hard disk


hard disk

Magnetic storage medium for a microcomputer. Hard disks are flat, circular plates made of aluminum or glass and coated with a magnetic material. Hard disks for personal computers can store up to several gigabytes (billions of bytes) of information. Data are stored on their surfaces in concentric tracks. A small electromagnet, called a magnetic head, writes a binary digit (1 or 0) by magnetizing tiny spots on the spinning disk in different directions and reads digits by detecting the magnetization direction of the spots. A computer's hard drive is a device consisting of several hard disks, read/write heads, a drive motor to spin the disks, and a small amount of circuitry, all sealed in a metal case to protect the disks from dust. In addition to referring to the disks themselves, the term hard disk is also used to refer to the whole hard drive.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on hard disk, visit Britannica.com.

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