What is a hard disk drive?
A computer hard disk drive (HDD) is a non-volatile data storage device. Non-volatile refers to storage devices that maintain stored data when turned off. All computers need a storage device, and HDDs are just one example of a type of storage device.
HDDs are usually installed inside desktop computers, mobile devices, consumer electronics and enterprise storage arrays in data centers. They can store operating systems, software programs and other files using magnetic disks.
More specifically, hard disk drives control the reading and writing of the hard disk that provides data storage. HDDs are used either as the primary or secondary storage device in a computer. They are commonly found in the drive bay and are connected to the motherboard via an Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA), Serial ATA, parallel ATA or Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) cable, among other formats. The HDD is also connected to a power supply unit and can keep stored data while powered down.
A hard disk drive -- often shortened to hard drive -- and hard disk are not the same things, but they are packaged as a unit and either term can refer to the whole unit.
How do hard disk drives work?
Most basic hard drives consist of several disk platters -- a circular disks made of either aluminum, glass or ceramic -- that are positioned around a spindle inside a sealed chamber. The platter spins with a motor that is connected to the spindle. The chamber also includes the read/write heads that magnetically record information to and from tracks on the platters using a magnetic head. The disks also have a thin magnetic coating on them.
The motor spins the platters at up to 15,000 rotations per minute. As the platters spin, a second motor controls the position of the read and write heads that magnetically record and read the information on each platter.
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The commercial usage of hard disk drives (HDD) began in 1957, with the shipment of a production IBM 305 RAMAC system including IBM Model 350 disk storage. US Patent 3,503,060 issued March 24, 1970, and arising from the IBM RAMAC program is generally considered to be the fundamental patent for disk drives.
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