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I have a laptop with 8GB of RAM running Windows 7.

Is it possible to completely shut off the hard drive while browsing the web? I use Firefox.

I figure I would need to do this if I wanted to prevent damage to the hard drive while using the laptop in the car or while running on the treadmill. If instead I wanted to watch a movie, would I simply need to transfer the movie to a ramdisk and then shut the drive down somehow?

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It's unlikely that this sort of thing would cause trouble; you only really have to worry about sudden acceleration/deceleration (like a drop would cause). A lot of better laptops nowadays have an accelerometer and a piece of software that stops the drives when it detects a bump for exactly that reason...but beyond that, who cares? I've certainly never heard of simply driving in a car causing a hard drive to fail. –  Shinrai Aug 8 '11 at 20:36
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True, car environment isn't that bad. But the treadmill I have at home can be like a miniearthquake when it gets up to the highest setting. Any ideas? –  MrP Aug 8 '11 at 20:38
    
I seriously think you're possibly being a bit paranoid. That said, there are ways to park the head on a drive at will in theory but that's drive-specific and pretty complicated, I don't know of any simple apps. You're best off with a machine like I'd mentioned that already includes such a beast, or better yet just use a solid state drive instead. –  Shinrai Aug 8 '11 at 20:43
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Anything is possible. As for feasible, the answer is "not really".

You may be able to find out what system-call is made to spin-down disk drives. However, when an application needs to load something that isn't in cache, the drive will just spin back up again. Perhaps you could merely adjust the disk cache to something massive, but I don't think you get much control over stuff like that in Windows - that's fairly kernel-centric stuff.

If you were using Linux, I think you'd have an easier go of it.

My advice to you is that your best bet for this functionality is to just get an SSD hard drive. They're not sensitive to acceleration - unless you're talking something like >20,000g - but you're not.

Alternatively, a cheaper & slower option is to create a bootable USB drive and run on that while you're making your machine oscillate like crazy. Though I'm not sold your hard drive would be spinning up then still - you'd want to be sure it was unmounted and find some controls to make sure it's spun down. I still much prefer the SSD option.

Vibrations & Magnetic storage make the children weep.

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Seems the most sensible thing to do is to just buy an SSD. Since I've just signed up onto SuperUser today, I'm not able to vote either of you up (A pop up says I need a reputation of 15 or something like that), but I appreciate the advice! –  MrP Aug 8 '11 at 20:58
    
Perhaps the rep from the upvote I just gave your question will help. Please consider marking my answer as accepted - since it sounds like you're going to do as it suggests.. –  Doc Aug 8 '11 at 21:27
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