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Old 01-29-2011, 12:16 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Refreshing data on a hard drive (to prevent it from "evaporating" over time)


I was recently made aware, that the data on the disc will vanish overtime due to the fact they are stored in a magnetic way, if the disc is not used internaly. This is the case with my 500GB Seagate disc, that I consider as data storage, and which is just laying on the shelf in a closet.

I wanted to ask what I need to do to prevent it. Do I need only to READ the data off the disc, or do I have to RE-WRITE them to prevent this from happening ? If I only need to read them, is there a command in windows XP terminal, that I could use to do this ? I found a command for MAC to read the whole disc:
sudo cat /dev/rdisk0> /dev/null
but I can't find similar for Windows XP.

The best soslution for me though, would be to use the software to scan the disc, as I want to do it from time to time, to check if everything with the disc is ok. So, would scanning of the whole disc using some software (to find bad secotrs) like for example "Active@ Hard Disk Monitor" do the trick ? If it would coule be great, as I would cook 2 dishes on a 1 stove.

Thanks guys

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Old 01-30-2011, 10:57 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Refreshing data on a hard drive (to prevent it from "evaporating" over time)

Where did you read this? Got a link?

While that is true of magnetic tape and floppy disks, it takes many years (even decades) for that to happen. Tape is more vulnerable because it is layered when rolled up on the reel so the magnetically charged particles in the adjacent layers can affect each other over time. Floppies are stacked too and both tape and floppies use lubricants and other chemicals and compounds in their coatings and substrates to keep them flexible, slippery and to prevent them from turning brittle. Those chemicals and lubricants break down over time.

Hard disks don't have the chemicals and lubricants and the platters are inside shielded housings so they would take much, much longer. It is much more likely the motors and mechanical/moving parts would seize, or an electronic component in the drive would fail before the magnetically charged particles lose their orientation (which is what happens - they don't "evaporate"). It is also more likely the interfaces would become obsolete first. For example, soon all motherboards will have only SATA drive connections. IDE will be obsolete so even if you have a stack of perfectly good IDE drives, you would have to dig up an antique motherboard with IDE controllers, or suitable adapter (and IDE cables that were still good) to access them.

Reading (or scanning) does just that - it reads the data (senses the particle alignment). Only writing the data aligns particles. So to refresh a disk in the manner you speak of, each byte of data would have to be re-written to the disk (or copied from one disk to another) and I personally think that may have a greater risk of data corruption.

If you want to preserve your data forever, you can't! At least you can't by keeping it in its present form. You will always have to migrate from the legacy, soon to be obsolete, storage media to the next generation storage technologies.

So if you have a bunch of data on old IDE drives, you better be transfering them to SATA drives now. Then in 5 or 10 years before SATA becomes history and the new technology is starting to take over, you will have to transfer it again.

Or you can transfer all your data to "cloud" storage on the Internet. But of course regardless the storage technology used, your data will be worthless if there is no current software to read it. For example, will Word 2030 be able to open your Word 2010 documents? I don't know.
Bill (AFE7Ret)
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