I'm shopping for new hard drives and all the stores (Amazon, Overstock, Newegg, etc.) now show product pictures like this:
Typical product photo used by hard drive vendors

I can find no information in the product descriptions or in Google searches stating that this is just another marketing gimmick and that the drives really are enclosed.
Here's an example hard drive page on Amazon.

The replacement drives are to go into an external array (Drobo) that blows unfiltered air over its drives. Last I heard, even the tiniest bit of dust can trash drive components, but maybe technology has changed on me again?

  • Is dust no longer a concern for 2 and 3 TB drives?
  • Are these units really covered? I don't want to spend a few hundred bucks to order them before knowing.
  • If they really are covered, what reason would a marketing team have to only show pictures of the guts?
  • If they are not covered, how do I buy one that is?
  • 23
    Look closely on the edge. You'll find six holes used for the screws which will be holding the cover in place. This way of displaying drives is not new. First time I saw it was more than a decade ago. It does tell you a bit more about what product you are buying than a picture with the cover attached would. From a picture with the cover attached, most people couldn't even tell the difference between a disk and an SSD.
    – kasperd
    Oct 21, 2014 at 6:55
  • 23
    If it helps, I work at Seagate and can confirm that I know of no drives which are shipped to consumers without a case and there have not been any for about 20 years at least as far as I know. The reason being is that the platters are so sensitive to dust they need to be kept in a clean room when open to avoid damage.
    – Vality
    Oct 22, 2014 at 16:59
  • 4
    Those are just marketing pictures. No drives are shipped that way. Oct 24, 2014 at 21:26
  • 4
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about why a certain image is used in a marketing a hard drive.
    – ChrisF
    Oct 27, 2014 at 12:36
  • @Vality your comment "have not been any for about 20 years at least as far as I know" suggests that 20 years ago there were? can you provide any further info? or did you mean you have worked there for about 20 years and haven't seen any and doubt there ever were.
    – barlop
    Feb 23, 2015 at 7:09

9 Answers 9


Comparing the TigerDirect page for a Seagate ST2000DM001 to the Amazon page for the ST2000DM001, we see that the TigerDirect page includes a few more pictures for that exact model number.
One of the pictures shows the drive with the case on.

This suggests that the other 3 stores you checked just decided, for whatever reason, not to show the product as shipped. This would be a marketing decision. The drives either still come enclosed or the Seagate ST2000DM001 is different from different stores -- which doesn't seem likely.

  • 22
    It's clearly a marketing decision. A fully enclosed hard drive would be simply a beige box and very hard to distinguish from other storage technologies like SSD, CD/DVD/BR Drive, etc. Showing a product shot with the cross section of the drives makes it easier to identify that the product is a hard disk without having to read the text (keep in mind that these stores may sell to people who don't know a single word of English).
    – Lie Ryan
    Oct 21, 2014 at 9:39
  • 11
    @LieRyan Just a beige box?
    – TylerH
    Oct 22, 2014 at 18:44
  • 9
    I don't think I have purchased a beige pc component since 1994 and that was the case of my 486.
    – Roger
    Oct 24, 2014 at 14:07

No, hard drives are in sealed enclosures and these images are marketing shots to give you an idea of the engineering inside.

  • 7
    Thanks, Paul. I hope you are right, but do you have evidence? Links? Oct 21, 2014 at 5:11
  • 76
    I don't have evidence or links, just the knowledge that an open hard drive like that would break instantly.
    – Paul
    Oct 21, 2014 at 5:36
  • 10
    @BrockAdams: evidence: look at how they are actually assembled in the factory: youtube.com/watch?v=L4qBl8x3tC0 ... they are working in dust-free rooms, with LOTS of protection so that anything their body emits wont hit the disks.
    – akira
    Oct 21, 2014 at 5:51
  • 54
    Who needs evidence when one possess common sense?
    – eidsonator
    Oct 21, 2014 at 14:10
  • 23
    @Paul: one analogy I've found useful is that a harddrive read head is like the Empire State Building tilted sideways and flying over the earth, at the speed of sound, at an altitude of 10 millimeters. To scale, it's not a bad approximation.
    – geometrian
    Oct 22, 2014 at 3:36

@Paul is absolutely correct.

Hard drives need to be enclosed (I'd say sealed, except they are not quite sealed - but the tiny area which is not sealed is behind a heavy filter).

It makes sense that drives need to be sealed when you realise how they work. The drive head floats very slightly above the platter to read the information. The thing is that that gap is tiny. A finger print or speck of dust is several orders of magnitude bigger then the distance between the head and the platter, so even the smallest amount of dust would cause the drive to die very quickly. Similarly it makes it easy for the head to be knocked, and even the slightest knock can damage the drive.

