Dear System Integrators, a few words about screwing

Right, System Integrators – those companies that buy components from Supermicro et al and build you a server out of them. You guys seem to have a bit of a fascination with screwing. Screwing things in as tight as you can. Please stop.

It’s 100% true that vibration of components like hard disks is bad. numerous studies have been done that prove that vibration causes performance problems as drives need to do more corrective work.

However, this does not mean that you have to screw in the drives to the caddies to the limit of what is physically possible. They just need to be tightened until a little force won’t tighten them any more.

When you supply me with a server that’s got four super-tightened screws for each drive in it, and I deploy that server, chances are that one of the first things that will break in that server is one of the disk drives.

During the years those screws have been there they haven’t got any looser. It’s likely that if you tightened them all to the limit of your strength and tools, by now the force required to unscrew them will be less than the force required to deform the screw head. Like this:

Stripped screw heads in a drive caddy

Close-up of a stripped screw head

No, this is not an issue of using the wrong driver head. Yes, you will strip a screw if you use the wrong driver head. That’s why I carry this stuff every time I go to a datacentre:

A selection of screwdrivers for your pleasure

There’s two exactly correct drivers in there, and several that should also work anyway despite being a little bit off. I have never had a problem unscrewing any screw that I originally put in. Probably because I don’t tighten them like I am some sort of lunatic. I can even unscrew them around a corner with the offline driver. Oh yeah baby. So far nothing I have screwed in with merely normal force has fallen apart.

And this is not an isolated occurrence! Nearly all of you seem to do this with every screw, everywhere. Stop it!

The drive in that caddy is a dead one, and luckily I had a spare caddy with me for the replacement drive to go in, otherwise I too would have been screwed beyond the limits of my endurance.

So, now I’ve got to drill those out just to get this caddy back to being useful again. Or more likely find someone else to drill it out for me as I don’t trust myself with power tools really.