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Should external hard disks be put flat on the table when we are transferring data?

Would there be possible physical damage to the inner components of the disk if we do not do so?

While the hard disk is running, will shaking it spoil the disk?

(Talking about in the long run of course.)

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Don't shake a device with moving parts in it. – Oliver Salzburg May 11 '12 at 12:21
@Pacerier - Shaking a mechanical HDD while its running can damage the drive. Most portable mechanical HDD has some sort of feature to prevent this. Depends what exactly you mean by shaking it. – Ramhound May 11 '12 at 12:26
@Ramhound I mean shaking it as fast as I can with my hands of course, but it doesn't bang (crash) anything. – Pacerier May 11 '12 at 12:42
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Hard disks are, for what it matters to this question, made of plates spinning and a magnetic reading head, that moves to read the disk. This head is fixed in a moving arm and it's positioned very close to the disk.

If you shake the HD, the head might touch it's surface. So, it'll cause damage. In the long run, it'll make it worse, as the micro- and mini- and regular- damages will acumulate.

So, never shake a running HD.

Some images and information can be found here and here

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If I do not shake it, but position it weirdly (upside-down, slanted, standing, standing on 1 leg i.e. standing + slanted) while doing data transfer, does it increase the chance of physical damage? – Pacerier May 11 '12 at 12:44
@Pacerier: In general, no, it should not matter how you position the HDD as long as you don't move it while it's in operation. – MBraedley May 11 '12 at 13:10
@MBraedley, But wouldn't gravity play a part in how we should position the HDD? – Pacerier Feb 8 '15 at 16:25
@Pacerier: Nope. Various external cases and drive docks mean that each axis of the drive could potentially face up. Also, while desktop drives usually aren't used "upside down", laptop drives are frequently installed this way. – MBraedley Feb 8 '15 at 16:35
Bearing in mind that the spindle of a hard disk will be mounted on a bearing to aid rotation. Putting the disk on its side or upside down (any position other than its natural "on its back") will put different pressures on the spindle bearing, causing uneven wear on the bearing: much like a car wheel bearing under the natural load of a car. Uneven wear will, as said in another answer, get worse and have potential catastrophic results. – Big Chris Feb 8 '15 at 17:15

Yes. Excessive vibration, shaking, shock, and impacts can damage the hard drive. At the very least you can bounce the read head against the surface of the platen inside the drive and physically damage the surface.

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Do not shake a running drive, if the drive will not ready, take it out,turn it upside down and shake, you can also tap the corner on the desk, IF the head frame is stuck it will break it loose. This is actually in the IBM service manual. 80 percent success rate.

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Wow, isn't this potentially dangerous actually? – Pacerier Feb 8 '15 at 16:25

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