Author: Fay Kokri
Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Hard Drive Tips: How to tell if a hard drive is hot swappable?

Various issues can accompany hot Swapping hard drives. Some can cause minimal damage, and others can make you curse yourself. This article will teach you how to check if your hard drive is hot-swappable or not and the best practices of hot-swapping hard drives.  

There are a few ways to tell if a hard drive is hot-swappable or not. If your hard drive's model is SATA or SAS, definitely it's hot-swappable. The determining factors are the motherboard, OS, or Controller, but not the hard drive itself.  If your hard drive is not SATA or SAS, then you need to shut the system off before you can remove, replace or repair the hard drive. In many cases, hot-swappable hard drives are in a RAID setup, making it easy for you to hot-swap them quickly.

Do you run a server or any other systems that have hard drives? Hard Disc Drives and USD technology are a must for efficient data storage and service provision. Read on to learn the basics and advanced tips on hot-swapping, defining essential terms in hot swapping, and giving you the best practices in this technology. 

Hard Drive Tips: How to tell if a hard drive is hot swappable?

The introduction of USB technology has slowly brought about hot-swapping to the users. Before USBs, other devices like mice and keyboards could also fit in the definition of hot-swapping devices. However, mice and keyboards come with the storage function, meaning no worry about damaging the devices. 

Hard Drive Tips: How to tell if a hard drive is hot swappable?

Fast forward, the devices with storage or data transfer functions like hard drives, video cables, and USB flash drives have a hot-swapping nature which, in a big way, facilitates the daily usage of such devices.

What is hot-swapping?

By definition, hot swapping is the process of replacing or adding a peripheral or component to a computer system without rebooting, stopping, or shutting down the system. 

Related to hot-swapping is hot-plugging, which adds components and peripherals (only) to a computer system. The devices that support hot-swapping as called hot-swappable. 

With the term 'hot-swappable,' there is 'cold-swappable,' defined as those components fixed in a computer chassis, such as memory sticks, graphic cards, and CPU, that do not support hot-swapping or hot plugging. For example, if you replace a CPU, your computer will crash. 

How do I find out if a hard drive is hot-swappable?

If your hard drive is a SATA or SAS, it is hot-swappable. But not the drive. The determining factors are the motherboard, OS, Controller, etc. 

Another indicator is checking if it has purple tabs. If the purple TAB is there, the hard drive is hot-swappable and removed without powering the server or the system. However, this is not the best way to tell if you can hot-swap a hard drive- it is an outdated method. 

The server drives are in a RAID set up in most cases, allowing you to start hot-swapping quickly. 

Before buying or installing a hard drive, ask your supplier if it's hot-swappable or not. If not, order a hot-swappable one so that you can be able to change the drivers of your system on the fly. 

If the drive is cold-swappable, you will need to power down your server to remove or replace it, or else you may damage the hard drive, your system, or even yourself. 

Pros and cons of hot-swappable hard drives

Systems that need to run all day use Hot-swappable hard drives always. These drives help them run their operations without any interruptions. You can find them in companies that deal with continuous online services or factories that run automated productions channels. 

Hard Drive Tips: How to tell if a hard drive is hot swappable?

Let's now look at the advantages of hot-swappable hard drives:

  • Continuous Service Provision

Online service providers, large industries, and software companies need extensive storage capabilities to accommodate large amounts of data. They also need a continuous service provision to their clients, and they operate on a 24/7 basis- each second matters to them. A good example is Google; it provides non-stop services- pausing for an hour can cause inconvenience to their customers and massive financial implications. 

The same applies to surveillance companies that require their cameras to run 24/7. If they operate a cold swappable system, they need to pause all their operations to fix a problem, resulting in losses. 

With hot-swappable, the services can't stop when you want to repair, replace or upgrade your data storage capacity in your system. You will do all that without shutting down the system's power, allowing seamless continuous services to the clients. 

  • Quick and Easy

It is simple to replace or upgrade a hot-swappable hard drive than a cold-swappable one, and it is quicker. Also, you can check the effect of the changes instantly and see if you will look into anything else.

