Can you spin down an external hard drive?
November 25, 2005 10:49 PM   Subscribe

Can you spin down a hard drive in an external USB or Firewire enclosure?

I'm setting up an external drive for backups and I would like it to spin down when idle, since I plan on only doing backups weekly. I will not have physical access to the machine for months at a time, so flipping the power switch isn't an option. This will be connected to a computer running Linux.

I guess a secondary question is, how does leaving a standard 3.5" IDE hard drive powered on 24 hours a day affect its longevity? As I think about it now, perhaps I shouldn't worry about the issue at all. The drive in question has a 5 year warranty too.
posted by knave to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Don't feel too comfy about your warranty unless it specifically guarantees data recovery.

Sure, you'll get a new drive -- but the question is: will they get your data off of your old one and on to it? Most companies will not.

If your USB drive is one you bought premade from a company - it may have a spin down feature. However, if you bought the drive and the case separately, it probably does not.

Unfortunately, there is no way that I'm aware of to spin down a home-built external USB drive. I just leave mine on 24/7 for the most part. Not short of doing the "safely remove hardware" thing, and turning the drive off, anyway.
posted by twiggy at 12:08 AM on November 26, 2005


uh, "hdparm -y /dev/hdfoo"?

Realistically I would say just set a spindown time (-S), make sure to mount the volumes with noatime, and then don't worry about it. It should spin down on its own and stay that way if it's not being accessed.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:11 AM on November 26, 2005


Sure, you'll get a new drive -- but the question is: will they get your data off of your old one and on to it? Most companies will not.

Yes, I understand that. I'm banking that my backup drive and primary drives will not fail simultaneously, so I should never lose data.

uh, "hdparm -y /dev/hdfoo"?

To an external USB enclosure? I'm almost certain that won't work.

Also, I already have the drive (a 200GB Seagate Barracuda), but haven't bought the enclosure yet. So if you can point me toward an enclosure that handles this situation, all the better.
posted by knave at 1:03 AM on November 26, 2005


If your USB drive is one you bought premade from a company - it may have a spin down feature. However, if you bought the drive and the case separately, it probably does not.


Every single hard drive enclosure I've purchased and then assembled automatically powers down the drive with an absurdly short timeout, often as fast as 5 minutes. These drives were all used with my PowerBook, running OSX.

My two AcomData 320 GB USB 2.0 / Firewire drives never spin down, but they are connected to Sony notebooks via USB.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:30 AM on November 26, 2005


I have a 2.5" USB drive plugged into my tablet-PC as I write this, and it spins down when not in use. I only just assembled it today (I bought the enclosure and HDD seperately), so I can't say any more than that, just that it definitely spun down on its own. I wouldn't know if the spindown time was something in the enclosure circuitry, or in the OS though.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:52 AM on November 26, 2005


Cool, that's encouraging. Thanks for the responses guys. :) (Absurdly short is fine by me, latency is a non-issue for the infrequenty use mine will see.)
posted by knave at 1:55 AM on November 26, 2005


Slightly off-topic, but may I ask why you're only doing weekly backups? You'll appreciate something like daily backups much more when your primary HD fails at the end of a week's worth of work and changes.
posted by thebabelfish at 6:42 AM on November 26, 2005


Laptop Mode for Linux might be of interest
posted by Sharcho at 7:34 AM on November 26, 2005


thebabelfish, good point. I guess I was thinking weekly backups is better than no backups, which is what I currently do. I don't do a ton of work on this computer, mostly what it holds is my personal music, movies and photos, plus some documents and little programs I've written and whatever. I don't produce a lot of changes in a given week, but I'd still probably be upset to lose a week's worth.
posted by knave at 8:25 AM on November 26, 2005


The problem with the short spindown is that if you ever do a finder or windows explorer operation that touches the drive (like click on "my computer" for example), you get to wait 30 seconds while the drive spins back up. If that sort of thing doens't frustrate you, then you should be fine. Why the OS doesn't cache that data is beyond me.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:39 PM on November 26, 2005


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