Did keeping my iMac on kill the HDD?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by sultanoflondon, Sep 10, 2016.

  1. sultanoflondon macrumors 6502

    Dec 3, 2013
    Hi all,

    I think that I have successfully diagnosed that my iMac's HDD has failed after three and a half years of use. It is a stock Apple installed 1TB SATA drive.

    I used to keep my computer on 24/7, unless knowing that I would not be using it for more than three or four days, in which case I would shut it down. I am wondering whether this strategy killed the HDD. I am now operating a policy by which if I know that I will not be using the computer for more than half an hour, I will shut it down.

    What do you think?
  2. Rmonster, Sep 10, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2016

    Rmonster macrumors member


    Oct 19, 2015
    Havering, UK
    In IT terms, I'm a complete thicko, so some of the snippets of what I've learned over the years may be complete mis-information, but others with real knowledge will soon give you some answers, I am sure.

    My (small) business used to run a fairly low end Acer server and that thing ran 24/7 for about 6 years. It didn't break, we just had to retire it. We retired it about 6 years ago but, to be honest, if we had left it running then I'm convinced that it would still be going strong. OK, maybe not, rose tinted specs and all, but it never let us down.

    The old (and probably outdated) wisdom was that more harm was done during the cycles of shutting down and restarting than was done in just letting these things run.

    However, I am guessing (and stand to be corrected) that even old school "enterprise" hardware was designed to run that way, but with advances of IT, unless you are running an enterprise application, ie you are using a computer for personal use for relatively short periods of time outside of your working hours, letting them go into sleep mode or switching them off will be far more beneficial to their longevity.

    It's a no brainer for me, my apple desktop collection is at 30+ now and I'm convinced that it would be a semi-dead collection if I left them running 24/7. So far, every one of them works fine even after 3 or 4 months of non-use at a time.

    In terms of your experience, all of the above might be completely irrelevant and you may have been just plain unlucky. I will await more expert opinion with interest.
  3. sultanoflondon thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 3, 2013
    Thanks for your prompt and detailed reply!

    Exactly, I mean common sense dictates that if you leave something running 24/7 indefinitely, it will break down. We don't do that for cars, nor ourselves, but I am no expert either.

    It is convenient for me to leave the computer running 24/7 (it means that I never have to wait to turn it on), but this convenience may have costed me.
  4. thats all folks macrumors 6502a

    thats all folks

    Dec 20, 2013
    Austin (supposedly in Texas)
    All hard drives will die, it's a bit of alchemy as to what will kill it ultimately along with whether you get 10 days or 10 years. the hard drive in the iMacs and the like are models that would have a 2 or 3 year warranty if bought at retail, so 3.5 years is shorter than you should hope for but in line with it's design. if you left it on, without sleep enabled (sleep shuts down the drive), that could have shortened it's life. or maybe you just got unlucky.

    In a professional environment, I've always preferred to retire mechanical drives before year 3 , the technology advancements in capacity, performance and energy efficiency made it a worthwhile effort. but I'm a tower guy and haven't had an iMac since they were multi-colored bubbles. I realize servicing iMacs is awkward at best and only gotten worse with newer models. the towers were always easier to work on. Even laptops with HDs were always easier to open than the iMacs.

    you can upgrade to an SSD now, with the thinking that that will be more dependable (though they can fail too) or just figure that the computer is getting old and stick another low cost hard drive in as the last one for that machine.
  5. sultanoflondon thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 3, 2013
    Thank you for your reply!

    I was putting the display to sleep whilst the computer was never allowed to sleep. I have changed this to allow the computer to sleep too.

    This computer is my home computer and so it isn't economical to retire mechanical drives before year 3. If I were to service the iMac, it would certainly be at an Apple Store, because I am nowhere near experienced or confident enough to meddle with it.

