With rotating drives, the seek time measures the time it takes the head assembly on the actuator arm to travel to the track of the disk where the data will be read or written. The data on the media is stored in sectors which are arranged in parallel circular tracks (concentric or spiral depending upon the device type) and there is an actuator with an arm that suspends a head that can transfer data with that media. When the drive needs to read or write a certain sector it determines in which track the sector is located. It then uses the actuator to move the head to that particular track. If the initial location of the head was the desired track then the seek time would be zero. If the initial track was the outermost edge of the media and the desired track was at the innermost edge then the seek time would be the maximum for that drive. Seek times are not linear compared with the seek distance traveled because of factors of acceleration and deceleration of the actuator arm.
A rotating drive's average seek time is the average of all possible seek times which technically is the time to do all possible seeks divided by the number of all possible seeks, but in practice it is determined by statistical methods or simply approximated as the time of a seek over one-third of the number of tracks. Average seek time ranges from under 4 ms for high-end server drives, to 15 ms for mobile drives, with the most common mobile drives at about 12 ms and the most common desktop drives typically being around 9 ms.
The first HDD had an average seek time of about 600 ms, and by the middle 1970s, HDDs were available with seek times of about 25 ms. Some early PC drives used a stepper motor to move the heads, and as a result had seek times as slow as 80–120 ms, but this was quickly improved by voice coil type actuation in the 1980s, reducing seek times to around 20 ms. Seek time has continued to improve slowly over time.
The other two less...