Hard Drive Handling
Your hard drives store your important image data. You'll want to take care of them. This page outlines some of the handling considerations.
When you buy new drives, you should do a little preparation to increase the likelihood of trouble-free service. As part of this preparation, it's a good practice to zero all data on the drive. ”Zero all data” means that you write all zeros on the drive (instead of ones and zeros), using the formatting tools available for your operating system. Doing this will ensure that every bit on the drive is touched. This will force the drive to do a thorough scan of the volume, find bad sectors and mark them as “off limits.”
If the drive is attached in such a way that you can access the SMART data for the drive, you can double-check the health of the drive mechanism before you transfer your data to it, or before you configure it for RAID. The videos below show how to do this for Mac and for PC.
FIGURE 1 shows how you can use a Mac to zero all data on your drive before you put it into service.
FIGURE 2 shows how you can use a PC to zero all data on your drive before you put it into service.
Hard drives are complex and delicate mechanisms. There are two kinds of shocks to be avoided: electrostatic discharge (ESD) and impact. Do not be cavalier about either type of shock. From personal experiences, we know they need to be avoided.
Applied in the wrong place, static electricity can kill sensitive electronics in an instant. This applies to many of the components in your computer, including the controller circuit board on your hard drive. The most basic precaution you can take when handling electronics is to touch grounded metal (such as the chassis of your computer) before touching sensitive electronics. This is particularly important if you are in a static-rich environment, like a low-humidity room with wool carpeting. If you want the utmost in nerdy fashion (as well as maximum protection), you can get an anti-static wrist strap.
If you are going to be swapping bare drives, you might want to consider a padded antistatic mat for your work area. You can find these by searching for “ESD mat electronic project” on the Internet. These mats have the added protection of padding the drive from impact as you work on it.
As for impact protection... Well, be sure to protect your drive from impact. Don’t drop it. When you carry it somewhere, put it in a protective case of some sort. We have some tips on that below.
Figure 3 Label your drives with date, usage and warranty information. It’s fine to use mailing labels affixed directly to the drive, as long as you don’t cover any breathing holes.
We suggest that you put a label on your hard drives with some important information, as shown in Figure 3. We suggest keeping the volume name, the purchase date, and the warranty expiration date on all drives. Backup drives should indicate what data is on the drives, and when they were last validated. Mark your drives as you are about to install them, since it’s pretty inconvenient to mark them after installation.
You can write these notations on standard Avery mailing labels. Make sure not to cover any of the "breathing" holes on the drive. We also suggest putting a label on the front of the drive so it can be read when the drive is inserted in a removable drive tray. You can update the labeling as you use the drive for different purposes.
If your drive shows any anomalies, such as errors in SMART data, it’s good to mark those as well.
Storing hard drives that are used for backup files also requires some reasonable consideration. You’ll want to protect the drives from ESD and impact, as well as from moisture or heat damage. What you use to protect and store offline drives will depend on a number of factors: budget, number of drives, how to get them offsite, whether they are internal or external, and whether they are in caddies or bare.
FIGURE 4 shows the packaging that some drives come in. This can be reused for storage.
Drives should be stored in some kind of ESD-protected environment. At the very least, you can store them in an antistatic metallic bag (available at major computer stores). You should use this in combination with some kind of padding to protect from impact. Figure 4 shows one way to do this, using the containers that the drives were shipped in. The drives can then be placed in a padded case such as an old camera bag for additional protection.
FIGURE 5 You can use an old camera bag to protect your backup drives when you take them offsite.
We’ve recently found a product from WiebeTech that we like for hard drive storage (Figure 6). These plastic boxes are specifically fabricated for hard drives and offer ESD protection, as well as some level of shock protection.
FIGURE 6 shows the Wiebetech Anti-static drive case.
Periodically check on the drive to see how well it's functioning. There is an extensive discussion on data validation in another part of the website.