the standard types. They are as follows:

  1. IDE or ATA – This is the most common type of interface. The hard drives using this interface works up to a speed of 100 Mbps.
  1. SATA – This interface is gradually replacing the ATA interface, as many manufacturers are adopting this interface. It works up to a speed of 150 Mbps for SATA and 300 Mbps for SATA II.
  1. SCSI – This interface is mostly used by larger sectors like a business space where servers are required. The RPM is higher and promises excellent efficiency.


These are the elements of a hard drive and how they work. The hard drives should be handled with care as they hold all of the stored data that the user invests. The hard drive is also known as the hard disk or hard disk drive.

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