How do I separately manage internal hard drives?
June 10, 2007 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to manage two internal hard drives separately, so that one turns off after a short period of inactivity while the other stays running?

I recently installed an internal hard drive for backing up data. To cut down on power usage, noise and to extend its life, I would like for the drive to be off (or not spinning) unless I am accessing its data. Is there any way to do this in Windows XP Pro or by using a freeware/open source app?

Ideally, I'd like to have my main drive turn off after a few hours of inactivity, while having my backup drive turn off after 20 or 30 minutes. Under Power Options Properties in XP Pro, it looks like you can only have one setting for both hard drives.
posted by Paul KC to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think if you just set the time out in Windows XP Power Control Panel to 30 minutes it will work the way you want it to; the main drive on the machine will almost never spin down for a variety of reasons (swap file usage for one).

If you want your second drive to spin down, you need to make sure no program is accessing it - apps like Google Desktop Search or some backup apps can keep accessing it and stop it from timing out (Filemon and Process Explorer can be useful for working out who is accessing files).

The jury is out on whether spin down is good for hard drives in the long run (does the spin up cause more wear and tear than just leaving it running?), but it is worth it to save the power/heat/noise as they are so cheap these days.
posted by samj at 12:53 PM on June 10, 2007

Two other things that can cause a drive to be accessed - indexing service and System Restore. But disabling both of these comes with its own problems!

The best way to ensure a drive spins down when not in direct use is to make it external (via a USB enclosure), since neither of these services affects it.
posted by mogotron at 2:50 PM on June 10, 2007

Spinning down your hard drives won't extend their life, and the power usage of 2 hard drives is pretty minimal, especially when you are not accessing them. Same with noise.

Just leave the Turn off hard disks settings as default on XP: Never.
posted by mphuie at 3:18 PM on June 10, 2007

mogotron: What problems arise when you turn off indexing service and system restore? I've run *all* my computers that way.
posted by mphuie at 3:19 PM on June 10, 2007

I would put the drive in a bay enclosure like this one. When you turn the key it will turn on. And you can easily move the drive to and from multiple machines to back them up as well. Though this solution wouldn't do it automatically, you would have to turn they key.
posted by elricbillman at 5:26 PM on June 10, 2007

What problems arise when you turn off indexing service and system restore?

Well, searches won't be as fast on a drive without the indexing service. And if you want to 'reset' a drive's contents to a time when you know it wasn't messed up (corrupted/infected/whatever), then you won't be able to do that without system restore enabled for that drive.
posted by philomathoholic at 10:06 PM on June 10, 2007

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