What Is a Hot Swap Drive? How Does It Work?


Most industrial deployments require computers to operate efficiently and effectively non-stop throughout the day without fail. Therefore, industrial applications implement various safety and redundancy measures to avoid or mitigate downtime. Storage drives are crucial in maintaining a system’s reliability. Manufacturers utilize hot swappable storage drives for redundancy to prevent detrimental damage to the system when a storage drive fails. The hot swap ability allows for quick replacement of swap computer components and, most importantly, the storage drive in the blink of an eye. Many mission-critical industries have prioritized using hot swap features in their running computers to achieve minimum downtime and point of failure (PoF). Here in this blog, we will guide you to fully understand hot swapping and the advantages of hot swap drives.   

What Does Hot Swap Mean?   

Hot swap, hot swappable, or hot swapping is the process of replacing or attaching computer components into the running system without the need to pause, power off, or reboot the entire system. Industrial deployments reap the benefits of hot swap ability to simplify system configuration changes or reduce maintenance time during the reparation of computer components. Therefore, industries maximize the applications of hot swappable components within their computing solutions to enhance productivity further and minimize downtime.    

Different Levels of Hot Swapping   

  • Basic Hot Swap Systems: support the physical and hardware systems, but the operator still needs to handle the software.  
  • Full Hot Swap System: support the physical, hardware, and software connection processes. This level of hot swapping communicates with a micro switch to send the signal to the host processor when the drive is inserted or removed.  
  • High-Availability Hot Swap: It is a full hot swap system but with a higher level of control. Therefore, this level of hot swap utilizes hot swap controllers and software to control mechanical, hardware, and redundancy systems.  

What is a Hot Swap Drive?   


Hot swap drive refers to the storage drive that is hot swappable. With the advent of numerous IIoT devices and AI technologies, storage is crucially essential to handle the fast-growing amount of data and acts as the medium for the data to be stored and processed. Therefore, when one drive fails in a storage array, a new one can be quickly replaced without shutting down the entire running system, thus saving time and reducing costs. As a result, hot swapping technologies have helped simplify storage drive maintenance and applications. 

Hot swap storage drives usually come with a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) setup. A RAID utilizes multiple drives simultaneously for data redundancy, increased reliability, and improved performance. It works by mirroring or duplicating data on two separate drives or splitting the data across multiple devices. Thus, the RAID setup provides data redundancy when one of the drives is hot swapped to ensure no corrupted data during the process.     

Benefits of Hot-Swappable Drive   

24/7 Operations  

    Large industries such as air traffic controllers require their computing systems to run non-stop throughout the day. Therefore, even a second of downtime might harm the airplanes’ operations. Hot swapping allows mission-critical systems to replace or upgrade data storage when one fails or needs an upgrade without shutting or pausing the entire system. As a result, hot swappable drives are crucially important in 24 hours operations.    

    Easy Upgrade. Quick Replace  

      Hot swap feature enables easy storage drive upgrades and quick replacement. In addition, most hot swappable drives support a toolless swap, making it more convenient for field users to change the storage when needed. These simple steps also allow the operator to immediately notice the effect after changing the hot swap drives and ensure that it operates well.   

      Eliminate Downtime (Enhanced Productivity)  

        Downtime is the time spent to repair or maintain a system. In industrial applications, storage drives are more resistant to failure due to their high temperature or vibration thresholds. Additionally, the storage drive is made hot swappable to prevent hours of productivity lost to repairs or system maintenance. As a result, hot swapping allows instant drive replacement and upgrade, lowering storage drive downtime.  

        How Does Hot Swapping Work?   

        Hot Swap Drive Bay (External)   


          First, insert the hot swap drive bay into the computer system. Thanks to the toolless design that simplifies the swapping mechanism, there is no special equipment needed when installing the hot swappable drives. Furthermore, hot swap drives utilize a standardized case called a hot swap drive bay used to place the storage drive before inserting the drive into the computer system. Since there are different hot swap drive bays to host different hard drives, make sure that the hot swap drive bay size is according to the storage drive used. For example, typical hot swappable drive bays are 2.5” that fit up to 9.5mm HDD/SSD drives. 

