Big news coming out of NEC and Hitachi this week! The two massive tech companies are teaming up to offer consumers (ie: geeky enthusiasts) a new liquid cooling solution for hard drives. The [insert its future name here] is going to be specialized for silence, as Hitachi and NEC are going to use low-decibel fans for the radiator in addition to wrapping the drive itself with noise-reducing padding. The water block itself will be fairly similar to a CPU block, which will surely help dissipate heat more than the ol' "blow air on it" technique.
Well, that's the news. And while I'll be excited to get my hands on the device as an editor of Maximum PC, I'm not personally interested in hard drive cooling in the slightest. If you ask me, water cooling a drive is bunk science. Here's why.
We've cooled just about everything there is to cool in the Labs -- CPUs, GPUs, voltage regulators, hard drives, interns. You name it, and we've likely strapped a copper, fluid-filled block to it. We've taken thermal pictures of hot things; we've taken thermal pictures of cold things. We've poked, prodded, and cursed our way towards lower temperatures for any electronics that pass through the door, and we've been ultimately successful.
When I was working on July's big cover story, I made it a point to take a close look at hard drive cooling. I used to be a firm subscriber of the "as much air as possible" method of cooling, but the noises emanating from my case's many fans/add-on coolers were starting to get annoying (and scare Colbert ). So I took two Raptor drives (fast = heat = ow) and strung them up into our ever-warm Quad FX-74 rig. With the drives sandwiched on top of each other, they were hovering around 65 or so degrees Celsius. Yeep!
But if you think that made me default to a water cooling solution, you're dead wrong. To reduce the drives' temperatures, I simply made some space between them. I also added a fan that sucked warm air away from the drives and out of the case; I would have gone the other direction, but the rig's power supply was shooting crazy-warm air right where the hard drive fan would be pulling it in. And that's it. Two minor changes, and we saw a decrease of around 15-20 degrees Celsius on each drive.
Sure, it would be awesome if the drives could run a wee colder. But does that mean that it's time to string up another radiator/fan combination? And where would this attach on most modern-day cases? Talk about ugly. No, I'd much deal with a little air than have to start mucking with tubing -- at least, for a peripheral that isn't as temperature-critical as, say, a CPU or a video card.
I can't wait to get my hands on this Hitachi/NEC product. But I swear, if I don't see a substantial benefit over a quiet fan, it's going to the wolves. Water cooling is a great solution for some elements of computer use. Air coolers can only do so much; the contents of a water cooling system are forever modifiable (and typically quieter). But water cooling shouldn't be a de facto fix for everything warm under the sun. We'll see if Hitachi and NEC can prove me wrong.