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Helium leakage in helium-filled HDDs?

Discussion in 'Hard Drives and Solid State Drives' started by niekbergboer, Sep 12, 2017.

  1. niekbergboer

    niekbergboer Member

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    Most high-capacity HDDs are Helium-filled nowadays. Now, I studied engineering physics, and although I did not specialize in anything vacuum/helium related, the one thing that stayed with me is that helium is darn near impossible to keep inside almost anything (mostly since it's a single-atom gas with a very low molar weight).

    Harddrive manufacturers of course claim "Nth generation Helioseal!!1one!", but I'm a bit skeptical here: I know that if I pick up a 5- or 10-year-old HDD from the shelf, it'll likely work. How will that be with helium drives? Have they been around long enough for any of you to have gained experience with "depleted" drives?

    There is a good chance that I'm being a Luddite here, but I'm curious nonetheless.
     
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  2. wildpig1234

    wildpig1234 Active Member

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    Opening the helium hard drive - Video

    there is apparently a laser wielded lid airtight over the normal cover if I am correct from that video.

    This whole thing would be very challenging for data recovery as now after you open it to swap out a bad head or repair, you will have to put everything into another airtight helium filled container to run the drive for data recovery. or you might have to recover the data by removing each platter and run each one individually?
     
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  3. Tom5051

    Tom5051 Active Member

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    It does not matter if the lid is laser welded. What the OP is saying is that Helium atoms are so small they can pass through solid metal over time.
    Have you ever bought a balloon filled with helium only to find it is flat after a couple of days and no longer floats? This is the same principle, the Helium atoms are passing between the structure of the latex molecules.
    How does this effect the longevity and performance of these drives? Maybe the manufacturer has calculated Helium the loss over 10 years and inserted enough to last. I'm not sure to be honest.
     
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  4. wildpig1234

    wildpig1234 Active Member

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    yeah, I would hate for the drive to be non working after 1oyrs. metal are much denser than latex so a lot slower loss but still...
     
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  5. Evan

    Evan Well-Known Member

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    Let's say if the drives last minimum 8 years and on average a decent amount more does anybody care ? I certianly don't have any 8 year old hard disks running... can't imagine many people do. Treat them like tapes, from time to time you need to re-write the data on new media.
     
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  6. poutnik

    poutnik Member

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    Several of my disks are >8 years old, some of them are running in NAS configurations 24/7.

    For me, helium in the new disks is a strict no-go. It's impossible to keep some elements (and animals) trapped, they will find their way out...

    Edit: I have just looked through some invoices and the secondary disk in my desktop was bought in January 2009. It was a primary disk for a few years, now with SSD for system, this HDD is for slower data...
     
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    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
  7. Terry Kennedy

    Terry Kennedy Well-Known Member

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    HGST's Helium brochure is here. I'm sure there's better info on their partner site, but it is well past my bedtime and I'm not going to check now. If somebody posts "But I really want to see it!", I'll look at it
    tomorrow after my regular work is done.

    Since opening these sealed HDAs that come in as warranty repairs and get re-worked is such a chore, they probably go to extreme lengths to fully test, assemble, and QA test all of the components in there before they weld it shut during initial manufacturing.
     
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  8. pgh5278

    pgh5278 Active Member

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    Helium has long been used in piping and containers for a wide range of industrial, nuclear power plants and scientific purposes, the HDD are probably one of the recent uses, and in fact not adding technology that was already in use in other areas.

    A quick review of scientific papers, looking at Permeability of gases thru different materials. Helium does have a high permeability thru some materials and metals but not all. The specific metal properties to work in this situation are well understood in the appropriate circles.

    We can rest easy...letting our He drives spin...
     
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  9. Stux

    Stux New Member

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    Surely the important thing is that the helium is not being displaced by air right?
     
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  10. T_Minus

    T_Minus Moderator

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    If I'm using the same tech in 8 years then something has severely gone wrong in the TECH world, LOL!!! :D:D
     
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  11. wildpig1234

    wildpig1234 Active Member

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    I am still using a couple of PATA HDD with my daily driver 955 x4 phenom ;)
     
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  12. Cheddoleum

    Cheddoleum Member

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    That's a pretty good point. A helium balloon made of latex has to be pressurized to keep from collapsing, so as the helium migrates out the balloon simply shrinks. Aluminized mylar helium balloons last longer because they're not pressurized, just full. The helium can migrate out but it since the flexible envelope keeps its pressure balanced with the outside air, it's not being pushed out, so has far more of a tendency to stay put.

    A rigid shell filled with helium goes one better than the aluminized mylar balloon, because it can't collapse. If any helium migrates out, it will be doing so against external air pressure, and since oxygen and nitrogen molecules can't pass through in the other direction, helium leaving would tend to produce a vacuum inside.

    I'm not well versed in the physics of this but my naive guess is that the helium doesn't much want to migrate out and create a pressure differential.
     
    #12
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  13. wildpig1234

    wildpig1234 Active Member

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    the hard drive shell is a semi permeable membrane.

    the rigid shell is good in that it doesn't apply increased pressure to force the He through the semipermeable membrane but there is a much higher concentration of He on one side of that semipermeable membrane so you will always have a gradient causing He to to diffuse out. the only way to completely stop He from going out is to have equal concentration of He on both side of that semi permeable membrane
     
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  14. Dawg10

    Dawg10 Member

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    This is an interesting read. Elsewhere I discovered HGST/WesternDigital claims a 2.5 million hour MTBF on their He drives.

    That's 285 years...
     
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  15. wildpig1234

    wildpig1234 Active Member

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    in real life, plenty of HDD failed a lot sooner than even the current 100,000 MTBF. I would take that fig as a grain of sand.
     
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  16. Dawg10

    Dawg10 Member

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    Agreed. However, the claimed MTBF is exponentially greater than non-He drives. The R&D that went into creating the hermeticaly sealed hard drive is impressive, as are the drives themselves.
     
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  17. Tom5051

    Tom5051 Active Member

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    Hey this is a little off topic but speaking of Gases I've been reading about Saturn and Jupiter. These two gas giants are actually failed stars that never accumulated enough mass to support nuclear fusion. No they are not even close to being large enough, 100x or more.
    Interestingly, the pressures are so high in the center of these two planets that Hydrogen becomes a solid and has awesome superconductivity - Metallic Hydrogen. Some lab reckons they produced Metallic Hydrogen with a diamond anvil in Jan 2017 but they have not been able to reproduce the results, yet.
    I wonder if our sun has Metallic Hydrogen or does the fusion of hydrogen cause enough heat to alter the properties again?
    Another good read is about Bose-Einstein Concentrate, the 5th state of matter. Was recently produced in a lab to prove these super intelligent guys were indeed correct.
    Our Universe is certainly an interesting beast.
     
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  18. Patriot

    Patriot Moderator

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    ... huh interesting tom.... Now back on topic... It is important to note that if a He drive does not fit perfectly don't force it... they seem to be more snug than non-he drives and can be punctured.
     
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  19. gigatexal

    gigatexal I'm here to learn

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    As far as I know everything in the sun is in some form of a plasma fusing elements and all.
     
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  20. Fritz

    Fritz Well-Known Member

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    I had one float to the ceiling once proving that the helium was still in there.
     
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