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How Hard Disks Work

by Marshall Brain

Computer Hardware Image Gallery Hard disks store digital information in a relatively permanent form. See more computer hardware pictures. 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. How the Google-Apple Cloud Computer Will Work In cloud computing, programs and files are stored on a centralized computer or network. It's rumored that Google and Apple are teaming up to bring a cloud computer to the masses.

How the MacBook Air Works Apple's MacBook Air is touted as "the world's thinnest notebook." So how exactly does a laptop that's less than an inch thick compare to other notebooks?

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Types of Hard Disk Drives

Disk drive technologies have advanced quickly over recent years, making terabytes of storage available at reasonable cost. When researching the type of hard disk storage system appropriate for your needs, keep in mind the format and data rate of the video youre capturing. Depending on whether you work as an independent video editor or collaborate with others, the amount of storage you require and the bit rate of data transfer will be important factors to match up with your storage needs. Outlining all of the hard disk storage technologies is beyond the scope of this documentation, but four common choices include:

ATA FireWire SCSI RAID and Fibre Channel

ATA Disk Drives

There are two kinds of ATA disks:

Parallel (Ultra) ATA disks: These are found in Power Mac G4 computers. Serial ATA disks: These come with Power Mac G5 computers.

ATA disks do not offer as high a level of performance as LVD or Ultra160 SCSI disks. If you plan to use Ultra ATA disks, make sure that:

The sustained transfer speed is 8 MB/sec. or faster The average seek time is below 9 ms The spindle speed is at least 5400 rpm, although 7200 rpm is better

Parallel (Ultra) ATA Disks

Many editors use parallel ATA (PATA) disks (also called Ultra DMA, Ultra EIDE, and ATA33/66/100/133) with DV equipment. Parallel ATA disks are disks that you install internally. Because imported DV material has a fixed data rate of approximately 3.6 MB/sec., highperformance parallel ATA disks typically can capture and output these streams without difficulty. The numbers following the ATA designation indicate the maximum data transfer rate possible for the ATA interface, not the disk drive itself. For example, an ATA-100 interface can theoretically handle 100 MB/sec., but most disk drives do not spin fast enough to reach this limit. Parallel ATA disks use 40- or 80-pin-wide ribbon cables to transfer multiple bits of data simultaneously (in parallel), they have a cable length limit of 18 inches, and they require five volts of power. Depending on your computer, there may be one or more parallel ATA (or IDE) controller chips on the motherboard. Each parallel ATA channel on a computer motherboard supports two channels, so you can connect two disk drives. However, when both disk drives are

connected, they must share the data bandwidth of the connection, so the data rate can potentially be reduced.
Serial ATA Disks

Serial ATA (SATA) disks are newer than parallel ATA disk drives. The disk drive mechanisms may be similar, but the interface is significantly different. The serial ATA interface has the following characteristics:

Serial data transfer (one bit at a time) 150 MB/sec. theoretical data throughput limit 7-pin data connection, with cable limit of 1 meter Operates with 250 mV Only one disk drive allowed per serial ATA controller chip on a computer motherboard, so disk drives do not have to share data bandwidth

FireWire Disk Drives

Although not recommended for all systems, FireWire disk drives can be effectively used to capture and edit projects using low data rate video clips, such as those captured using the DV codec. However, most FireWire disk drives lack the performance of internal Ultra ATA disk drives or of internal or external SCSI disk drives. For example, a FireWire disk drive may not be able to support real-time playback with as many simultaneous audio and video tracks as an internal Ultra ATA disk drive can. This can also affect the number of simultaneous real-time effects that can be played back. Keep the following points about FireWire drives in mind:

FireWire disk drives are not recommended for capturing high data rate material such as uncompressed SD or HD video. Certain DV camcorders cannot be connected to a computer while a FireWire disk drive is connected simultaneously. In many cases, you can improve performance by installing a separate FireWire PCI Express card to connect your FireWire drive. You may be able to improve performance by reducing the real-time video playback data rate and the number of real-time audio tracks in the General tab of the User Preferences window. You should never disconnect a FireWire disk drive prior to unmounting it from the desktop.

SCSI Disk Drives

Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) disk drives used to be among the fastest drives available, although newer computers may no longer provide SCSI ports. Although no longer highly popular, SCSI technology has been implemented in various ways over the years, with

each successive generation achieving better performance. Two fast SCSI standards for video capture and playback are:

Ultra2 LVD (Low Voltage Differential) SCSI: Ultra2 LVD SCSI disk drives offer fast enough performance to capture and output video at high data rates when a single disk is formatted as a single volume (as opposed to formatting several disks together as a disk array). Ultra320 and Ultra160 SCSI: These are faster than Ultra2 LVD SCSI disks.

