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Reliability of modern hard disk drives (HDDs) is a major concern especially with decreasing head-to-disk spacing in order to attain higher recording densities. One of the reasons for HDD failure is the occurrence of intermittent or sustained head–disk contacts. It is therefore important to be able to detect such head–disk contacts early on so that backup safety schemes can be implemented before catastrophic HDD failure and permanent data loss. In the study reported here, we used noninvasive vibration diagnostics and multiaxial vibration measurements to assess the condition and functionality of HDDs. We chose a miniature triaxial accelerometer for the diagnostic study, given that it is relatively inexpensive and easy to use. We measured contact vibration, induced by a scratch on the top surface of the rotating disk, on the outside of the HDD by attaching an accelerometer on the actuator shaft. We found that contact vibrations between the head and disk inside the HDD can reliably be measured on the outside of the HDD with an accelerometer. We also found that a miniature accelerometer does not cause significant mass loading, as verified by noncontacting laser vibrometry.