What is Hard Drive RPM – FAQ, List & Work Process

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What is hard drive RPM? RPM is the short form of ‘Revolutions per Minute’ and is the unit of speed for any object that moves in a circular motion. As for the hard disk drives, this is the speed at which the disk in the standard hard drive spins inside it.

The performance and functionality of the hard disk depends on this RPM, higher, the better. This means that a hard drive with a higher RPM, for example, 7200, will perform much better and transfer files much faster as compared to a hard disk that comes with a speed of 5400 RPM.

A hard disc contains one or more platters that hold the data. These platters spin on the flat circular disc called the spindle.

The number of revolutions made in a minute by the platters is called the RPM and can range anywhere between 4200, for the ordinary versions of hard drives, and, as high as, 15000 RPM, for those computers that are used in high end servers and energy efficient transportable devices.

The speed of the hard disk, or RPM, will determine the rate at which data and information will be transferred from it to any host computer. This speed of the hard disk drive will also determine the access and response time of it.

There are different factors that will govern this time, but the two most significant ones are:

  • The moving heads and
  • The mechanical nature of the spinning disk itself.

The RPM of a hard disk contains a few particular elements that can be measured independently. These elements and their measurements are all added together to get the single value. It is this value that indicates the performance of the hard disk drive, which is the main storage device of a computer.

The fundamental components that are measured and added to determine the access time of the hard drives are:

  • Seek time
  • Settle time
  • Rotating latency and
  • Command dispensation time.

All these measurements can vary. This means that, when the values measured vary, the access time of the hard disk will also vary expressively. It is for this reason that the manufacturers of hard drives typically measure this and provides it in benchmarks that are considered to be the average.

What is Hard Drive RPM?

What is Hard Drive RPM

Hard disk drive RPM is the unit that indicates the speed, and, in turn, the performance of the disk drive. Originally, the hard drives were designed to spin at a speed of 1200 RPM.

Later on, there were the upgraded disk drives that spun at the rate of 3600 RPM and were available for many years, until these were replaced by the latest hard disk drives that had a platter spinning at 5400 or 7200 revolutions per minute.

A few specific models of modern hard disk drives can even spin at a huge speed of 10000 or 15000 RPM.

RPM of the disk drives is used to measure the access time of the hard drives of the computer.

The same RPM unit is also used to measure the speed of the fan in the computer case or the heat sink fan present in it.

When the speed of the hard disk or the fan in the CPU case or heat sink is more, the decibel of noise level, measured in dBA, will also increase.

However, to ensure a better user experience, the industry has tried to include several features and some of these are nothing short of any histrionic innovation.

They have tried reducing the physical footprints of the hard drives on the computer casing to increase the level of performance and storage density dramatically.

Over time, the hard drive technology has grown and the newer techniques in its manufacture have helped the makers to come up with better models that are comparatively more consistent. They have made notable changes in:

  • The areal density or the bits storage density on the circular and spinning platters and
  • The speed at which the platter rotates or the RPM.
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The RPM not only denotes how fast the platter rotates but also indicates how quickly the data is transferred from it to the host computer through the read and write data. This process is called the data throughput. This is measured in gigabits, also spelled as gigabytes, per second.

However, the data throughput is correlated to the density of data packed or stored on the platters of the hard drive as well as the speed at which the platter spins. In short, it all depends on the RPM of the hard drives.

There are different measuring methods and specifications involved in determining the performance and RPM of the hard drives.

As for the areal density of the hard drives, it is measured in two ways namely, BPI or Bits Per Inch and TPI or Tracks Per Inch.

The TPI increases when the tracks are positioned closely together and the BPI increases when the data bits are closely located on the track.

When the aerial density is more, the data passes through the read-write head of the platters more quickly, and, in turn, improves the throughput performance and the data transfer rates between the hard disk drive and the computer, desktop or laptop.

As for the RPM, the specifications are as follows:

  • Most of the consumer hard disk drives runs at a speed of 5,400 to 10,000 RPM, whereas,
  • All hard disk drives for desktop computers run at a standard speed of 7200 RPM, and, on the other hand,
  • The most sophisticated enterprise level hard disk drives run at a blazing speed of 10000 or 15000 RPM.

The speed of the hard disk drives is also determined by two particular types of performances. These are:

  • Sequential performance, which involves transfer of large files, and
  • Random performance, which involves multitasking or running several programs at a time.

Therefore, when you compare two specific types of hard disk drives, it is the RPM of the different hard disk drives that will impact its performance, higher, the better, if all other things are equal.

How to Check HDD RPM?

You can check the RPM or speed of your hard disk in different ways but the most common, reliable and simple way to go about it is to check the label of it.

This will mention the precise RPM of the hard drive. However, you will need to check it in your computer but that does not mean you will have to pull it apart. Just go to the set up and look up for the properties of the hard drive.

However, if you are not comfortable with it and may be apprehensive that you may change the configurations of your computer system unknowingly, you can also check it up on Google, but for that you will need to follow specific steps.

Just find the model number of the hard disk drive in your computer, type it in the search box, and Google will do the rest for you. You will come to know every little detail of the hard drive in your computer easily.

Now, for this you will need to know the exact model number of your hard disk drive. If you know it already then it is easy, but if you do not know the model number, do not fret or curse yourself because you are not alone.

Use your computer and follow any of these two steps to know the model number of the hard disk drive in it.

