Hard Drive Terminology

If you imagine the inside of your hard drive is very similar to an old vinyl turntable.

Heads – These are very similar to the needle, it reads and writes your data from and onto the platters. However, unlike with vinyl, the heads don’t touch the platters. The platters spin so fast the heads float on a cushion of air caused by the centrifugal force. This is why dropping your hard drive while it is spinning causes damage, if the heads touch the platters they can scratch them.

Platters – These are like the vinyl records themselves. A hard drive can have multiple platters stacked with a head in between each depending on how much data your hard drive can hold, very similar to a juke box. Platters are covered in an easily magnetized substrate which allows the head to write and re-write onto the tracks.

Firmware – Is software or a set of instructions programmed into a hard drive to tell it how to speak to other devices such as computers.

PCB – Or printed circuit board. This is a thin board made of fibreglass with electrical wires printed onto it. It is the electrical part of the hard drive so if your hard drive doesn’t power up it is probably a problem with the PCB.

Sectors – A sector is the smallest unit that can be accessed on a platter. They split the tracks up and depending on how big a file is it can take up hundreds of sectors. It only takes one corrupt sector to stop a file from opening properly or at all.


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