Can temperature affect a storage device?

Started Aug 31, 2013 | Questions
Gallopingphotog
Gallopingphotog Regular Member • Posts: 251
Can temperature affect a storage device?

I back up all my photos to my Seagate external hard drive that I keep in my "go bag" with stuff like birth certificates, etc. in case of emergencies. I'd like to keep another backup somewhere other than our house. Problems are that both of us are retired, no off-site office, no safety deposit box, live in the country so no near neighbors, all kin live in far-off states. Don't like cloud storage. So I was thinking about putting at least the images I really really would hate to lose on flash drives, then put the drives in a metal coffee thermos and store it somewhere outside, maybe even bury it where I can easily dig it up.

Besides being a huge pain in the butt to dig up, I wonder about how temperature extremes might affect the drives. It can get upwards of 100 here in summer, and in low teens for a day or so at a time in winter. If the drives are in the thermos, would that be enough protection? Or I could get another Seagate and keep it in a foam cooler sealed and tucked somewhere.

We're not talking zillions of photos, and I do cull all the obvious flops before storing.

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Gallopingphotog

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ANSWER:
yardcoyote Forum Pro • Posts: 10,814
Re: Can temperature affect a storage device?

Can any of those far off family members or friends hold your backups? I hold art backups for several distant friends in my storage areas-- not that my lock boxes are notably secure but they are far away from where these friends live and work and unlikely to be threatened by fires or natural disasters that affect them.

I know flash drives are fairly sturdy-- once got good data off one that had gone through the washing machine-- but heat and cold, and especially heat/cold cycles, aren't good for any kind of device.

Remote storage might be a very good option for you.

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TTMartin
TTMartin Veteran Member • Posts: 7,304
Re: Can temperature affect a storage device?

I just had an external drive die on me, hadn't used if for over a year, and it was stored in a drawer and a case.

I would recommend opening a Flickr account or two and at least storing JPG copies of your photos there.

I would also keep a copy of the original RAW files on writable DVDs. You can even mail those to a far away relative for safe keeping.

Then I would keep copies on at least two different hard drives, your computer and an external drive is fine, or get a RAID storage device.

As for burying something, I suppose you could bury DVDs, or flash memory in a suitable container.

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Cailean Gallimore Veteran Member • Posts: 6,083
Re: Can temperature affect a storage device?

I use Archival Gold alongside 2 hard drives, three computers and cloud storage.

photoreddi Veteran Member • Posts: 7,973
Re: Can temperature affect a storage device?

Gallopingphotog wrote:

I back up all my photos to my Seagate external hard drive that I keep in my "go bag" with stuff like birth certificates, etc. in case of emergencies. I'd like to keep another backup somewhere other than our house. Problems are that both of us are retired, no off-site office, no safety deposit box, live in the country so no near neighbors, all kin live in far-off states. Don't like cloud storage. So I was thinking about putting at least the images I really really would hate to lose on flash drives, then put the drives in a metal coffee thermos and store it somewhere outside, maybe even bury it where I can easily dig it up.

Besides being a huge pain in the butt to dig up, I wonder about how temperature extremes might affect the drives. It can get upwards of 100 here in summer, and in low teens for a day or so at a time in winter. If the drives are in the thermos, would that be enough protection? Or I could get another Seagate and keep it in a foam cooler sealed and tucked somewhere.

A thermos or foam cooler is only effective for a short period, such as days. What's inside the themos or cooler will eventually reach the outside temperature. I've found that if I fill a "Four day cooler" so that it's slightly more than half filled with ice, the ice will have melted after 4 days, and that's when the cooler is stored indoors, out of the sun. So for long term protection, coolers don't help much.

In your second paragraph I don't know if you're still talking about flash drives or if you've switched back to your Seagate hard drive. Both should be able to easily survive the hottest and coldest temperatures you'll have them in, if they are powered off and not being used. If hard drives are operating in very high heat they can eventually fail. Flash drives should be able to tolerate heat much more easily, but I'm not basing this on actual experience, just what I'm familiar with from reading the semiconductor literature. As you're probably aware, 100°C is the temperature of boiling water. With that out of the way, consider this for simple silicon semiconductors, which should easily tolerate more heat than the much more densely packed silicon devices inside flash drives :

Both field-effect and bipolar transistors can operate to high temperatures. The demonstrated temperature capability of field-effect and bipolar transistors has been similar for most semiconductor materials investigated. For BJTs and MOSFETs based on Si, operation has been reported to about 450°C and 500°C, respectively.

Performance of field-effect transistors typically declines steadily with increasing temperature, whereas the performance of bipolars (Si) shows an increase up to a point and then declines. For both field-effect and bipolar transistors the major cause of declining performance as temperature increases is increasing leakage in the p-n junctions.

http://www.extremetemperatureelectronics.com/tutorial3.html

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The silicon die itself is usually good to well over 125C, it's usually the packaging that limits the operating temperature. Commercial grade IC's might use cheaper plastic packages where as military grade would use more expensive ceramic or metal packaging.