Use the Device Manager:

  • On your desktop, right click on ‘This PC’
  • Go to the menu
  • Select ‘Properties’
  • Click on ‘Device Manager’ when the system information menu pops up on the left pane
  • Hit ‘Disk Drives’.

This will show the model number when it expands and you can use Google to know about its speed.

Sometimes, the expanded ‘Disk Drives’ may not show the hard disk model number. In that case you should:

  • Select ‘Properties’ of the disk listed in the ‘Disk Drive’ by right-clicking on it
  • Find and click on the ‘Details’ tab and
  • Click on ‘Hardware IDs’ on the drop-down menu.
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This will show the model number of your hard disk drive, which you can now Google search to know the RPM.

You can also use the System Information Tool to know the model number of your hard drive in this way:

  • Type msinfo32 in the search box of your taskbar and hit ‘Enter’
  • Click on ‘Components’ in the left pane on the System Information Tool window to expand it
  • Expand the ‘Storage’ tab further and
  • Click on ‘Disks.’

On the right hand side you will see all the details of your hard drive along with its model number. Search it on Google to know the RPM.

If all these are too much for you, then you can also use a reliable third-party software to find out the RPM of your hard disk drive. The software will also tell you about other specification of it such as:

  • The serial number
  • The cache sizes
  • The size of the buffer
  • The temperature and more.

You can download one of the several software available and save it in your computer. This will allow you to check it, as and when required, to measure the level of performance of your hard disk drive on a regular basis.

Using third-party software is simple and fast. You will simply have to download its setup file, install the program and launch it to look at all the details of the hard disk drive.

However, the different types of attributes shown may vary according to the type of software you use. Check for the RPM, along with all other attributes of the disk, under the ‘Rotation Rate’ head.

Hard Disk RPM List

Considering fifteen years of hard disk history, it is the capacity of each of the models that outran the performances of the hard disk drives.

First, it was the IDE hard drives. Over time, the hard drives were upgraded and now you will get a large variety of hard drives manufactured by different companies that have different specifications.

They may vary in every aspect, right from the cache memory to its size, number of platter heads to their capacity, and platter cache to interface. As for the RPM, or rotation speed as most of the manufacturers refer to it as, the list may look like this:

Manufacturer                                Model                                   Year of make               RPM

Maxtor                                              7040 A                                                1991                          3524

Quantum                                          ST 3.2 A                                              1996                          5400

IBM                                                  DTAA 351010                                     1998                          5400

Seagate Barracuda                        7200.10                                                2006                          7200

Seagate Barracuda IV                   ST 360021 A                                      2003                          7200

Western Digital                              WD 1500 ADFD                              2006                          10000

Though rarely available, you may also find an IDE old timer that comes with a simple interface and three platters that spins at 3500 RPM.

How Does it Work?

Any typical hard disk drive will come with two specific electric motors namely:

  • The spindle motor for spinning the disks and
  • The actuator which positions the reading and writing head assembly across the revolving disks.
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The RPM of the disk motor is controlled by an external rotor that is connected to the disks. It has fixed stator windings.

On the other hand, the actuator support arm holds the read and write head connected to the mechanism with thin cables or printed circuits.

These cables actually amplify the read-write head along with the other electronics that are mounted on the pivot of this actuator.

The head support arm of the actuator of the hard disk drive is made from very light material but is very stiff to support high speeds of 7200 RPM and an acceleration of up to 550 g.


What is a good RPM for a hard drive?

The short answer to this question is: it all depends on your usage and purpose. A hard disk drive with slower speed is good enough if you use it for storage purposes only.

On the other hand, for having better performance of your laptop or desktop computer, anything between 5400 and 7200 RPM is the best. Anything more than that will mean too much heat and consumption of more power.

Which is better, 7200 RPM or 5400 RPM?

Once again, it depends on the usage. A hard disk with 5400 RPM will be lighter and slower in transferring data as compared to the 7200 RPM but it will also cause less damage to your computer.

Ideally, you will not notice much difference when you use your computer, laptop or desktop, for general purpose. If the slight difference in price does not bother you, you can go for a 7200 RPM hard disk drive. This will also fetch you a higher resale value for your laptop.

Is a higher RPM hard drive better?

Ideally, it does, but just by 20%, and it also depends on your choice. If price does not matter to you, a 7200 RPM hard disk drive will read faster, write quickly, execute any program faster, run on any operating system and transfer files faster.

However, it will be noisy, use more power and heat up your computer pretty quickly by a considerable extent.

If you want better performance of your computer, a hard disk drive of 7200 RPM is better but if you want to store files only, go for the slower 5400 RPM variant.

Please be informed that the lifespan of faster hard drives may be shorter than the slower ones as well.

Does an SSD have RPM?

No, because SSD stands for Solid State Drives and does not contain any moving parts in it. Most of the Mac hard drives are SSD and therefore there is no RPM associated with it.

Does HDD RPM matter?

Though it is enough to have a hard disk in your laptop or desktop computer of 5400 or 7200 RPM, you may also choose one that can spin at 15000 RPM, if you want to use it for research purposes.

However, the actual benefit of a high-speed hard disk drive, whether 5400 or 7200 RPM hard disk drive, is negligible.

It is only the temperature and power consumption difference that matters. Technically, you should be more concerned with the cache size because higher the cache size, better will be the performance of your computer.

The Final Words

Available in 5400, 7200, 10000 and 15000 RPM, choosing a hard disk drive for your computer should be based on your usage. It is actually a trade-off between performance and price, and there is nothing called ‘The best hard disk drive RPM,’ whether it for a desktop or a laptop computer.