I mean physically moving the drive around. I've never dealt with external hard drives before. Just plugged this WD MyPassport to test the transfer rate.

At one point I 'safely ejected' the drive.

A minute later I decide to check the underside of the drive, not realizing the disk is still spinning. I lift the drive, rotating it upside down. I hear a sequence of three high pitched sounds. I couldn't determine whether that was an indication beep by an internal security feature or the head scratching the plate. The drive stopped and USB power is disconnected.

I reconnect it - it shows up fine - reads/writes. The drive was not reading/writing when I moved it.

Did I damage the drive?


You have nothing to worry about. I have a USB 2.0 WD EHDD and a USB 3.0 WD EHDD and have observed that the USB 2.0 one does have slightly higher chances of getting disconnected if you physically move it, since the micro-USB port is indeed small and connects to the cable in a comparatively fragile way. Its a problem only if you have files on it that are open or have some process running/accessing-files on it. At other times you may experience an annoying intermittent disconnect-reconnect operation when you try and move it.

And the disk does spin for a short while after being disconnected. As long as you have ejected it right, you are free to physically disconnect the device.

A 500 GB disk does not have 500 GB of free space (500*1000*1000*1000 / 1024*1024*1024 = 465 GB)

  • Thank you very much for the answer. What are the possible consequences of moving the drive while writing? As far as i know the head moves really close to the plate (nanometers?). Can smooth movement cause harmful contact? – Dean Panayotov Nov 23 '12 at 21:43
  • I have faced atleast two issues till date. One is where you connect it to your PC and it says "Your device needs to be scanned.." and gives you an opportunity to "Fix Errors..". In 90% of the cases, after minutes or hours u realize its a hoax :) And the second is files can do get corrupt - say you have a Word doc open and the EHDD gets disc, then the file may get corrupted or you may lose unsaved changes. But its very less likely that other parts of the EHDD got corrupted. – agirish Nov 24 '12 at 3:59

If you handle it carefully and do not expose it to impact, there should not be a problem.

For reference, a 3.5" Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 hard drive is rated to withstand operating shock of up to 70 g's (see page 16 (PDF page 22) of the manual for the Barracuda 7200.12).


I'm not an expert, and I'm saying this only by deduction, but think that the safest way to move an operating hard drive, is to keep it always horizontal. That is because, of the gyroscope effect, the resits to change direction. If you change direction suddenly, odds are that the spinning discs (plates) could crash with the reading needle/head, just as you suspected.

I believe some disks have some sort of protection, and they "park" when moving, that is, the head gets out of the way, to prevent damage, but not sure.

At the end, if you need to move the drive while operating, try to keep it always horizontal (or better said, keep it in the same position / direction you had it before moving, but most disks are used standing horizontally). Or just disconnect it and wait a bit for it to stop spinning.

Anyway, moving an external drive would have the same risk as moving an entire laptop, so just be careful and don't move or shake them more than necessary.

Sorry for my english, specially in the technical terms.

Hope it helps.

  • Thanks! Exactly the idea I was having in the first place - "moving an external drive would have the same risk as moving an entire laptop". – Dean Panayotov Nov 23 '12 at 21:58
  • you are welcome =). If you have no further comments or questions, you can mark this answer as accepted, so others can find it useful. – DiegoDD Nov 23 '12 at 22:05

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