  • Replace failed hard drives

If your drives are not working well, you will replace them with a new one. Some systems have multiple hard drives. So, when you remove one, the data is transferred to other hard drives making it easier for the system to run smoothly. 

  • Add any extra storage anytime.

Many systems have extra slots for hard drives. A cold computer system will take so much time to fix an additional hard drive, but with hot-swappable components, it is easier and quicker to add as your system runs non-stop. 

  • Zero Downtime

When repairing or maintaining a server or a system, you lose time, and that's what we call Downtime.  Hard drive failure is common in many big industries and companies, caused by high temperatures, vibrations, or airborne contaminations. 

If the server is not hot-swappable, you will spend a lot of time shutting down the system, sending the hard drive to a technician, and waiting for it to be delivered, resulting in the loss of productive hours for a company. 

With flexible hard drives, you cut all this time to zero. You or your technician can work on the system or server as the operations are going on. 

Let me also give you a brief description of some terms and questions about hot-swapping.

Is HDMI hot-swappable?

Hard Drive Tips: How to tell if a hard drive is hot swappable?

HDMI supports Hot Plug Detect Signal (HPD), meaning it is hot-swappable. HPD is a communication mechanism between the sink device and the source, making it aware that it is connected or disconnected from the sink device. 

 Which are not hot-swappable devices?

The devices that are not hot-swappable are attached to the inside of the computer- internal hardware. They include video cards, sound cards, IDE hard drive, CD-ROM, and many others. Also, parallel port devives and parallel ports.

Best practice for hot swapping a server hard drive

There are various storage solutions for your business or company, and it is in this spirit, I found it helpful to give you tips and guidelines to hot-swap a hard drive in the blade server. I will entail best practices while hot-swapping if the hard drive has failed or you want to upgrade to a better model or storage capacity. 

The guide can be used for the HP servers, although it's the general practice in all other models. If you are unsure what you are doing, please go through the menu before starting hot swapping. 

Hard Drive Tips: How to tell if a hard drive is hot swappable?

What is a blade server?

As we talk about blade servers, it is helpful to clarify the confusion over different types of serves. A blade server is a stripped-down version of the older version server- stripped back to maximize performance which uses little energy and space. 

How do I locate the hard drive?

To locate the hard drive that has issues and needs replacement or repair, go to the server event logs to check if there are any errors. Once you locate the errors, you will know which exact drive is causing issues with your server. You can now locate the drive's slot and perform any action you want on them- it is quick and straightforward. 

You should use the server management software to identify the hard drive that has issues. There is an indicator showing the drive in question in most cases, which is a flashing light. From there, you can check the drive, whether it needs repair or to buy a new one. 

So, which are the best practices while hot-swapping a server hard drive?

  • You need to Back up the system hard drive.

As you are aware, you should back up your data in the tech industry if you want to make any changes to a system. It is the same case with hot-swapping, mainly because it involves changing a powered-off system. 

Ensure you do a backup to your drives to be safe, just in case something happens and some corrupted data, and you wouldn't want to blame yourself for anything that may go wrong in the process. 

  • Be slow and careful

Wait for about 10 to 15 seconds before you remove the hard drive from its slot when the spindles stop spinning. If you rush to remove the drive while working, you may damage the disc or lose data crucial to you or your company. 

Hard Drive Tips: How to tell if a hard drive is hot swappable?

How to remove and replace a server hard drive

Perhaps this is the most critical part of the process. Before you do any replacement, make sure it is an upgrade of your server's same model or another model. Do not remove the server hard drive if it doesn't fit in the above-stated scenarios. 

Once you remove the hard drive, you can plug in the new one, a straightforward process. Remember not to force it in. In electronics, you don't force a component to another. So, it's probably the wrong hard drive for your server. 

Once the drive is in place, it should close and then click on the purple tab. The system will take over from there automatically- it will rebuild the hard drive. The flashlight will show something is going on, and you can log in to your server management software for detailed information.

Are HDD and SSD hot-swappable?

