1. Short for Revolutions Per Minute, RPM is used to help determine the access time on computer hard drives. RPM is a measurement of how many complete revolutions a computer's hard drive makes in a single minute. The higher the RPM, the faster the data will be accessed; for example, if you were comparing two hard drives, one with 5400 RPM and another with 7200 RPM, the hard drive with a 7200 RPM will be capable of accessing data much faster than the 5400 RPM drive. However, it is also important to note that a 5400 RPM drive will be much cheaper than a 7200 RPM drive.

While it may not be a noticeable speed difference when loading small files, the RPM of a hard drive can make a dramatic difference when loading large files or several hundred or thousand files. We always recommend users get at least a 7200 RPM drive when buying a traditional hard disk drive.

Note: Newer computers with SSD drives have no movable parts and therefore have no RPM.

2. RPM can also refer to the revolutions per minute a computer case fan or heatsink fan spins. With a high RPM, the fan will move more air or remove more heat from the computer or processor. However, keep in mind that as you increase the RPM of a fan the noise or decibel (dBa) also increases.

  • A comptuers fan RPM can be measured using software tools such as HWMonitor.

3. Short for RPM package Manager, RPM is an installation and packaging tool used with many different Linux variants to install Internet downloads. RPM uses the .RPM file extension when creating a package. For users more familiar with Debian, this tool is similar to the Dpkg tool.

Also see: Access time, Decibel, Hard drive terms, Measurement, Seek time