head crash(n.) A serious disk drive malfunction. A head crash usually means that the head has scratched or burned the disk. In a hard disk drive, the head normally hovers a few microinches from the disk. If the head becomes misaligned or if dust particles come between it and the disk, it can touch the disk. When this happens, you usually lose much of the data on the hard disk and will need to replace both the head and the disk. For this reason, it is important to operate disk drives, particularly hard disk drives, in as clean an environment as possible. Even smoke particles can cause a head crash.
Head crashes are less common for floppy disks because the head touches the disk anyway under normal operation.
Stay up to date on the latest developments in Internet terminology with a free weekly newsletter from Webopedia. Join to subscribe now.