Many modern hard drives support a feature called AAM - Automatic Acoustic Management -- which may be used to reduce the noise hard drives make.
The feature is currently supported by most hard drives from Samsung, Maxtor and Hitachi, and probably other manufacturers as well.
Most hard drives have the feature disabled by default as it decreases access time; while that is good for speedy access to files, it means a higher noise level at the same time.
If you prefer silence over performance, you may want to enable AAM to decrease the noise level of your hard drive and slightly increase the access time.
Access time has nothing to do with data transfer rates which means it is probably a good idea to activate AAM if you think that your hard drive is too noisy.
All you need is the freeware Hitachi Feature Tool. This tool, which should work on many drives, not only on those manufactured by Hitachi, lets you change the Automatic Acoustic Management setting of the hard drive.
The noise reduction depends on the hard drive of course. The noise reduction for a Samsung SP2504C was 0.5 Sone from 1.9 to 1.4 Sone by using the custom value 170. A Raptor WD1500ADFD hard drive had a reduction of only 0.1 Sone from 4.1 to 4.0 Sone. The Hitachi Feature Tool will tell you if your hard drive supports Automatic Acoustic Management prior to making any changes.
If you think that your hard drive is making too much noise, it is definitely worth a try. Worst thing that can happen is that you do not notice a change at all or that your drive is not supported by the application.
Please note that the program does not support drives with a size of 3TB or more.
The program is not the only tool that you can use for that purpose. Other tools that let you modify the AAM preference of your hard drives are Crystal Disk Info or Silent Drive. Both programs should work fine on most modern platter-based hard drives.
Note that the tools won't have any effect on Solid State Drives as they are silent right out of the box. It is also worth noting that the programs won't have an effect on vibrations that hard drives create.
If you cannot reduce the noise your hard drive makes using the feature, you may want to consider buying special cases for the drive that you can install to reduce the vibrations it makes.
Update: You find the latest working version of the Feature Tool under legacy downloads on the page linked above. Note that it is not compatible with 3TB or larger hard drives at the time of writing, and that it is unlikely that it ever will be.
The program needs to be burned to CD or floppy disc and the computer booted from it to use it. There is no option to run the program directly when Windows is running.
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