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Does the orientation of a hard drive correlate to its life expectancy? With a series of lovely grinding sounds, the 750GB Seagate hard drive in my Thecus NAS failed and all data was lost. The hard drive only lasted a little more than two years. The NAS (and thus the hard drive) stands upright, but in most desktops the hard drives lie flat. So, does the orientation effect the hard drive’s life expectancy? Are they manufactured to operate lying flat, upright, or does it matter?

—Pete Gallagher

Pete, all the major hard drive manufacturers say that mechanical hard drives are built to work horizontally, vertically, or in whatever orientation you can dream of. After all, enterprise servers often have racks and racks of vertically mounted hard drives that work with no problems. That said, the only reason we’ve found that upright enclosures (like in a NAS or external hard drive) could fail more quickly is because they’re more prone to falling over. We’ve ruined more than a few hard drives by knocking their enclosures over while they were running. But if you are less clumsy than we are, and manage not to knock yours over, it should last just as long whether it’s upright or lying flat.

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION Are flames shooting out of the back of your rig? First, grab a fire extinguisher and douse the flames. Once the pyrotechnic display has fizzled, email the doctor at for advice on how to solve your technological woes.

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