What Does a Hard Drive’s Seek Time Mean?

The seek time of hard drive is the duration which a computer’s part takes to locate a specific piece of information on a storage device. It’s represented in milliseconds and the smaller this number is the faster the drive is.

Don’t misunderstand the seek time if you are copying a file to another hard drive, burn data or download something from the internet. Though seek time is involved during these processes and tasks but it doesn’t control every task. It’s also called access time, but generally, it’s much longer than the seek time because it has a latency period between finding and accessing the data.

Hard Drive Seek Time

Hard Drive Seek Time

What Determines Seek Time?

The seek time of hard drive is the total time required for a drive head assembly to position its actuator arm on the right location from where it wants to read/write data on sector.

Though the duration is very small it involves moving physical parts so the time is required, but if the head location is already on the track from where it has to read/write data then it will be instant compared to the moving on certain locations.

So, a seek time of a hard disk drive is measured by the relative seek time because rarely the head will be on the same position. The average seeks time is calculated by the total time it takes divided by one-third of hard drive’s tracks.

Except for the average seek time method, there are two different ways for this: track-to-track and full stroke. The first method is the total time required to search data between two adjacent tracks, while full stroke is the total time required to move from the entire length of the disk, from the innermost track to the outermost track.

Few enterprise level hard drives are internationally smaller capacity, therefore, the time is much less due to fewer tracks which reduces the distance of actuator moving from one track to other is called short stroking.

Consumers easily get confused with these terms, but it’s important to know about these things while you are buying a hard drive so that you can pick a drive with faster seek time.

Seek Time Examples of Common Hardware

Hard drives have been improving by the time and the first (IBM 305) had sought time of 600 ms. A couple of decades later it reduced to 25 ms and today modern drives are giving around 9 ms to 12 ms while the high-end servers are giving 4 ms of a seek time.

Seek time matters only for hard drives, SSDs doesn’t have any moving parts so seek time are around 0.08 and 0.16 ms. If we talk about so old technologies like a floppy disk drive or optical disc drive then DVDs and CDs have around 65 ms to 75 ms.

Is Seek Time Really All That Important?

Seek time is very important as you can easily guess the speed of your device, it’s quite important like other parts of the computer are. Therefore, don’t only rely on the hard drive speed factor as there are other things that contribute to computer speed like system memory, CPU, file system, and the software running on the devices.

For instance, if you are examining the time it takes to download a video then seek time doesn’t have to do anything with it. Seek time involves reading and writing files to the drive whereas the downloading a file depends on your internet speed or bandwidth.

The same concept applies to different aspects like converting files, ripping DVDs to a hard drive and similar tasks.

How to Improve Seek time of a Hard Drive

There are no such methods to increase seek time but you can do certain things to improve the overall performance. Because speeding up the system isn’t totally dependent on the seek time.

You can reduce fragmentation using any of the free defrag tool. This process consolidates the fragments of the hard drive and collects the separates pieces to one places allowing them to be accessed easily.

Make sure to remove browser cache, and emptying the Recycle Bin, or backing up data from your system before the defragmentation process. You can use any backup tool or online backup services for this task. This way reading and writing will be happening soon.

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