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How To Overclock Your Hard Drive

written by: •edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 2/25/2010

In the endless effort to make your computer run faster to run the latest applications, you may get the idea into your head to try overclocking your hard drive. But is this a good idea, and is it actually feasible? This article explores.

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    What is Overclocking?

    Before we get into how to overclock a hard drive, it is important to understand what precisely overclocking is. Overclocking most generally refers to forcing a computer component to function at a faster clock rate (clock cycles per second) than designed for by the manufacturer. This is most often done to CPU and video cards, where it can be achieved by (roughly) increasing the voltage running through it or through use of special software.

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    Hard Drive Overclocking: Is It Possible?

    Now, if you know anything about hard drives, you'll see what a delicate operation this is. The rotation speed of a hard drive is kept fixed for a reason: hard drives, especially the extraordinarily dense hard drives we see today, require absolute precision, and overclocking threatens to break that precision.

    Unlike typical methods of overclocking other computer components, you usually cannot simply increase the voltage, as the voltage is not directly related to the rate at which the spindle motor works, as the hard drive is mechanically constructed to spin at a consistent rate. However, this is not necessarily true of all hard drives—it's hard to know without their proper specifications—and it may be possible that by increasing the voltage you may also increase the rotation. Even so, you may also need to hack the read/write heads that contact the spinning drive so that they are properly synchronized, and at least this here hobbyist isn't too sure on how to manage this. If this is to be attempted, be sure to increase the voltage only be small increments in order that you don't fry the whole shebang. It is also absolutely paramount that you provide adequate heat venting as well.

    Accounts from those who have successfully overclocked their hard drives are generally don't sound successful, resulting in everything from shattering hard drives to bad burns. Even if you do manage it, overclocking is a surefire way to shorten the lifespan of your drive. So, generally, this is not something you want to try unless you really know what you're doing.

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    Instead of Overclocking, Reduce the Bloat

    There's a good chance that you may not need to even try and attempt this in the first place. If you just want your computer to run faster and have better performance in general, try removing “bloatware" that might be bogging it down, that is, software that may be running in background accessing your hard drive that is unnecessary to your current use of the computer.

    Operating systems such as Windows Vista somewhat infamously have more “bloat" than leaner OSs like many Linux distros, for instance, so you may want to consider changing operating systems. Keep in mind that even relatively lean operating systems may also have their sources of bloat, such as their GUIs or graphical user interfaces. GNOME is a good example of this.

    You may want to also consider wiping the hard drive and reinstalling any necessary software to reduce the clutter, or if you don't want to go to that extreme, simply uninstalling unnecessary programs. Even just getting into the habit of reducing the number of applications you have going at once, anything from limiting the browser tabs you have up at once and restarting often can do wonders to your computer's performance. So, it's worth trimming the excess baggage—and it's probably a lot less effort than the long and elaborate process of overclocking the hard drive!