The volumetric information storage density of rigid disk drives continues to increase through decreases in the slider-disk separation (i.e., the flying height). Reductions in slider-disk separations are achieved primarily through smoother surfaces on the magnetic media. The limiting factor in decreasing the slider-disk separation is the interactions that occur between the slider and the diminishing surface roughness and the impact that this roughness has on the transient and steady-state flying characteristics of the recording head. In this paper, we present a new finite element algorithm to solve the modified Reynolds equation that is specifically designed to utilize state of the art vector/parallel hardware. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first numerical simulation of the flying characteristics of a finite width slider over a rigid disk surface which directly incorporates three-dimensional surface roughness. The effects that the magnitude, orientation, shape, and location (i.e., roughness on the disk or slider) of the surface roughness has on the steady-state slider flying characteristics are presented.

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