Snowboarding, the iPod, and Hard Disk Damage

Q: I’m thinking about getting an iPod but am concerned about the hard drive getting damaged if I fall while snowboarding. I assume the heads on the hard drive crash into the platters if it is dropped while the iPod is reading from the hard drive. Will formatting the iPod allow the iPod to avoid storing data on the parts of the hard drive that have been damaged?

– Paul

A: You’re making a fair assumption. However, iPods have been used without complaint by thousands of people while running, skiing, and engaging in plenty of other sports, so you can also assume that the chance of the hard drive sustaining significant damage under normal conditions is fairly low.

Why? The iPod has a hard drive that stores your music, but also has a memory cache that holds a quantity of data (about 9 MB) as it plays the music. Since the iPod’s hard drive does not spin all the time, the likelihood of such damage is greatly diminished. However, if you were to drop the iPod at the moment when it is reading data from the hard drive into the cache – once every few songs, for a few seconds – it is conceivable that the platters could be damaged. When snowboarding, consider using an anti-shock case such as the ones we’ve reviewed.

Kirk McElhearn is the author of several books including iPod & iTunes Garage. His blog, Kirkville features articles about the iPod, iTunes, Mac OS X and much more.
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