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Hard drive killer: summer heat
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Summer heat can become a hard drive killer

Data loss from 35 degrees: how laptops, servers & co get through the holidays healthy

Vienna - 15. 3 2023 - DI (FH) Markus Häfele

With the tablet on the beach or with the laptop on the sunny alpine meadow - the engineers at data rescuer Attingo can only strongly advise against this. As an internal investigation of the manufacturer's specifications revealed, the current notebooks and tablets are only designed for a maximum operating temperature of 35 degrees Celsius, depending on their design. The summer heat problem also affects PCs, servers and NAS systems, albeit on a different level. "With a few rays of sunshine, high temperatures can be reached quickly," warns Markus Häfele, COO of the data recovery specialist Attingo. "Very few users are aware that their mobile devices are actually not suitable for outdoor use in summer, but actually for air-conditioned offices." Even short storage in a parked car can turn into a fiasco. An infrared test measurement by Attingo - in the summer of the previous year at midday on car fittings - revealed an enormous heat load of 90 degrees Celsius.

Increase in data loss cases

Although many devices can withstand higher temperatures for a certain period of time, the number of unexpected data losses increases significantly on hot summer days. The experience of data recovery companies like Attingo clearly confirms this. The reason for this lies in the highly sensitive read/write heads, which work in the nanometer range in hard drives and react to heat with material expansion. This can result in a head crash, making saved data unrecoverable using traditional methods. But here's the good news: With our special recovery procedures, we can completely restore such lost data in more than 98 percent of cases," emphasizes the COO of Attingo.

Also be careful with SSD

Even with modern laptops with more robust SSDs instead of HDD hard drives, caution is advised. Although SSDs can withstand operating temperatures of up to 70 degrees Celsius and throttle their speed in the higher temperature range, the other electronic components of a laptop do not. Therefore, the recommended limit of 35 degrees Celsius should not be exceeded here either in order to avoid possible damage.

From heat to cold

When entering cooled rooms, mobile devices should generally rest for a few minutes to acclimatize before they are used. The change from warm to cold ambient temperature can also lead to collapse. "Temperature fluctuations can lead to incorrect data recording due to material expansion. It is possible that devices still work under the influence of heat, but reading is no longer possible after the material has cooled down," explains CTO Peter Franck. In these cases, the data rescuers can restore the data by highly precise adjustment of the read/write heads under the microscope.

Danger of non-air-conditioned office and server rooms

Office and server rooms that are not air-conditioned are more the rule than the exception, especially for small and medium-sized companies. The decision against air conditioning is often justified by the high acquisition and operating costs for air conditioning systems and server cabinets, which would not pay off only for a few hot days a year. For Attingo CEO Nicolas Ehrschwendner, the reasoning is understandable: "Most companies survive a summer without data loss - and have been for years. It's a question of calculated opportunity costs - and the question of what happens when the server or NAS actually fails." If the worst comes to the worst, it is important to stop supplying power to defective data carriers, as this increases physical damage and makes data recovery more difficult.

Tips to protect yourself from "heatstroke"

To protect yourself from the effects of the summer heat at work, Attingo recommends the following measures:

  • Before leaving the office, the air conditioning systems should be checked regularly.
  • At the beginning of summer, the housings, fans and ventilation should be cleaned thoroughly, eg with the help of compressed air from a compressor.
  • If there is no air conditioning in the server rooms, the environmental conditions should be monitored regularly and the room temperature should ideally not exceed 30 degrees.
  • Installing additional fans directly on the hard disks can help cool them down to the ambient temperature level.
  • To be on the safe side, an automatic temperature monitor can be installed. If the limit values are exceeded, this shuts down the affected devices and notifies those responsible.

Attingo boss Ehrschwendner emphasizes: "Alert management should not be missing in any company with its own IT infrastructure - regardless of the company size."


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