Speaker vs Hard Disk
May 9, 2008 3:23 PM   Subscribe

I have an external firewire hard disk sitting on top on a powered monitor speaker on my desk here. Is this a terrible idea? Will it shorten the life of the drive? What's a safe distance?

The drive is a MyBook, and the speaker is a Tapco S5. Thanks folks!
posted by armoured-ant to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Best answer: I wouldn't do it, but IANEE.

I do know this: even if the magnetic interference is negligible, all the extra vibrating can't be good for a hard disk's moving head.
posted by rokusan at 3:35 PM on May 9, 2008

Well, the speakers say that they're magnetically shielded, so it's fine in theory, but I wouldn't, for the reason rokusan gave.
posted by Magnakai at 6:50 PM on May 9, 2008

The magnets inside the hard drive that shove the heads around are at least as strong as the magnets in your speaker that shove the cone around, and are much much closer to the platters. I wouldn't worry about magnetic influences at all. Sticking some softish rubber feet to the bottom of the drive enclosure should reduce vibration-induced misbehavior to negligible proportions.

Make backups.
posted by flabdablet at 8:49 PM on May 9, 2008

Response by poster: Ironically, the firewire drive is the backup, and although the speakers aren't used very much (only during recording/production), and the drive itself has a cute little rubber rim around its exposed edges, I think I'll find somewhere else to stow it.

Thanks guys!
posted by armoured-ant at 3:03 AM on May 10, 2008

Strong fluctating magnetic fields can and will corrupt stored hard-drive data subtly. I've seen it many times in repairs. Assuming the speakers are designed for computer use, they should be shielded, mitigating or elimitating the effect.

Best test - put the speaker next to a CRT monitor. If the screen colours go funny when it's playing, that's what it's doing to your hard-drive. Otherwise you'll most likely be fine.

Still - is there no way you can keep them a few inches apart? That's all that'd it take to be safe. Also, 2nding the vibration aspect. Vibration never does hard-drives any good.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:05 AM on May 10, 2008

CRTs are much more sensitive to stray magnetic fields than hard drives are. You only have to shift a CRT electron beam by a few minutes of arc to cause odd color artifacts. Hard disk bits, by contrast, are written using strong fields at very close range. A speaker magnet a few inches away from the platters is going to do pretty much squat. As I said before, the head positioning magnets in a hard disk drive are way closer to the platters than a speaker magnet is going to be. The head-positioning magnetic circuit also carries fluctuating fields of comparable strength to those found inside speakers. If a nearby speaker was enough to corrupt data on the drive platters, there is no question that the drive's own head-positioning mechanism would do so worse and more often. Doesn't happen.
posted by flabdablet at 4:06 AM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Back in the CRT days I remember reading in a magazine that you could wrap a piece of corrugated cardboard in tinfoil and place that between your monitor and unshielded speakers to eliminate/cut back on interference. Probably wouldn't explode anything if you tried it.
posted by megamanwich at 6:44 PM on May 10, 2008

Back in the early days of the web I remember reading on a loon site that you could wrap a beanie in tinfoil and place that between your cranium and the aliens to eliminate/cut back on mind control.

This has about as much scientific validity as attempting to use aluminium foil to prevent magnetic leakage from speakers. Grounded aluminium foil will reduce radiated interference, but foil is utterly transparent to the largely static magnetic field surrounding a speaker.

Seriously. The magnetic field around the speaker cabinet is not a problem, and no solution is required. The only real concern is vibration. If the cabinet is reasonably solid, and the hard drive has soft rubber feet, that shouldn't be a major worry either.
posted by flabdablet at 10:37 PM on May 10, 2008

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