What Happens to a Hard Drive When You Break the Vacuum Seal?


The hard drive is one of the most important components in any computer because it's where all your data files, programs and apps are stored. You might be tempted to open your computer's hard drive to modify its performance or recover lost data. However, opening any computer hard drive is a high-risk strategy that can cause irreversible damage and render the drive unusable.

Clean Room

  • Hard drives are manufactured in "clean rooms" -- carefully controlled and contaminant-free environments. All of the air in a clean room is carefully filtered to remove dust and microbes. Workers cover their bodies completely with suits, gloves and masks. This prevents anything from getting into hard drives while they are on the assembly line. Inside the hard drive, a magnetic read/write head hovers fractions of a millimeter above the surface of the rotating data platters. A single speck of dust can cause the read/write head to crash into the platters and destroy data.

Drive Opening

  • Some adventurous users still decide to open up their hard drives in spite of all the risks. Although many people believe that hard drives have vacuum seals, this is in fact a misconception. Hard drives couldn't operate without air and, because of internal and external air pressure differentials, hard drives aren't completely sealed. However, anyone attempting to open a hard drive must do so in an environment that simulates a clean room as closely as possible. The open hard drive should be manipulated only while inside a plastic tent or a cover that keeps out contaminants. Whatever precautions you take, creating a true clean room environment at home is near impossible. You can't expect the hard drive to perform reliably if you've opened it outside the correct environment.

Hard Drive Modding

  • Modifying -- or "modding" -- a hard drive will void your warranty and so it's definitely not for the faint of heart. However, some computer enthusiasts can't resist the temptation of tinkering with the drive. Modding a hard drive requires a screwdriver with a Torx bit, a sheet of Lucite and a cutting tool, such as a Dremel. The hard drive's cover is removed, and a hole is cut into it. The Lucite is then trimmed and stuck to the cover using clear glue, and the cover is replaced, creating a hard drive with a window. While the cover is off the drive, ensure you store the rest of the drive in a heavy plastic bag to prevent dust from contaminating it.

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