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I suspect that the most stressful to a HDD is being used as a target for downloading torrents. I plan to get a new HDD and use the old one only for storing downloads in progress.

Is this true? How much stress is there on an idle HDD?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Well, there isn't really a lot of stress on an idle hard drive, but it is hard to say as there are many more factors to it. For example, acoustic mode (changes speed), Power down, sleep on idle... are just a few things that can contribute to "stress"

Typically anything that involves a lot of file read/writes is heavy on "stressing" the hard drive, for example, downloading, anti virus etc.

You can minimise torrents from doing this by looking in advanced options and increasing the amount of Ram used and decrease hard drive IO - This typically means that it will download a lot more to your computers memory and when its limit is reached, it will then write to the hard drive in one go.

I advise that you download Process Explorer from Microsoft Sysinternals, as this will allow you to click on the graphs at the top and hover your mouse over any of the peaks on "I/O bytes history", you can then see what process is taxing the hard drive at any point.

enter image description here

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There's very little stress involved in using torrents, since the rate at which you can send and receive data is bottlenecked by your broadband at a very low speed in hard drive terms. So your connection is probably capable of 100s of kilobytes per second and your hard drive is capable of megabits per second there is no stress involved.

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In my experience, torrent traffic is more likely to "stress" the router/gateway/modem than anything else. I've seen routers freeze up due to having (many) more open connections than the onboard memory could handle. – killermist Jul 7 '12 at 21:51
This answer is wrong. The disk write rate does not reflect the download rate. Torrents are downloaded and written in pieces on the disk, not sequentially. That causes enormous stress on the disk, especially at the beginning of the download when space is allocated. It's very common to get "disk overloaded" messages when dealing with large torrents and fast connections, like 4-5 MB/s. This happens even on SSDs which can do random writes at higher speeds that can keep up with the download – onetrickpony Dec 13 '15 at 1:29

Just to summarize everyone else and add my 2 cents:

Yes there is some wear and tear, but its probably not as significant as you think. One solution is to use flash drives as your d/l location, but flash drives have significantly less read/write life and may have trouble with that much random access.

Considering how cheap a decent size internal hard drive is, I think your best solution would be buy another one and use it as your download drive.

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Col is right, however, when you have 30+ torrents open writing in different locations on different sectors on your hard drive, it is working harder then you think. However, it should be able to do so for a very long time without failing! ;)

It just consumes power!

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This is a good argument...and downloading overnight i notice my hard drive doing a lot of creeking so if you think about it if your dl 20 gig over 1 week thats a lot of work to the hard drive especially on a lap top where its a big deal if a hd fails. I RECOMMEND possibly using a flash drive as your dl folder that way its not wearing on the hd disks and heads.

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Just monitor your system and find out exactly how much "stress" is caused by your BitTorrent client. For most accurate readings of your system activities download and run AnVir Task Manager

If you only want to monitor the disk activities, go to View > Detailed Info. clear CPU and RAM. choose whether you want to monitor a single process (e.g. your BT client) or the whole lot. You can also adjust the Chart Scale to your likings.

enter image description here

Sorry, but even the free version of Anvir is light years ahead of Process Explorer. :)

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If the other answers do not satisfy you (I agree with the relatively low-stress argument),
yet, maybe you have no other competing application that stresses your HDD more...

You can consider picking up a cheap flash drive (16-32GB is quite cheap these days),
and use it (at-least) as the 'incoming' point for your incomplete downloads.
This will still leave disk-read activity for files you are seeding.
If you can manage the space, keep everything in that flash.

There is a different argument on the wear of flash drives.
However, that is answered elsewhere; read that and consider the price-comparison to a new HDD.

This should work well if you do not have the problem of lots-of-allocated-data that does-not-fit 16-32GB.

Since this was asked... check the Transcend 8GB,
Note: by 'cheap' I implied they are quite commodity these days; did not suggest low-grade.

enter image description here

There is a PNY 16GB model available too -- quite comfortable size.
Have seen both these models being used without problems.
Lookup the prices for these in your locality.
If you do not need a small form factor, there are 32-64 GB flash drives at reasonable prices too.

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A cheap flash drive might have problems with random writes. – Bender Sep 29 '09 at 14:45

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