What Is a Safe Temperature to Store a Hard Drive?

By Ashley Poland

The mechanical components of a hard drive are very carefully measured.
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Testing by National Instruments in 2012 revealed that a five-degree Celsius increase in temperature decreases your hard drive life by two years. Whether you're storing a hard drive to back up office data or using it as extra storage in your computer, being mindful of the ambient temperature helps avoid data loss and permanent hard drive damage.

Running Temperature

The ambient temperature for any hard drive you're using should be between five and 50 degrees Celsius -- about 40 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. To track the heat level, you can install a program that keeps track of the temperature in your computer, or purchase a USB thermometer that sends an alert when the temperature leaves the safe range. If your computer consistently overheats, you may need to adjust the number of fans or how the components are arranged in the computer.

Storage Temperature

In its handling guide for 3.5-inch hard drives, Western Digital recommends keeping hard drives in a temperature-controlled area between between 55 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If you do store the hard drive at a higher or lower temperature, you should allow the drive time to come to room temperature before you attempt to use it. When storing a hard drive, you should also choose a location that isn't humid or in direct sunlight.

Extreme Heat

High temperatures risk warping the mechanic parts inside a hard drive, making it impossible to run. Heat is a bit less forgiving than cold, as pieces warped by heat are usually irretrievably damaged. It may also cause the heads to run into the platter, damaging both parts. If your drive has been stored at high temperatures, give it around 12 hours to come to room temperature before running the drive.

Extreme Cold

When a hard drive gets below freezing, the metal pieces contract -- creating more space in the drive and creating the risk of misalignment in the drive. If the platters and heads are misaligned in a hard drive, running it could cause the drive to fail. If your hard drive has been stored at freezing temperatures, Western Digital recommends giving it 18 to 22 hours to come to room temperature before use to avoid causing any permanent damage to the drive. Freezing also increases the risk of condensation and water damage, especially when run in a hot computer.