Skip to main content
  • Place orders quickly and easily
  • View orders and track your shipping status
  • Enjoy members-only rewards and discounts
  • Create and access a list of your products
  • Manage your Dell EMC sites, products, and product-level contacts using Company Administration.
Some article numbers may have changed. If this isn't what you're looking for, try searching all articles. Search articles

Hard Drive Failures Caused by High Altitudes

Summary: Information about Hard Disk Drive (HDD) usage at high altitudes and failures.

This article may have been automatically translated. If you have any feedback regarding its quality, please let us know using the form at the bottom of this page.

Article Content


Hard Drive Failures Caused by High Altitudes

If computers with hard drives are used at elevations above 10,000 ft (3,048 meters), they may experience a high rate of hard drive failures.

Most hard drives are not designed to operate at those altitudes. These types of failures are not covered under a typical Dell Hardware Service Contract for the computer which excludes covering equipment that is damaged by using it in an unsuitable physical or operating environment. The Operating Specifications for computers can be found in the Owner's Manual section of Dell Support.

The Operating Specifications may resemble the following example from the OptiPlex 990 Owner's Manual:


  • Temperature:
    • Operating: 10°C to 35°C (50°F to 95°F)
    • Storage: -40°C to 65°C (-40°F to 149°F)
    • Relative Humidity: 20% to 80% (noncondensing)
  • Altitude:
    • Operating: -15.2 m to 3048 m (-50 ft to 10,000 ft)
    • Storage: -15.2 m to 10,668 m (-50 ft to 35,000 ft)
    • Airborne Contaminant Level: G2 or lower as defined by ISA S71.04–1985


The root cause of the issue is that the read/write head of a hard disk drive floats on a thin cushion of air. The air pressure inside the drive is maintained by the hole which communicates with the air pressure outside. At high altitude, the air is too thin to support the head and it might scratch and destroy the disk surface.

Specially manufactured, sealed, and pressurized disks are needed for reliable high altitude operation.


Dell's support policy is that hard drive failures that are associated with computer usage at high elevations (outside of hard drive elevation specifications) will not be replaced under the warranty of the computer.

Article Properties

Affected Product

Desktops & All-in-Ones, Laptops, Workstations

Last Published Date

01 Aug 2023



Article Type