          Hot Swap Controller (Internal)   


            Hot swap controllers limit the inrush current input to prevent the power supply from collapsing when swapping the drive. Hot swap controllers provide protection for the computer’s circuitry from potential hazards caused by the sudden change in power supply. It also prevents sudden inrush current, overvoltage, short circuit, and reverse polarity from harming the computer system. Hot swap controllers are usually placed in either the storage drive or the backplane. 

            Is SATA Drive Hot Swappable?   

            Since all storage drives with SAS, SATA, and Firewire interfaces are hot swappable, this means that both SATA HDD and SSD types of drives can also be hot swappable. As noted previously, most storage drives have a RAID set up to provide data redundancy when one drive fails. Thus, drives with RAID 1, 5, 6, and 10 versions are hot swappable because of their capabilities in data mirroring and striping into multiple different drives for redundancy. As a result, our SATA drives are high-availability hot swap that comes with hot swap controllers and RAID for data redundancy software.     

            Learn More About RAID  

            The difference between hot swappable SATA SSD and HDD   

            Both SATA SSD and HDD can be hot swappable, but how they store and manage data makes them different from each other. HDD refers to Hard Disk Drive, which contains platters covered by ferromagnetic coating as data is read and written on the area of the disk at a breakneck speed. Although HDD can reach up to 150MB/s, this is fairly slow compared to SSDs. This is because SSDs store data on flash memory and use the Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI). SATA SSDs consist of individual memory cells with no moving parts, reaching up to 550MB/s read and write data speed.    

            Learn More About The Difference Between SSD and HDD 

            Hot-Swappable NVMe SSDs – Storage Boost  


            NVMe stands for Non-Volatile Memory Express, which is a data storage interface protocol that connects the host to the memory systems through PCI Express (PCIe) bus. NVMe SSDs are known for their very compact form and lightning-fast transfer speed. Compared to the SATA SSDs with 600 Mbps, NVMe SSDs can reach up to 4 Gbps by utilizing x4 PCIe 3.0 lanes, thus demonstrating its high level of data storage boost and data read/write speeds suitable for massive computing operations.

            Because NVMe SSDs are built to overcome the bottleneck interface and communication protocols that exist in traditional SATA SSDs. Premio’s industrial computers were designed to support hot swappable NVMe SSDs with the hot swappable NVMe SSD canisters, consisting of optional 7mm or 15mm SSD drives. Hot swappable NVMe canisters simplify data storage replacements and upgrades, crucial in industrial applications that require computers to operate non-stop without fail.    

            Hot Swappable NVMe SSD Vs. SATA SSD 

            NVMe SSD use an interface protocol designed for connecting SSDs using flash, while SATA connects SSDs, HDDs, and optical drives using AHCI drivers. The other key difference between them is the AHCI and NVMe interface controllers, which refer to the block of the I/O layer. The AHCI utilizes a single-queue I/O block layer, which means that all the I/O requests from the CPU will go via a single request queue. As a result, AHCI can cause a bottleneck as the single queue at times may not sufficiently exploit the full potential of storage. While the NVMe interface controller utilizes a multi-queue block I/O layer, consisting of software queues (SWQs) and hardware queues (HWQs). Tasks running on the CPU core can be sent to the corresponding SWQs and HWQs, reducing the time needed to process all the functions through a single request queue. As a result, NVMe SSD has maximized the internal parallelism of SSDs, which significantly enhances the storage drive performance. Internal parallelism refers to the capability of a single SSD to handle multiple incoming I/O requests in parallel and obtain a high bandwidth.   