    The computer itself is in great condition; I try to treat it well. This is why I think that I would get an SSD fitted if I need to change anything, as I have no intention of replacing the iMac.
  6. thats all folks macrumors 6502a

    thats all folks

    Dec 20, 2013
    Austin (supposedly in Texas)
    sounds like you have your plan set, I wish you the best and happy computing.
  7. Crazy Badger macrumors 65816

    Crazy Badger

    Apr 1, 2008
    Assuming the iMac in question is the one in your signature, then 4 years from a HDD isn't bad, but it could also be better. My 2011 iMac is left on 24/7 and it's got a 2TB drive about the same age as yours (I upgraded the 1TB drive after about 12 months)

    I don't think there is a definitive answer to powering down or leaving on. Drives draw far more power to spin up from cold but if you're only using it for 8 hours a day, is that worse than operating for an extra 16 hours? Pretty sure powering up and down a number of times a day would be worse than leaving on 24/7, but powering up once a day compared with 24/7 is probably less clear. You also need to consider the power saving, which over a long enough period would probably cover the cost of a new drive.

    I've got 2 NAS devices sat in my office which also run 24/7 and the very nature of HDD (spinning platters) mean they eventually fail. I've had drives last less than a few months, and others (bought at the same time) run for 6+ years. The most frustrating ones are the ones that last just over the warranty period and then die :D

    Again, assuming it is the one in your signature and you're going to replace the drive, do yourself a favour and stick a SSD drive in at the same time. I couldn't imagine using any machine with just a spinning disk these days. Heck, even my main NAS has a SSD as a boot device :D
  8. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012
    All HDD die. Only when...not if. Replace any boot HDD with an SSD for much improved performance.
  9. simonsi macrumors 601


    Jan 3, 2014

    Most vehicle engine wear occurs between cold start and normal running temp. Same for HDDs.
  10. mmomega macrumors demi-god


    Dec 30, 2009
    DFW, TX
    I don't believe just keeping the iMac on caused the issue. I still have a 2007, '09, '10, '11, '12, '13 model iMacs that have been on and left on since purchased except for very small amounts of downtime due to power outages or moving locations.

    Sometimes a bad HDD is just a bad HDD.
    I had one in the '12 iMac just go out, out of nowhere with no indication of failure. Also the 9,10,11,12's are workstations at one of my offices and stay on 24/7 so I can remote in at anytime to update software or check on the systems. So some of these machines have been running for 7 years.
  11. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    Weren't some iMac internal HDD's from that period subject to a "recall & replacement" by Apple?
    Might be worth it to check.

    How did you "diagnose" that the drive has failed?
    Is it a hardware failure?
    Or... just won't boot any more?

    If you have USB3, the easiest "fix" is to buy an external USB3 SSD, and just "plug it in and go".
    If the internal is truly broken with a hardware failure, I think the SSD will just "run around it".
    That is to say, just leave the failed HDD "in place", and ignore it.
    Fast, easy, relatively cheap.

    Some hard drives fail early in their lives, others just keep going and going.
    No way to predict this other than to use them.

    My biggest gripe with the iMac is that Apple makes it difficult to do a replacement in the instance of a failure. They should have at least had a small trapdoor to allow access to the internal HDD!
  12. sultanoflondon thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 3, 2013
    Thanks for your reply!

    I checked that: they were only for 3 TB HDDs.

    And I put a hardware test results log on here and someone pointed out a bit of it that said that the HDD is ailing.

    I was thinking exactly that: probably the cheapest way of doing it.

    And yes Apple has made it very hard to upgrade the components, which is unfortunate.
  13. roadkill401 macrumors 6502


    Jan 11, 2015
    I would be asking the question of do you have your mac hooked up to a UPS or some form of power reconditioner. There is likly more harm in having a computer running with dirty power that you will not see.
  14. tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    Doesn't matter. Replacements are cheap.

    Just replace the hard drive or get an SSD.
  15. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    HDD's die it can be in the first week or they might last 10 years. More use will mean more chance of dying but leaving your Mac on will not mean that the drive is in use so that will make no difference.
  16. sultanoflondon thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 3, 2013
    I have not been using a UPS or power reconditioner, only an extension (something like this http://www.electrosupplies.co.uk/pr...=16477&src=2&gclid=CO3gyJO7ic8CFeop0wodhuIIxg).

    SSDs can be more expensive.

    Thank you!

Share This Page