Another vector to prove that drives are closed -

  1. New drives are (or will) be sealed with helium inside so even more performance and density can be squeezed out. You can't do this if the drive is not sealed.
  2. Go to your nearest computer store and ask. They will show you all new drives are sealed.
  3. Go find some information about "clean room" drive recovery. This is where they remove the platters from the drives to to put them with other heads to try recover data. Clean rooms are all about zero-dust, because even a tiny amount of dust will kill the drive before the data can be removed.
  • 2
    I know all that! (except for the helium bit) That's why I asked when 3 stores were showing me nothing but pictures of open drives. Also, many of us can't just "Go to your nearest computer store and ask". It may be after hours and 90 miles away. Oct 21, 2014 at 6:00
  • 1
    Helium is just one possible technology tho. Shingled recording and stuff like HAMR is also used to increase storage density. I think only HGST does helium filled drives, and other companies seem to have managed to match that density without helium.
    – Journeyman Geek
    Oct 22, 2014 at 0:18
  • 8
    @BrockAdams: Then save it for a day when you can afford to make the trip during opening hours. Why does everyone need answers to everything "right this second"? And if you can't get a day off work well, that's not our problem and doesn't change anything! Oct 22, 2014 at 15:25
  • +1 for mentioning that the seal in not airtight, there is a hole with a filter an some silica gel in the HDD. The HDD won't die that quickly even without a clean room, see how they cut the cover with a dremel to put some plexiglas so that you can see the moving heads while the PC runs on this tuning site jackypc.com/index2.php3?rub=articles&num=211 It's in French, there are pictures but the video of the HDD running is gone sadly.
    – Sacha K
    Oct 27, 2014 at 19:08
  • Thanks for link and upvote. Just to clarify for other readers - this is very different to having an open drive, which will kill your disk in short order. I'm even suspicious of the link above is dubious as its a 13 year old disk (about 1/500th the capacity of current drives), and if even the minutest bit of dust gets into the drive it will kill it - if not immediately, over time.
    – davidgo
    Oct 27, 2014 at 23:19

This is not new. Here's an ad for a 10 MB HDD which also most definitely did not ship with open disks.


ad for 10MB HDD

Here's how a 10MB HDD looked like

an actual 10MB HDD

  • 5
    They had the best noises when operating. I remember when these came out. Awesome!
    – Rory Alsop
    Oct 24, 2014 at 15:03
  • At the time I inherited an old computer with this HD. Just for fun, I opened it and tried to run - it ran well, and even defragged as I watched the arm. I doubt it would've last long though.
    – Jonathan
    Oct 28, 2014 at 10:13

It's marketing. A hard drive cover is boring; the internals look impressive. This isn't a new concept, for example this Intel processor doesn't actually have a semi-translucent heat spreader:

enter image description here

  • 8
    Even if it had a transparent spreader... The cores inside aren't that big and look very different... That entire picture comes out of a graphics designers mind :-) At least tht HDD images show the real inside.
    – Tonny
    Oct 21, 2014 at 21:30
  • 2
    @Tonny I agree with on your first point. In regards to the hard drive image showing "the real inside", you'd be surprised. The image is often a "stock image" and isn't actually the hard drive being advertised.
    – Jason
    Oct 21, 2014 at 23:02
  • 3
    You're right of course... It shows A real inside, but not necessarily of the same model drive. I once saw a IDE drive picture for a SATA drive :-)
    – Tonny
    Oct 22, 2014 at 11:34

For display purposes only.

The read-write heads move across the disk, flying on a thin film of air about 3-7 millionths of an inch thick.

Finger prints and the finest dust will bridge this, causing a head crash.

A human hair is a mountain in size in comparison at about 0.5-6 thousandths of an inch

Most drives available have a sealed container with a micro-filtered breather hole to keep out the dirt. The "most" excludes certain fully environmentally sealed technologies.


Mechanical hard drives will always come in sealed metal enclosures.

The only exception I know to the "solid metal enclosure" rule, was the Western Digital Raptor X, a hi-performance 150Gb 10k RMP HDD: it was sealed with a transparent plexiglas enclosure, so you could effectively see the spinning disks and the moving head.

enter image description here

You can find more image about the Raptor X on this google search.

And I'm a proud owner of a WD Raptor X, it was the main HDD of my old 2007 PC build, and you could really feel the difference!
Today I consider it a collector's item :-)


Also note the Amazon page you linked is for the DT01ACA200. That's a 1TB per platter drive, it has two platters and four heads yet the photo quite clearly shows 3 platters -- the picture does not change between the 2TB and the 3TB model (DT01ACA300) at all. That shows something is off.

In fact, the picture is very very likely to be of the 500GB 2.5" AV Western Digital drive from 2010: http://www.digit.in/storage/wd-av-25-2-5-inch-sata-hdds-with-silk-stream-advanced-format-technology-at-rs-2750-to-rs-4400-4294.html http://thumbs2.picclick.com/d/l400/pict/351079558689_/WD-25-500GB-16MB-SATA-II-Laptop-Notebook-MAC-PS3-Hard.jpg http://hardver-teszt.hu/news.php?newsID=681 and the official PDF at http://www.wdc.com/wdproducts/library/SpecSheet/ENG/2879-771362.pdf also has a very very similar pic. Needless to say in reality WD AV 2.5" it shipped sealed.


If they really are covered, what reason would a marketing team have to only show pictures of the guts?

The marketing team sometimes doesn't produce any picture at all. If you do a Google image search for the image from the Toshiba page on Amazon you linked to, you'll find that same image for many other drives. It's basically clip art. There are so many models of hard drives, it's such an easily identifiable image and there's really not much marketable difference between the physical appearance of their guts (nobody really cares what the inside of a mechanical drive looks like at this point - it's on the same level as a picture of a DVD or, say, a piece of plywood on a home improvement store's web site), that many times there just isn't a special image, and stock art is used.

enter image description here

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