[README] Before You Buy A Hard Drive
Which make and model of hard drive should you buy, and how long can you expect a hard drive to last? These questions come up on a regular basis. Read on to get the latest scoop on hard drive reliability, from a company that has kept stats on tens of thousands of consumer hard drives...
Which Hard Drives Are Most Reliable?
A hard drive is a hard thing to lose. It holds all your data, often terabytes of family photos and video memories, important documents, software and e-books you've purchased, and that novel you’ve been working on for fifteen years. Even if you have current backup copies of everything (as you should), recovering from a hard drive crash can be a long, painful process. So you want a highly reliable, long-lived hard drive.
One of the best sources of hard drive reliability data I have come across is provided by cloud-storage provider BackBlaze. The company uses consumer-grade hard drives in capacities that many consumers use (4 to 10 TB). These are the same drives you can buy at Best Buy. So BackBlaze’s reliability statistics are relevant to consumers’ interests, and boy, does BackBlaze have a lot of statistics!
In 2014, BackBlaze boasted a herd of over 41,000 hard drives. In Q3 2017, that number had ballooned to 86,529. Together, they give BlackBlaze a total storage capacity of 400 petabytes; that’s 400,000 terabytes!
BackBlaze has a curated mixture of drive manufacturers including Western Digital Corp. (WDC), Seagate, Toshiba, and HGST (formerly Hitachi, now a brand of WDC). The specific drive models range in capacity from 3 to 12 TB, with the vast majority of total drives falling in the 4 to 6 TB range.
It’s noteworthy that most of BackBlaze’s drives had an average age of less than 4 years as of September 30, 2017; about 80% were less than 3 years old. Only about 2500 drives, all 4 TB HGST DeskStar NAS 3TB (model HDS5C4040ALE630), were more than 4 years old on average. As a general rule, BackBlaze keeps drives in service until they show early signs of failure, so these age stats should provide a good clue of how long you can expect to keep a hard drive.
The warranty period offered on a drive provides an indirect look at how long the drive’s manufacturer expects it to last. Most consumer-grade drives have a 2 year warranty, while enterprise-grade versions of essentially identical drives may have 5 year warranties. Enterprise-grade drives also come with significantly bigger price tags, and features that may or may not matter to consumers.
Which Drives Are Performing Best?
The uniquely long life span of the HGST model HDS5C4040ALE630 is appealing; so is its price of $211 at Newegg and as low as $193 on Amazon. It spins at 7200 rpm; not the fastest these days, but much better than ancient 5400 rpm drives. It’s one drawback is relatively low 3TB capacity, but no multi-terabyte drive can be considered “small.”
Among 8 TB drives, the Seagate ST8000DM002 has the lowest annualized failure rate (1.10%) among 9879 units that BackBlaze owns. It’s going for $289 on Amazon, direct from Seagate. A more recent version of this drive, the ST8000DM004, goes for $273.
BackBlaze has a limited number of very young 10 and 12 TB drives. It’s too soon to report annualized failure rates, but the company chose Seagate for its venture into high-capacity drives. Specifically, BackBlaze is running the models ST10000NM0086 (10 TB) and ST12000NM0007 (12 TB), selling for $362 and $430, respectively.
BackBlaze offers a very candid, transparent discussion of its hard drive ecosystem here. I recommend that you give it a read, even if you're not in the market for a hard drive right now. You can even download the raw data on drive life and failure rates to slice and dice your own way, if you wish.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 8 Jan 2018
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [README] Before You Buy A Hard Drive (Posted: 8 Jan 2018)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved