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After seeing this question, it made me wonder; Why dont Macs have hard drive activity lights?

It seems there is no actual meaningful use for them nowadays, so is that why Apple decided not to include them on Macs?

If so, why do PC manufacturers still insist on putting them on every single computer?

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closed as not constructive by Arjan, JNK, Nifle, MDMarra, Sathya Sep 9 '10 at 3:34

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Actually there are answers there which explain why it is needed. Since PCs don't have any CPU activity LEDS, sometimes it is difficult to determine if computer is just frozen or is it working at maximum speed. Too bad nobody after BeBox made blinkenlights for CPU status. –  AndrejaKo Sep 8 '10 at 17:04

5 Answers 5

I remember reading/hearing Jonathan Ive say that he takes as much time considering what to exclude from Apple products as he does to what to include. Apple has the luxury of total control of its hardware. It's more of a design decision, in the quest for elegance and simplicity.

The PC components market is driven totally differently, with each manufacturer competing on features. Apple does not have to compete with any other company in the same way, as it has total control of what goes into its computers (hardware and software).

This is why it takes so long for legacy features to be deleted from PCs (like parallel, serial and PS/2 ports), while Apple can just choose to stop using old technology on a design basis (like floppy drives, ADB port, Motorola and PowerPC compatibilty, etc).

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Sorry if this seems like Apple bashing, but they have one more thing which is important: Consumers which will accept changes Apple brings. –  AndrejaKo Sep 8 '10 at 17:34
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But there is no direct comparison with Windows or Linux in this context, as they are all totally different from eachother. Apple has an authoritarian control over everything, which is unique in the field. –  paradroid Sep 8 '10 at 17:43
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I think that you hit the right spot there! We don't actually have any body which could mark something as obsolete and prevent computer manufacturers from including it in future products. For that reason computers include for a long time features that are not needed for large majority of users because if they removed something, they would create vocal minority which could negatively impact their sales. For example, take a look at -5V line in computers and how long after its usefulness vanished it remained part of the standards. Or turbo button! –  AndrejaKo Sep 8 '10 at 17:55

PC Manufacturers do not put them on every machine - but, as a (small) manufacturer, I can tell you that I am severely limited on what parts I can buy - and nearly all cases do come with them.

Many motherboards also have features such as IR, additional fan controls and a few other things - people just use what they want out of force of habit.

As for why Apple don't use them - I can only guess that as it isn't a required feature (like the 56k modem), it is a way of cutting down a bit of bulk and more importantly, cost.

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Comments deleted as pure noise. If you don't agree, and don't have a decent, valid argument, don't comment. This is not the place for flame wars. Further abuse will lead to this answer being locked. –  Diago Sep 9 '10 at 7:35

The answer has a lot to do with the Apple sense of style. They're big on minimalism, and fewer lights on the chassis is a good thing in that regard. IIRC, the only light on the laptop is the power. They also lack caps-lock and num-lock lights.

The Dell Studio laptop I bought back in April also lacks caps-lock and HD-Activity lights.

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Apple has always used Steven Job's design sense, which means leaving out as much as possible. The original Mac, for instance, had no power switch or eject button for the floppy drive. –  CarlF Sep 8 '10 at 18:16
    
Apple laptops have a caps lock light, and always have as far as I know… They also have an iSight activity light, so you know when the camera is active. –  ghoppe Sep 8 '10 at 18:41

I'm surprised at the number of people who don't see a use for HD activity lights. I can think of several:

  • Knowing when your computer is slow/frozen because of disk I/O instead of a hung process or error
  • Indication that there is a lot of disk I/O when there is no good reason for there to be (process running in the background)
  • Indication there could be an issue with a physical drive - if there's no process running, and the light is still blinking like mad to access your page file, there may be an issue.

Personally I think they will have a resurgence with the increased use of SSD's. SSD's are faster to be sure, but they are also silent, which means there will be literally NO indication that there is a lot of disk activity happening without a light.

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These concerns can be eliminated with software solutions. A blinking light doesn't provide a lot of useful feedback, certainly not enough to justify its existence, imho. –  ghoppe Sep 8 '10 at 18:31
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Except software is a LOT less reliable than the hardware. If the light is flashing, I know the HD is working. If the computer is frozen, and that's why I'm checking the light, how can I trust the software? –  JNK Sep 8 '10 at 18:34
    
I suspect hard drives having LEDs was mainly for consistency with floppy drives, rather than any actual functional purpose. Modern OSs read/write all the time, so they are not any more functional than power lights.. –  Remy Sep 9 '10 at 0:34

My opinion:

  • No one really needs them (seeing the world from a consumer perspective here)
  • They look ugly (most times)
  • There are better ways to indicate hard disk access nowdays (i.e. MenuMeters, iStatMenus)
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