SCSI disks can be installed internally or connected externally. Many users prefer external SCSI disk drives because theyre easier to move and they stay cooler. If your computer didnt come with a preinstalled Ultra2 LVD, Ultra160, or Ultra320 SCSI disk drive, you need to install a SCSI card in a PCI Express slot so you can connect a SCSI disk drive externally. A SCSI card allows you to connect up to 15 SCSI disk drives in a daisy chain, with each disk drive connected to the one before it and the last terminated. (Some SCSI cards support more than one channel; multiple-channel cards support 15 SCSI disks per channel.) Use high-quality, shielded cables to prevent data errors. These cables should be as short as possible (3 feet or less); longer cables can cause problems. You must use an active terminator on the last disk for reliable performance. Note: Active terminators have an indicator light that goes on when the SCSI chain is powered.

All devices on a SCSI chain run at the speed of the slowest device. To achieve a high level of performance, connect only Ultra2 or faster SCSI disk drives to your SCSI interface card. Otherwise, you may impede performance and get dropped frames during capture or playback. Note: Many kinds of SCSI devices are slower than Ultra2 devices, including scanners and removable storage media. You should not connect such devices to your high-performance SCSI interface.

Using a RAID or Disk Array

You can improve the transfer speed of individual disks by configuring multiple disk drives in a disk array. In a Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID), multiple SCSI, ATA, or FireWire disk drives are grouped together via hardware or software and treated as a single data storage unit. This allows you to record data to multiple drives in parallel, increasing access time significantly. You can also partition the array into multiple volumes.

Creating a disk array is necessary only if high performance is required to capture and play back your video at the required data rate without dropping frames. If you require rock-solid data integrity, consider purchasing a RAID. Many RAIDs record the same data on more than one disk, so that if a drive fails, the same data can still be retrieved from another disk. There are many RAID variations available, but one that offers high performance for both digital video capture and data redundancy is RAID level 3. Because they use specialized hardware, RAID level 3 systems can be more expensive, but they should be considered whenever the safety of your media is more important than the cost of your disks. When you create or purchase a disk array, there are two important considerations:

Compatibility: Make sure the software you use to create the array is compatible with Final Cut Pro. For more information, go to the Final Cut Pro website at Ventilation: If youre creating an array yourself with an off-the-shelf drive enclosure, make sure to allow for good ventilation. Disk arrays store information on several disks simultaneously. If one of your disk drives fails, information on all the disks is lost. One of the most common reasons a disk drive breaks down is overheating, so make sure that your disks stay cool.

Important: Check the manufacturers specifications before buying disks to make sure the disks offer the level of performance you need.

Fibre Channel Drive Arrays and RAIDs

Fibre Channel is a hard disk drive interface technology designed primarily for high-speed data throughput for high-capacity storage systems, usually set up as a disk array or RAID. Fibre Channel disk drive systems typically have performance rivaling or exceeding that of highperformance SCSI disk arrays. One of the most common ways of connecting a computer to a Fibre Channel disk drive system for video capture and output is called a point-to-point connection. A single computer, equipped with a Fibre Channel PCI Express card, is connected to a single Fibre Channel disk drive array. Unlike SCSI systems, Fibre Channel cables can be run extremely long distances, up to 30 meters using copper cables and 6 miles (10 kilometers) using optical cables.

For all its advantages, a Fibre Channel disk array requires more setup than other storage options, making it unsuitable for portable use. Fibre Channel disk arrays usually have extremely high capacity (potentially several terabytes of disk storage). Although this can make them more expensive relative to other storage solutions, the cost per megabyte is often considerably lower.

Storage Area Networks

A storage area network (SAN) such as an Apple Xsan system consists of one or more disk arrays that are made available to multiple computer systems simultaneously. Broadcast and postproduction facilities can use an Xsan system to share a single set of media files among multiple editing systems. Xsan software allows an administrator to control SAN access privileges for each editing system. For example, a capturing edit station may have read-and-write access to the SAN, while an assistant editor station may only have read access to media files for a particular project. An administrator may also control permissions to make sure editors capture material only to specific folders. Advantages of Xsan include:

Media files are instantly accessible from multiple editing systems. Storage capacity and bandwidth can be scaled as needed. Editors can move between editing suites and continue working on the same project without moving media files. Assistant editors can load, output, or archive media without disturbing an ongoing edit session. Producers can view dailies or finished sequences for approval without being in an editing suite.

Tips From Users Like You

How to Copy Data From One Hard Drive to Another

By braniac, eHow User

Print this article

You too can copy one hard drive to another without a degree in magic. This article includes the ins and outs of getting the job done including a small amount of information on alternate methods.

Difficulty: Moderate

Things You'll Need

Hard drives (2) copy utility software(freeware) 1.


