Do you know what the maximum temperature is that an external hard drive can
withstand? (not at which it operates, but an external temperature it can
I bought an external hard drive with the intention of backing up my data
once a week and storing the hard drive in a fire safe for the remainder of the
time in case of fire. I was reading through the manual for my safe the other
day, and it said it protects the contents by making sure the interior doesn’t
raise to above 350 degrees in case of fire. This got me thinking: the papers I
have in there would be ok at that temperature, but would my credit cards and
backup hard drive be ok? Wouldn’t they melt? I read over the hard drive manual
and even called the support number, but no one could give me the maximum
temperature that the external hard drive could withstand. The only temperature
numbers I could get were its operating temperatures.
I’ll be honest – I don’t know the answer to your specific question. I’ll
make an extremely uneducated guess, and maybe some readers will comment with
I, personally, would never do what you’re suggesting. But the good news is
that you’re 80% of the way to what I do, in fact, do.
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First, I’m not surprised that you can’t get a straight answer from the
manufacturer – if they don’t publish the information already, I’m certain it’s
not something that they would want to be held accountable for.
My totally wild guess – that you may not hold me
to – is that your drive might be OK at 350 degrees. Now, “OK” is a
relative term. I’m envisioning the drive itself being ok, but the case, the
cables and everything else melted into a plastic puddle. You might be able to
retrieve your data, but it won’t be a pretty process.
I’m also expecting that your credit cards will part of the plastic puddle.
(Though they’re easier to test – take one of the cards you get in your junk
mail every so often, and bake in a 350 degree oven for, oh, half an hour or so
and see what’s left. Just make sure you put it on something disposable.)
for anything related to my computer.”
Now, why do I think this is such a bad idea?
Well, besides the fact that I’m not certain that the drive would actually
survive the heat, I’m fairly certain that other damage could be worse. I
vaguely recall that most property damage resulting from a fire is,
paradoxically, water damage. What happens if your safe gets flooded? Paper can,
in many cases, be dried out. Yes, hard drives can as well – but again, you’re
pushing the envelope, and it may be a difficult recovery.
And of course the safe
may be buried for days in the rubble of a true catastrophe.
While I do have a safe in my home, I do not rely on it for anything related
to my computer.
What I do rely on, is off-site storage.
My personal situation is fairly simple: I have two physical locations, say
home and work, and at each location is an external hard drive to which data is
being backed up nightly. Every so often I swap them, simple as that. That way each
location has off-site backup at the other. If either location is destroyed, the
A more common scenario is to simply take your hard drive (or backup CD’s, as
I used to) to the home of a friend or family member.
Depending on how much data you’re talking about, this might also be a good
use for some of the on-line storage that your ISP or other service providers
might give you for free.
But if you’re going through the trouble of creating and updating that backup
disk, I really recommend taking that next step and storing it (or a copy of it)