Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hard Disk

Nearly every desktop computer and server in use today contains one or more hard-disk drives. Every mainframe and supercomputer is normally connected to hundreds of them. You can even find VCR-type devices and camcorders that use hard disks instead of tape. These billions of hard disks do one thing well -- they store changing digital information in a relatively permanent form. They give computers the ability to remember things when the power goes out.

In this article, we'll take apart a hard disk so that you can see what's inside, and also discuss how they organize the gigabytes of information they hold in files!

A hard disk is part of a unit, often called a "disk drive," "hard drive," or "hard disk drive," that stores and provides relatively quick access to large amounts of data on an electromagnetically charged surface or set of surfaces. Today's computers typically come with a hard disk that contains several billion bytes (gigabytes) of storage.

A hard disk is really a set of stacked "disks," each of which, like phonograph

records, has data recorded electromagnetically in concentric circles or "tracks" on the disk. A "head" (something like a phonograph arm but in a relatively fixed position) records (writes) or reads the information on the tracks. Two heads, one on each side of a disk, read or write the data as the disk spins. Each read or write operation requires that data be located, which is an operation called a "seek." (Data already in a disk cache, however, will be located more quickly.)

A hard disk/drive unit comes with a set rotation speed varying from 4500 to 7200 rpm. Disk access time is measured in milliseconds. Although the physical location can be identified with cylinder, track, and sector locations, these are actually mapped to a logical block address (LBA) that works with the larger address range on today's hard disks.
Related glossary terms: magnetoresistive head technology, yottabyte, serverless backup, byte, partition, InfiniBand, failover, RAMAC (random access method of accounting and control), Fibre Channel, continuous data protection (storage convergence).

Hard Disk Basics

Hard disks were invented in the 1950s. They started as large disks up to 20 inches in diameter holding just a few megabytes. They were originally called "fixed disks" or "Winchesters" (a code name used for a popular IBM product). They later became known as "hard disks" to distinguish them from "floppy disks." Hard disks have a hard platter that holds the magnetic medium, as opposed to the flexible plastic film found in tapes and floppies.

At the simplest level, a hard disk is not that different from a cassette tape. Both hard disks and cassette tapes use the same magnetic recording techniques described in How Tape Recorders Work. Hard disks and cassette tapes also share the major benefits of magnetic storage -- the magnetic medium can be easily erased and rewritten, and it will "remember" the magnetic flux patterns stored onto the medium for many years.

In the next section, we'll talk about the main differences between casette tapes and hard disks.

Inside: Electronics Board

The best way to understand how a hard disk works is to take a look inside. (Note that OPENING A HARD DISK RUINS IT, so this is not something to try at home unless you have a defunct drive.)

Here is a typical hard-disk drive:

­It is a sealed aluminum box with controller electronics attached to one side. The electronics control the read/write mechanism and the motor that spins the platters. The electronics also assemble the magnetic domains on the drive into bytes (reading) and turn bytes into magnetic domains (writing). The electronics are all contained on a small board that detaches from the rest of the drive:

No comments:

Post a Comment