Increase the Lifespan of Your Mac’s Disk Drives

September 1, 2011, By Christian Cawley

You may not know this, but any disk drive with moving parts (such as a hard disk drive or optical drive) connected to your Mac will have its lifespan shortened even when you’re not using the device.

This happens when your Mac pings the drive to ensure it is connected, spurring the device into life, and this can occur even when there are no discs in an optical drive. The lifespan of an optical drive can be shortened by this process considerably, something you may want to avoid if it was an expensive device such as a Blu-ray disc drive. We all know that by decreasing a disk drive’s lifespan we increasing the risk of data loss, so it is important to be aware that devices can be worn down even when idle.

Increase the Lifespan of Your Mac’s Disk Drives

Fortunately there are a couple of ways in which you can avoid this from becoming an issue, thereby getting the most out of your Mac hardware!

Disable Your Drives

The last thing you want after spending money on external devices is for them to stop working thanks to a shortened lifespan caused by your OS routinely pinging them every 10 minutes or so.

To prevent this from happening you can disable your drives when they’re not in use, thereby preventing your Mac from running the periodic check to detect them. Sadly, excluding a drive from Spotlight won’t help, so your best option is to unmount the device and disconnect it from your Mac until it is needed again.

You can do this by dragging the drive icon to the Trashcan before disconnecting or switching the disk drive off.

Unfortunately this isn’t the most streamlined solution but it will allow you to keep the disk in tip-top working order for as long as possible.

Disable Indexing

The periodic check for attached drives is performed by the Spotlight service that runs on your Mac to facilitate searches. If this regular check is irritating for you or you simply want to stop it in order to extend the life of your disk drives, you can prevent the Spotlight indexing via the Terminal.

To do this, open Applications > Utilities and select the Terminal, the command line option for Mac OS X. This offers advanced configuration options that aren’t available in the GUI (that’s the graphical user interface, better known to you as the mouse-controlled desktop) that you usually won’t need to access. In this particular case you will need to run the following command:

sudo launchctl unload /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.metadata.m ds.plist

Tap Enter when you’re done and look out for the prompt to input your Administrator password. You should now find that your drives are not checked every 10 minutes, something that could prove vital in ensuring that their lifespan is kept as long as possible!

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