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For military parts that came from commercial part lines and are tested out, this is called QPL or Qualified Parts List testing. Basically if you can pass the "eye of the needle" of end-of-line testing, you have a mil spec part. This works for man-rated stuff which are generally lower environmental stress (yes, 125C is low stress - we typically do reliability testing at 200C-300C) but generally not how you qualify for "Class S" (strategic/space rated) mil spec.

http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=478458

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Plastic packages are only robust up to about 175°C—with reduced operating life. Near this temperature limit, it can be difficult to distinguish between a packaging-related failure and silicon-related failure without costly and time-consuming laboratory failure analysis. Availability of standard components in ceramic packages is scarce.

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The IC package must also withstand stresses imposed by harsh environments. Plastic packages, although the industry standard, have historically only been rated to 150°C for sustained use. With recent interest in high-temperature applications, investigations have shown that this rating can stretch to 175°C but only for relatively short durations. Depending on package construction, 175°C is the point at which some materials, such as the molding compound, exceed the glass-transition temperature. Operating above TG can cause significant mechanical changes in key parameters, such as CTE and flexural modulus, and lead to failures such as delamination and cracking from the increased thermal strain.

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The most popular standard solder alloys have melting points below 200°C. However, there are some readily available alloys that fall within the category of “high melting point” (HMP), with melting points well above 250°C. Even in such cases, the maximum recommended operating temperature for any solder subjected to stress is about 40°C below its melting point. For example, the standard HMP solder alloy composition of 5% tin, 93.5% lead, and 1.5% silver has a melting point of 294°C but is recommended for use only up to about 255°C.

http://www.analog.com/library/analogdialogue/archives/46-04/high_temp_electronics.html

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Ok, your typical cheap flash drive probably isn't what anyone would want to use for sustained operating at 150°C, but when you aren't using it, it should have no problems dealing with temperatures that would freeze you like ice or fry you like bacon.

That said, all flash drives and hard drives can fail, so any decent backup strategy should have at least two or three drives that are rotated for backups.

Hard drives are relatively cheap. You should be able to easily find small USB3 portable 1TB hard drives where three of them would cost less than $200.

Gallopingphotog
OP Gallopingphotog Regular Member • Posts: 251
Re: Can temperature affect a storage device?

Well, that sounds like at least I could put something in a water-tight container and put it in the fridge without hurting it much. My theory being that a refrigerator is the most likely spot to protect something against fire, and least likely to get blown away in a tornado, and if either catastrophe does happen to it, I likely won't be around to fuss about photos! 

Thanks, all

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Gallopingphotog

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photoreddi Veteran Member • Posts: 7,973
Re: Can temperature affect a storage device?

Gallopingphotog wrote:

Well, that sounds like at least I could put something in a water-tight container and put it in the fridge without hurting it much. My theory being that a refrigerator is the most likely spot to protect something against fire, and least likely to get blown away in a tornado, and if either catastrophe does happen to it, I likely won't be around to fuss about photos!

It may not make too much of a difference but I'd store the stuff in the refrigerator, not in the freezer. Roads have minute cracks that grow as water vapor gets inside, freezing and melting with temperature changes until large cracks and potholes eventually form. The freezer shouldn't cause this kind of a problem since unless it has some warm spots everything in it should always be below the freezing point of water.

From my own experience though, some terracotta coffee and tea containers that were stored in a freezer looked like they were gnawed by rodents when I discovered them several months later. Pretty ugly. The inner glazed surfaces were ok, but the outer surfaces crumbled away in many places. This is what one that hasn't been abused looks like. I might put memory cards, flash drives, even small hard drives inside a container (not perfectly sealed) and place that container inside a larger sealed container filled with dry rice. Rice is a good dessicant and cameras and other electronic devices that are accidentally caught in a deluge or are submerged in clean water and that can't be opened and thoroughly dried are often stored in a sealed container filled with dry rice, which helps to remove any water that's hidden inside the devices. While the electronic devices are in the refrigerator it's probably a good idea to keep them as dry as possible.

http://www.henrywatson.com/retail-shop/collections/original-suffolk-terracotta

Graham Meale
Graham Meale Senior Member • Posts: 2,530
Re: Can temperature affect a storage device?

I'm in a similar situation. I keep all my backup photos on DVDs in a sealed dry box which I place in a Stevenson screen in the back yard (a Stevenson screen being the housing for a weather station). Where I live, temperatures  are normally between 10 and 30 Celsius, extremes would be 2 and 40. I approached one of the DVD manufacturers once and was assured that they would be fine over this range of temperatures. I suspect that frequent high humidities would be more of an issue in my situation.

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