Let me start with Hard Disc Drives-HDD. Use the Two primary factors to determine if a hard drive is hot-swappable or not- there are the bay or port where you connect the hard drive and the external bus interface-EBI on the hard drive. 

The hard disc drives come in different standards, such as SATA, Firewire, SAS, and many others. The standards are categorized based on the connection port on the hard drive, and all of them are hot-swappable.

Hard Drive Tips: How to tell if a hard drive is hot swappable?

If you have a hard drive with the above standards, you can rest assured that you can hot-swap them without worry. Most of the HDDs are SATA or SAS. So, confirm this before you make any purchase. 

Let's see the other side of the coin- the connecting port or bay, which is the part on your device or server's motherboard or mainframe where you connect the hard drive. If the connecting points on your system are hot-swappable, you can replace or remove the hard drive without powering down the system. 

Are SSDs hot-swappable?

SSDs are flexible, which makes them hot-swappable and other great options and range of applications. Using hot-swap servers or systems can easily replace or remove an SSD without interrupting data or the system. 

Which type of drive is hot-swappable?

Almost all desktop computer hardware, for example, CPUs and memory, are just cold pluggable. Nonetheless, it is usual for middle to high-end servers and mainframes to attribute hot-swappable regimes for hardware bits, such as CPU, memory, PCIe, SATA, and SAS drives.

Hot-swappable devices come in handy and are also flexible, and their demand is relatively high for the apparent reason that they are easy to plug in and out. That's why they are most recommended compared to cold-swappable devices. The demand for hot-swappable is high.

USB drives are mostly the first thing that rings in your mind when you hear about hot-swappable devices, and the same for the external hard drives. 

It's not only storage devices referred to by that term, but also mice, keyboards, printers, ethernet cables, headphones, and pen drives that belong to the same category. Although plugging in a pen drive requires more clicks to fill it in safely, it's still hot-swappable. 

The fact that you can remove these devices from your computer while it's still running raises a lot of questions about whether it is safe or not. 

The argument is that you can lose or corrupt data if you don't insert a storage device before unplugging them. However, there's a slim chance that you might corrupt your data if you remove a flash drive without ejecting a storage device. 

So, it is better safe than sorry, boot your USB storage devices. It only takes a few minutes to do that.

Can Cold Swappable Devices be Converted into Hot Swappable?

Hard Drive Tips: How to tell if a hard drive is hot swappable?

Now that's quite an intriguing question. Cold swappable devices are the opposite of hot-swappable devices. Examples of cold swappable devices are; Ram sticks, hard drives, and graphic cards. 

To convert cold-swappable to hot-swappable, you'll need proper systems and devices for that- depending on the device and system you are using. It can lead to additional limitations.

For instance; Your PS2 mice and keyboard can be made hot-swappable! How? Using a USB to the PS2 converter, insert the PS2 mouse and keyboard and connect the USB male into your computer. And there you have it, it's hot-swappable now, mice and keyboard combination.

Hard drives are cold-swappable. If you put them in an extra external hard drive, they'll become hot-swappable. Some NAS support hard drives hot-swapping. Though, this can make it complicated for it to boot.

The only disadvantage of hot-swapping hard drives is complicating booting. But even at that, you've managed to make it hot-swappable. And that is so exciting.

Some devices, though, can't be turned from cold-swappable to hot-swappable, for example, GPUs and RAM stick. Why? Because they are the computer's core components.

Pro Thought on Hot-Swappable Devices

Hot-swappable devices are more manageable and flexible to use- not much complicated compared to cold swappable and are modern. 

When buying your desktops, go for the ones with hot-swappable ports; highly recommended, and this is why manufacturers advertise their devices with hot-swappable features for them to sell.


As stated above, a hot-swappable hard drive comes with a lot of benefits. Make sure you check if your hard drive is hot-swappable or not before you perform any action on it.  Ensure you confirm everything you need to know about hot-swappable devices before you make any purchases, replacement, upgrade, or repair. Consult a reputable technician if you don't have technical know-how about swapping. You can also contact the official vendors or manufacturers of your hard-drive model to be sure f what you are about to do. 

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