A magnet can erase the memory of a hard drive, true or false?

a magnet can erase the memory of a hard drive, true or false
a magnet can erase the memory of a hard drive, true or false

Is it true that if you bring a magnet near a hard drive, it can erase its memory? So already, I don’t really see why we would do that, the idea is a little weird in itself. But hey, you never know, if you’re the type to store your things haphazardly and the hard drive that contains your whole life falls next to a magnet, it would be better to avoid disaster.

Not sure if it’s a matter of luck, but let’s explore it together. We have already detailed what a hard drive is in a computer, as part of our episode on RAM memory . Don’t hesitate to listen to it to find out more about it! But for now, I’ll give you a little reminder.

How a hard drive works

A hard drive is a digital data storage medium . More simply, it is what is used to store all the dematerialized files that you wish to keep, therefore your documents, your photos, your music or even your lines of code. It is necessary to differentiate the hard drive from the random access memory , or RAM memory. RAM allows you to temporarily store the data that the processor needs to execute a program. This allows you to juggle information during a task without having to continually search for it on the hard drive. So, we can clearly see that we are not on the same dynamic here. The hard drive allows you to store it permanently, and it therefore has a high storage capacity. Moreover, we find them in computers, of course, but also in video game consoles . If you want to know what a hard drive is made of, well, there are several disks made of aluminum or glass, which are themselves covered with a layer of a magnetic material. It is on the latter that the digital data is written. There is no scribe in hard drive operation. Let me explain… It works, in summary, in the following way. The data to be stored is coded in the form of bits, a succession of 1s and 0s. To do this, they follow the electric current which passes through what is called the write head. The aim of this is to write the data starting at the periphery of the disk and ending towards its center. And finally, to read this famous data, the reading head, this time, must detect the direction of the magnetic field.

How does a magnet work?

Well, that’s for the hard drive . But what does this have to do with the magnet? Indeed, as there is a magnetic field involved in its operation, there could be a link. But let’s see how a magnet works. A magnet is quite simple, it always has a north pole and a south pole. The magnet is said to be magnetic, meaning it contains lots of moving electrons that generate a small magnetic field. And precisely, if we imagine lines which represent this field, they always start from the north pole and go towards the south pole. Thus, when we approach two magnets, presenting the north and south poles facing each other, the magnetic field passes from one magnet to the other, and forms a bridge between the two. What we see at that moment is that the two magnets attract each other. But conversely, if we place two south poles facing each other, or two north poles, the magnetic fields each push in an opposite direction and the magnets repel each other. You follow ?

Disc versus magnet, who wins?

It’s perfect. But then, how could this magnetic system damage a hard drive? Ok, in both cases we have a matter of magnetic field. But after all, the Earth also has a magnetic field , and yet our hard drives are not destroyed every two days! So, verdict?

Well, in theory yes, magnets could corrupt a hard drive. But you have to see what we’re talking about when we say “loving”. If you use the magnet that proudly adorns your refrigerator , nothing will happen at all. You need a much more powerful magnet than that for there to be an effect. And when I talk about powerful magnets, I don’t even mean the ones you can find in tool boxes to attract nails and screws that escape when you assemble furniture. No, here we are talking at least about those which are used, for example, to lift vehicles that are being scrapped. Ah yes, we’re not sure we’re small, are we? And, probably, there is little chance that your hard drive will encounter this type of magnet… unless you work in a scrapyard, or you forgot it in your car which is being destroyed. And in this case, a priori, well, it’s already dead for your disk. But if we come back to our question, in addition to having to use a huge magnet, it would have to be powerful enough for the field it generates to pass through the coatings that protect our hard drives. And only then, indeed, could our hardware suffer damage, such as blocking of the read head motor, for example, or even degradation of the write head.

All of this is irreparable, so it’s definitely better to be careful. But as you have seen, you would have to really force your hard drive to be damaged by the effect of a magnet. You actually have a greater risk of damaging it by dropping it, so a word of advice: consider protecting it in a small cover or shell!


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