Hard drives are getting faster and more affordable every day, but unfortunately, their moving parts will always make them loud and mean their power draw isn’t insignificant. This can be a particular issue for those with laptops, leading many to wonder how to turn off a hard disk after it reaches an idle state.

After many years of refinement, Microsoft has realized this is a feature that users need and has included it in Windows 10 built-in power management options. Those on the Balanced and Power Saver profiles may notice that it kicks in automatically, but it’s also possible to manually enable it for all plans.

Doing so will turn your hard disk off after you haven’t used your PC in a certain time period. This naturally means it will use less power, but it may also cause delays when the hard disk suddenly realizes it needs to be used and spins up. Either way, it’s worth noting that this option doesn’t’ affect SSDs, so if you have your Windows install and important programs on one, you shouldn’t run into any issues.

How to Turn off your Hard Disk after Idle Time Via Control Panel

The option to turn off a hard disk after idle, and power settings in general, haven’t been ported over the Windows 10’s new settings interface yet. As a result, the most user-friendly way to disable a hardrive when it’s not in use is via the legacy Control Panel.

  1. Open Control Panel


    Press the “Start” button and type “Control Panel”. Click the first result under ‘Best match’.

    Windows 10 - Open Control Panel

  2. Switch to small Control Panel icons


    Windows 10 - Control Panel - Open Samall Icons Category

  3. Open Windows 10 Power Options


    Windows 10 - Control Panel - All Control Panel Items - Open Power Options

  4. Click “Change plan settings”


    Windows 10 - Control Panel - All Control Panel Items - Power Options - Open Change Plan Settings Ultimate Performance

  5. Choose “Change advanced power settings” to access the disable hard drive feature


    Windows 10 - Power Options - Change Plan Settings Ultimate Performance - Open Change Advanced Power Settings

  6. Click “Change settings that are currently unavailable”


    This will let you access the “Turn off hard disk after” setting if it’s greyed-out.

    Windows 10 - Power Options -Change Advanced Power Settings - Change Settings that are Currently Unavailable

  7. Edit the “Turn off hard disk after” setting for battery and AC power


    Windows 10 - Power Options -Change Advanced Power Settings - Turn off hard disk after 10 minutes

How to Disable Your Hard Drive on Idle via Command Prompt

As is often the case, it’s much faster to do this via the command line if you’re comfortable.

  1. Open Command Prompt


    Press the “Start” button and type “Command Prompt”. Click the first result under ‘Best match’.

    Windows 10 - Open Command Prompt

  2. Run the disable hard drive after idle commands


    In the Command Prompt window, type these commands individually, pressing “Enter” after each. Replace “0” with the number of minutes you want your hard disk to turn off after idle.

    powercfg -change -disk-timeout-dc 0
    powercfg -change-disk-timeout-ac-0

    Windows 10 - Command Prompt - Enter commands (on battery and plugged in)