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About HP ProtectSmart

May 27, 2009

So, a laptop I’m playing around with has “HP ProtectSmart”, a technology supposedly designed to protect hard drives from falling damage by parking them when it detects a drop.

Yeah right.

I knew right from the start that this technology would need to be high tech. It would need to interface with the OS at a realtime level and park the heads within a couple milliseconds of detecting freefall, in order to do anything. Why did I know this wouldn’t work? Well… think about it. This is HP we’re talking about. Designers of the most bloated, slow, inefficient software on the planet. ProtectSmart is a gimmick.

So I dropped a laptop to test it. Yep.

I first checked that HP ProtectSmart was running. Control panel says it’s supported, enabled, and active. I picked up the edge of this laptop, about 4″ high (pivoting on the rear which is still on the table), then let it bang to the table. Funny, it didn’t show anything about protecting the drive. I did it again, a little higher. Still no indication from the OS. A little higher – this time I picked up the whole computer about 3″, and dropped it. That time it noticed – the system tray icon showed an orange icon, then went back to normal. So, basically, in order for ProtectSmart to “Protect” your drive… it’s got to be enough to totally destroy the drive. Nevermind that those last two bumps were enough to practically kill it already…

I notice that the front hard drive light turns orange when I did that as well. So I pick up the computer and try out its accelerometer. Resting the whole computer on one hand, I give it a simulated drop. Yeah, it’s still white… it didn’t even care. I give it a sharper drop, and at the bottom of the fall (you know, where the simulated fall would have HIT the ground already), it turns orange. Again and again, I test this with the same result – a noticeable delay between when I had simulated the drop (and it should have detected a “lack of gravity” indicating a fall), and when the light turns orange to show that it parked the hard drive.

Several minutes later, I find that my encoding process on that system had hung, and the hard drive was clicking away at unreadable data. Yep, that hard drive is shot. I thought that was impossible with HP ProtectSmart? I didn’t even drop this thing like a normal “drop” would (falling off the couch, etc).

ProtectSmart is nothing more than a gimmick at this point. It won’t protect your drive if it falls; the delay is too long. There are rubber bumpers supporting the drive, but that’s about it and that sure won’t help cushion the blow much if at all. Hopefully HP can improve their software response time, but I rather doubt it knowing HP’s track record.

Can you believe that this computer (HP DV6) won’t even display to an external screen without Vista being booted? Good luck navigating the system (or recovering it) if you can’t get the screen up…

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