Do hard drives require more energy if they have more data stored on them?



  1. 0 Votes

    Simply: no, they do not.

    In their usual, essential format, hard drives are just 1’s and 0’s. While hard drives do not require more energy to store more data, there are kinds of electronic circuits that, to maintain data, need to be regularly “refreshed” with an electronic charge. Hard drives are not like that, the data just sits there on the drive, power or no power.

    (An unplugged hard drive is an excellent way to keep data safe for a long time, even decades. Far longer than a CD or DVD!) 

    But, if you please, we can dig further into the implications of the question. Things happen to well-maintained hard drives: They are backed up, they are defragmented, they are virus-checked. Each of those costs quite a lot of energy, because hard drives cannot “sleep” while those things are happening. All three of those things are largely related to how much data is on the hard drive. 1/2 gig, and it will all be over practically before you notice. 100 gigs of movie downloads and software trials … well that’s going to take about 200 times as much time and energy.

    And it’s not just the energy taken by the hard drive. When it’s being used the whole computer needs to be powered on, and can’t be shut down or go to sleep.

    So the real world answer, in practical terms, is extra data costs a heck of a lot of energy on a well-maintained computer.

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