Ruggedized Hard Drives – Part 2

In the last blog, I introduced the rugged hard drive – a special market area for hard disk drive manufacturers who deliver drives that can withstand use in environments that could otherwise quickly kill standard, consumer grade hard drives.  I looked at a few places where these drives are being used – but there are many more.

Consider, for example, a notebook computer that is used for field work.   You may find such a computer that is used by an insurance claims adjuster.  The computer is placed in a mount or on a seat, and is in the adjuster’s car most of the work day.  This adjuster may drive as much as 300 miles each day.   While the computer is in the car, it’s subject to the shock of frequent stops and starts; it’s subjected to road vibrations; it may even be removed many times during the work day so that date can be typed into it—and then it’s put back (thrown back?) into the car.  And, all the while, the computer may continue to run because it’s faster for the adjuster to get to the next inspection site, enter the data, and move on than it is to restart the computer, wait for it to become ready to use, launch the applications, and continue on to the next stop.  All of these activities produce shocks to the hard drive that most typical notebook hard drives seldom encounter.

People who work in construction probably also need very rugged computers.  Their computers may be moved from work site to work site, sit somewhat precariously on a table or counter, and encounter countless bumps and knocks.   Ruggedized hard drives are designed to be built into ruggedized computers.   Note that, in many cases, a solid state drive (discussed in the last series of blogs) can also be used in ruggedized computers.

Rugged hard drives – and automotive grade hard drives – are also used in automotive applications.  You’ll probably remember the commercials for luxury cars touting 40 GB or 60 GB hard drives for video and music files.  This may not have seemed like a lot, compared to the capacity of most hard drives.  However, although not large by some standards, 50 GB of MP3 music can probably let you drive cross country many times without hearing the same song twice.   The reason that the drives are so ‘small’ is because they’re automotive grade drives – made to be firmly mounted inside a car that will subject it to considerable vibration – no matter how well the car’s suspension is tuned.

Automotive grade hard drives may go into automotive GPS units designed for China or Japan, where street numbers aren’t always consecutive.  In some areas, for example, the buildings have numbers in the order in which they were built – so #1 may be blocks away from #2.  In these countries, a hard drive with the GPS database may have to hold 30 GB or more.

There are other hard drives that you may not have heard of.   Special hard drives that are designed to be used ‘under the hood’ of cars and trucks can withstand even more of the vibration and heat than basic automotive drives are designed to handle.

And, still, there’s the matter of Enterprise Class drives, which I’ll discuss in the next blog.

Mark Brownstein is a technology journalist and technology consultant who specializes in explaining and interpreting new technologies, and clarifying how to integrate these new products into current systems. He has been Editor-In-Chief at computer technology and networking publications, has held significant editorial positions at major technology magazines, and is a frequent contributor to various technology magazines. He has written seven books. He is Microsoft Certified, and spends much of his time testing hardware and software products, running his own networks, and learning the best ways to get computer systems running and to keep them running.

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