It’s Not the Heat – It’s the Humidity That’s Causing Hard Drive Failure

How are you managing your humidity?

Last summer I had the opportunity to visit Phoenix, AZ. Phoenix is a great town but it is very hot during the summer. It’s 114 degrees in the shade!  That’s hot!  As I was drove around I noticed a car with a funny bumper sticker. It read: “I know Hell is hot - - But is it humid?”  I got a big kick out of the bumper sticker. I can relate.

I spent 20 years in Houston, TX. During the summers, it was not uncommon to have a hot humid Houston day were the temperature was 99 degrees and the humidity was 90%. It was very uncomfortable and in many cases, it was the humidity that made Houston more unbearable than Phoenix during the summer months.

When you look at hard drive failure, heat is always a big concern. However, we often overlook the issue of humidity and its impact on hard drive systems. It turns out that humidity can be just as bad or worse than heat at causing hard drive and computer component failure. I ran across this study from Rutgers University and I thought you might find some of their findings interesting. If you run a data center you should consider how humidity impacts your equipment. I hope you find this information helpful.

“It turns out humidity is a greater threat to hard drive reliability than high temperatures, according to a study from Rutgers University in partnership with GoDaddy and Microsoft. In their paper titled "Environmental Conditions and Disk Reliability in Free-cooled Datacenters" (PDF), the team said the most notable result was that all other conditions aside, the effects on controllers and adapters were felt most as humidity levels rose.”

“According to the study, disk failures accounted for 89% of component failures in a data center, with memory DIMMs coming second at 10%, CPUs at 5% and PSUs at just 2%. And the research found that as humidity levels rise, the rate of disk controller and connectivity failures increase.

"The tests were carried out on more than a million drives in nine Microsoft data centers over a period of 1.5 to four years. The humidity-related failures were so high that you could tell which free-cooled data centers had humidity controls and which did not just by looking at the annualized failure rate (AFR) of the controllers.”

“One of the conclusions of the group is that free-cooled data centers in regions where high levels of naturally occurring humidity should be more aggressive with their humidity controls. They also found that positioning the drives in the hot region at the back of the server also improved reliability. The reason is that the heat is not as destructive as the humidity and the heat of that position in the server kept humidity at bay.”


Credit: By Andy Patrizio


Subject: Computer centers; Humidity; Servers; Cooling

Publication title: Network World (Online)

Publication year: 2016

Publication date: Mar 30, 2016

Year: 2016

Publisher: Network World Inc.

Place of publication: Southborough

Country of publication: United States

Publication subject: Communications--Computer Applications, Computers--Computer Networks

Source type: Trade Journals

Language of publication: English

Document type: News

ProQuest document ID: 1776704561

Document URL:

Copyright: Copyright Network World Inc. Mar 30, 2016

Last updated: 2016-03-30

Database: ProQuest Central


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