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I have been told by someone quite knowledgeable in PC's that placing a PC into hibernate mode can be detrimental to a hard disk or the MBR (Master Boot Record) can be damaged and so cause some havoc.

I wondered if this is actually true? Is there any detriment to using Hibernate a lot, which I do.

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2 Answers 2

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Simply put - Nope!

They may have thought, or read and mis-interpreted that because it cycles power, it turns off and on, which shortens its life span... or along these tracks.

Hibernate is pretty much (not exactly, but mainly) a state in software, and as far as the hard drive is concerned, it is no different to turning the whole machine off and on again.

... then again, I suppose it does do a huge round of writes when you go in to hibernate and again a huge read when you come out... but compared to general use of a computer, I don't see this actually shortening the life by anything noticeable.

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Actually, it CAN damage your hard-drive, and it can do it in two ways; physically and through software corruption. Hibernate is when the computer takes everything in RAM and writes it to the hard-drive and immediately powers down, leaving the read/write head where it left off so that when you power back up it can begin reading immediately. The rate at which the computer writes the RAM contents to the hard-drive sometimes leads to errors (kind of like burning a CD at slower speeds to ensure accuracy vs. getting errors if you burn at a faster speed).

Over time, these errors can add up and confuse your system to the point of getting the dreaded BSOD. The second way it can damage the hard-drive is physically. Hard-drives are like old-school record players. They have a magnetic platter, which is where everything is stored (kinda like a record), and a read/write head (which is kind of like a needle, except this needle isn't supposed to touch the record). When you power down a computer normally, the read/write head goes back to it's home position and is "locked" in place. Kind of like when a needle gets to the end of the record it raises up and goes back to home position.

When you put a computer in hibernate, the read/write head stays out over the platter (so it can begin reading immediately as earlier stated). The problem is, when it's over the platter, it isn't "locked" down. It can float around. And it takes very little bumping or jarring of the computer (especially easy to do with a laptop) to make that read/write head actually hit the platter, causing scratches. Well, like the old record player, if you run the needle across the record, your record is screwed. It's the same with your hard-drive. I see it happen all the time.

College students hibernate their computers and dump them in their laptop case and go riding off across campus on their bikes blissfully unaware of the potential for screwing up hardware seriously. My advice, if your computer is running cleanly it should only take about 45 seconds or less to boot up anyway. Spend the extra 20 or so seconds you have to wait over the time it takes to boot up from hibernate and save yourself a few dollars on replacing your hard-drive and losing your data later.

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The effects of powering off a disk drive that you describe haven't been true since stepper motors went out. As an engineer for Maxtor, and having seen uncountable numbers of drives in scenarios that most can't imagine, I can say that even if you were to yank the power plug from the drive itself, the heads would still move to the parking area before landing on the surface of the disk. I wrote some fairly extensive air bearing diagnostics that profiled the flight of the heads over the platter that determined with precision the speed (in RPMs) at which the heads would land on the platters. –  BillP3rd Aug 15 '10 at 5:08
    
As for software corruption, that's a whole 'nother thing, but hibernating the computer is a clean and controlled shutdown. Pulling the plug or just holding the power switch until it turns off is definitely not recommended. –  BillP3rd Aug 15 '10 at 5:12
    
Are you sure about the hard drive's heads not being parked? I was under the impression that the heads had a spring-like mechanism which defaults the heads to the landing zone f.ex. in case of power-failure. See "Myth #15" on: techarp.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=84&pgno=3 "Modern voice coil actuators will automatically park the read/write heads whenever power to the hard disk drive is cut off." Leaving heads outside of the landing zone seems kind of a obvious no-no these days, besides, getting the heads to the right spot shouldn't take that much longer then for the disks to spin up –  GummiV Aug 15 '10 at 5:13

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