THE SET UP Place the additional hard drive inside your tower or lay it circuit side up (green printed circuit board up) on the case to not allow stray voltage. Laying the green side down may cause damage including total loss of the hard drive. If your motherboard has two IDE interfaces, the other would be connected to the CDROM drive then you are in the money. Your transfer will go twice as fast if you disconnect the CD-ROM drive and connect the secondary hard drive. This is not recommended for long term usage as the CD-ROM would cause delay on the secondary drive.

CONNECTING THE NEW DRIVE/FORMAT The next step is to choose the order of the drives including which will be Master and which will be slave. You may place the new drive as the primary without the other connected and format it as the master. Then connect the old one as a slave drive. By only having one connected at a time you will avoid losing your data by formatting the wrong drive.

COPYING FILES For the next part you will need a copy utility which is available on the internet as freeware. Make a copy of the data using one of these programs selecting the partition to be copied. For most this will be the C drive. At this point you are making a copy of the image on the hard drive and all contents within. You should make a copy of all application data and user data within Windows. By installing Windows on the second drive and moving the data copied to the same folders all of your custom settings are saved. I would recommend running a virus scan on

these items before copying them. Some of the most common are passwords ending in .pwl, favorites off your browser, cookies, your dial up network connection settings, and the mailboxes depending on which mail system you are using.

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Tips & Warnings

ADDITIONAL METHODS Although in some cases a back up program and system restore method would work, this is only the case when larger amounts of data are not being moved. Other issues arrive from the back up and restore method when registries are merged and data is corrupted on the original drive. There is a DOS method of transfer that is very reliable although not for the faint of heart. This method is not recommended for the average user as it is not user friendly and does not utilize the GUI interface. To sum it up these are the steps that you will need to take to transfer the data. 1. make a backup of the current system on a floppy or to some other media 2. connect and format the new drive 3. add the copied files from the back up disk As always back up your data before performing a major change to you system.

Hard Disk
Hard Disk, in computer science, one or more inflexible platters coated with material that allows the magnetic recording of computer data. Hard disks provide faster access to data than floppy disks and are capable of storing much more information. Because platters are rigid, they can be stacked so that one hard-disk drive can access more than one platter. Most hard disks have from two to eight platters. Microsoft Encarta 2009. 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Hard Disk Hard disks are used to record computer data magnetically. A hard disk drive consists of a stack of inflexible magnetic disks mounted on a motor. As the disks spin at high speeds, read/write heads at the end of a metal fork swing in and out to access sectors of the disks. Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Microsoft Encarta 2009. 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Disk Drive
Disk Drive, in computer science, a device that reads or writes data, or both, on a disk medium. The disk medium may be either magnetic, as with floppy disks or hard disks; optical, as with CD-ROM (compact disc-read only memory) disks; or a combination of the two, as with magneto-optical disks. Nearly all computers come equipped with drives for these types of disks, and the drives are usually inside the computer, but may also be connected as external, or peripheral, devices. The main components of a disk drive are the motor, which rotates the disk; the read-write mechanism; and the logic board, which receives commands from the operating system to place or retrieve information on the disk. To read or write information to a disk, drives use various methods. Floppy and hard drives use a small magnetic head to magnetize portions of the disk surface, CD-ROM and WORM (Write-Once-Read-Many) drives use lasers to read information, and magneto-optical drives use a combination of magnetic and optical techniques to store and retrieve information.

Floppy and hard disk drives store information on magnetic disks. The disk itself is a thin, flexible piece of plastic with tiny magnetic particles imbedded in its surface. To write data to the disk, the read-write head creates a small magnetic field that aligns the magnetic poles of the particles on the surface of the disk directly beneath the head. Particles aligned in one direction represent a 0 while particles aligned in the opposite direction represent a 1. To read data from a disk, the drive head scans the surface of the disk. The magnetic fields of the particles in the disk induce an alternating electric current in the read-write head, which is then translated into the series of 1s and 0s that the computer understands. Unlike hard or floppy disks, most CD-ROM drives are unable to write data to the CD. Data is initially written to CD-ROM discs by burning microscopic pits into the disc's reflective surface with a laser. To read the information contained on the disc, the drive shines a low-power laser beam onto the surface. When the laser light hits flat spots on the reflective surface of the CD, it bounces back to a photo detector, which records the impulse as a 0. When the laser light hits pits in the surface, it does not reflect light back to the photo detector, and this absence of light corresponds to a 1. Most CD-ROM drives are only capable of reading data and cannot write data to the CD. WORM drives, however, are able to both etch blank CDs and to read data from them. Magneto-optical (MO) drives combine optical and magnetic technology to read from and write to disks that have the appearance of CD-ROMs in plastic, floppy-disk cases. MO drives can rewrite the MO disks without limitation just as magnetic drives rewrite magnetic media. Although more expensive than standard magnetic or optical drives, MO drives combine speed, large capacity, and high durability of data. see Computer Memory. Microsoft Encarta 2009. 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.