            Learn More About The Difference Between NVMe and SATA SSDs  

            Key Benefits of Hot Swappable NVMe SSD  


            With the advent of IoT devices and AI technologies, more bandwidth, storage, and processing power are needed to handle the fast-growing data. Therefore, with hot swappable NVMe’s outstanding performance in data transfer, advanced technologies will reap significant benefits to achieve faster and efficient data processing, such as:  

            • Low Latency: Hot swappable NVMe has increased bandwidth and internal parallelism. NVMe eliminates the I/O bottlenecks by utilizing a multi-queue block, reducing latency in reading and writing data to up to only 2.8 microseconds.   
            • Enhanced Performance: Hot swap NVMe storage delivers data through direct contact with PCIe 3.0 lanes, which offers up to 16Gb/s of bandwidth for x16 PCIe lanes. Thus, hot swappable U.2, 2.5”, or M.2 NVMe SSDs support up to x4 PCIe lanes for a whopping speed of 4 Gbps. Compared to the hot swap SATA, the hot swap NVMe increases the storage drive read and write speed performance enormously.   
            • Reliable Storage: Hot swappable NVMe SSDs store data in flash memory with no moving parts, thus minimizing the Point of Failure (PoF) contributes to ruggedness for harsh industrial deployments.   
            • Power Efficient: Hot swap NVMe adopts the low-power-consumption standby mode, consuming little power when idle. Hence, industries with massive operations will significantly benefit from this feature, reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) and battery life.

              Applications of Hot Swappable Storage Drive  


              Hot swap drive allows efficient data collection and processing for training intelligent machines and rapidly offloading essential data to the cloud for more advanced IoT management. Many industries, especially mission-critical industries, have benefited greatly from the hot swap technology to obtain seamless connectivity and reliable operations. Some of 
              these industries are: 

              • Industrial automation  
              • Vehicle telematics  
              • Surveillance   
              • Automated Inspection 
              • Smart City  

                Hot Swappable Storage Boost Industrial Computers  



                RCO-6000-CFL-4NS series is the storage boost industrial computer with the 9th Gen Intel Coffee Lake R processor that supports two hot swap NVMe SSD bay modules. Hence, each bay module can fit up to two 15mm NVMe SSDs and are hot swappable and toolless. This storage boost computer series comes with software RAID support for data redundancy management. The RCO-6000-CFL-4N series also provides hardware RAID support to match different industry requirements. Here are some of the key features of these series:

                • LGA 1151 socket for 8th/9th Gen Intel ® Core ™ i7/i5/i3 Processor  
                • 4x Hot Swappable SATA HDD Bay with RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 Support  
                • 2x Removable 2 Bay NVMe SSD Module (15mm) and 1x NVMe M.2 M Key  
                • Internal: 2x Full-Size Mini-PCIe and 1x M.2 E Key  
                • -25°C to 60°C Operating Temperature   

                Learn More About RCO-6000-CFL-4NS  



                RCO-6000-CFL-8NS series is the storage boost industrial computer that comes with two pieces of hot swap NVMe SSD bay modules and is supports the 9th Gen Intel Coffee Lake R processor. For this series, each bay module can fit four pieces of 15mm NVMe SSDs, and a total of eight pieces for two-bay modules. As a result, this series of computers offers high-capacity hot swappable storage drives with support from RAID software. Here are some of its key features:   

                • LGA 1151 socket for 8th/9th Gen Intel ® Core ™ i7/i5/i3 Processor  
                • 4x Hot Swappable 2.5” SATA HDD Bay with RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 Support  
                • 2x Removable 4 Bay NVMe SSD Module (7mm) and 1x NVMe M.2 M Key  
                • Internal: 2x Full-Size Mini-PCIe and 1x M.2 E Key  
                • -25°C to 60°C Operating Temperature  

                Learn More About RCO-6000-CFL-8NS 

                Why Premio?   

                Premio has been a global solution provider designing and manufacturing top-notch industrial computers for over 30 years in the United States. Our solutions are designed, tested, and validated to operate reliably and optimally in the most challenging environmental conditions. Moreover, Premio’s hot swappable NVMe SSDs offer a high level of performance and storage at the rugged edge. Premio strives for the best in everything and offers our customers the most high-end computing solutions. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.