# Does data have weight?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Zwhaler, Feb 17, 2007.

1. ### Zwhaler macrumors 604

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Jun 10, 2006
#1
I know, it is a strange question. But somehow it came to me and got me thinking. It is quite simple, if you take a 750GB (for example) and fill it to the brim with stuff, does it weigh more than it does empty? Even my a microscopic amount. I heard somewhere that data is simply electrons arranged inside the hard drive or something that, and if that were the case, it would weigh the same. But I'm just curious. Thoughts?

2. ### psychofreak Retired

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May 16, 2006
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London
#2
How could it? I have no real idea about this specifically, but where would the weight come from? Would the material grow, or would new material be magically created?

3. ### iGav macrumors G3

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#4
This seems true to me. An object would need more "matter" in order to weigh more. My understanding of data on a disk is that a magnet moves electrons around that are already there. All it is doing is changing 1's and 0's around as the data changes.

5. ### Zwhaler thread starter macrumors 604

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Jun 10, 2006
#5
Lol this is what I am trying to find out. I just mean does raw stuff (like a song or a movie) weigh anything when it is in a harddrive. Because for you to be able to watch a movie on your computer, it has to get that information from somewhere in your harddrive.

Joined:
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#6
No. Data is just the domains of magnets which are already on the HDD aligned in a specific way. The only way that data could weigh more or less is if the domains were aligned in such a way that the earth's magnetic field effected the weight. but the mass would remain unchanged.

7. ### Zwhaler thread starter macrumors 604

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Jun 10, 2006
#7
Yeah that is what I heard (like I said). That would make a lot of sense, because then it wouldn't have to fill a space, it just re-creates itself in a different way when you put stuff on a HD.

8. ### stoid macrumors 601

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So long, and thanks for all the fish!
#8
The only thing that writing data to a drive changes (besides the obvious physical state of the drive) is an increase in the amount of net dis-order in the universe. Since writing data to the drive generally results in a more ordered state of the drive's molecules, the heat generated by the process must be all the larger, hence the reason that if is impossible (with current known theories about the universe) to make a drive that does not generate heat during operation.

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10. ### spicyapple macrumors 68000

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Jul 20, 2006
#10
When a hard drive dies it loses 21 grams. This suggests that data does indeed have mass.

Magnetic polarization is a compelling theory on data storage. I will have to research that up on Wikipedia.

11. ### SkyBell macrumors 604

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Sep 7, 2006
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Texas, unfortunately.
#11
This is a good question. I think it would weigh more by a microscopic amount. It has to come from somewhere, right?

12. ### BigPrince macrumors 68020

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Dec 27, 2006
#12
Just to through in some more big concepts:

The weight gain(if any)/mass is approaching Zero as a limit and therefore we can say that we are AT Zero weight gain/mass.

13. ### bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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Jun 25, 2002
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Gone but not forgotten.
#13
I've seen plenty of reports with tables and graphs that say something like "weighted data" but on the storage device, no.

However, certain patterns on magnetic media might pull at things minimally more than others.

14. ### dllavaneras macrumors 68000

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Feb 12, 2005
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Caracas, Venezuela
#14
Sorry. You're all wrong

Air has mass, and so more info = more weight. 'Nuff said

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Parkville, MD
#15
this is making my brain hurt. i can't stop thinking about it..

16. ### BigPrince macrumors 68020

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Dec 27, 2006
#16
Good Article, but probably has to do with software telling it the drive is full more then the weight of the data; and air is not located within data...

EDIT: I may have missed any sarcasm there if there was.

17. ### dops7107 macrumors 6502a

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Mar 19, 2005
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Perth, Oztrailya
#17
heh, not to get too geeky here but I don't believe this.

By far the vast majority of the heat produced by a hard drive comes from frictional losses of spinning platters, moving heads, electrons zooming around circuitry etc. This heat generation could not be reduced to zero, since that would require 100% efficient devices. However, I think very little heat comes about from changing the orientation of the magnetic particles on the drive's surface.

Besides, the whole thing is expending energy in order to create local *decreases* in entropy - a drive with data is more ordered than a blank one. At the expense of a greater increase in entropy somewhere in a power station.

So yeah... maybe a disc drive changes mass with time, if parts start to oxidise. Or perhaps vaporise. So could go up or down...

18. ### dllavaneras macrumors 68000

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Caracas, Venezuela
#18
party pooper

19. ### gauchogolfer macrumors 603

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Jan 28, 2005
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American Riviera
#19
I can weigh in authoritatively and declare that there is zero mass change by writing data to a hard drive. All that occurs is the re-alignment of magnetic domains in the disk material, there is no creation/desctruction of said matter.

Unless you drop your machine and the head takes a big gouge out of it.

20. ### Apemanblues macrumors regular

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Jan 30, 2007
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Zombieland
#20
You'll get fat people saying "No man, this belly aint' junk food and beer, it's data"

21. ### Eric5h5 macrumors 68020

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Dec 9, 2004
#21
No. The bafflement in this thread baffles me. Hard drives are sealed. No matter goes into or out of them; data is simply a different arrangement of the material already there. Has no one ever attended a science class?

--Eric

22. ### yg17 macrumors G5

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Aug 1, 2004
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St. Louis, MO
#22
Nope...the matter would still be there, just rattling around inside the hard drive instead of being where it should be

23. ### rdowns macrumors Penryn

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Jul 11, 2003
#23
I just tested it with both my 750 GB externals. The one with the fat chick porn weighs more than the skinny chick porn.

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Jun 10, 2006
#24
I knew it!

25. ### Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

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May 7, 2004
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Sod off
#25
No.

Data is stored (on a hard drive) as a state of arrangement, but the medium in which it is arranged retains the same mass no matter how it is arranged.

Similarly, an abacus weighs the same no matter how big the numbers being calculated are - the beads are being moved around, not added or subtracted from the device.