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Should we pre-emptively retire old hard drives?

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We all know that hard drives can and will fail eventually, and often unpredictably and without warning.  That's why we make sure we back up regularly.

But here's is a question I've been thinking about lately, and I don't know the answer to:

Should we pre-emptively retire old but perfectly-working hard drives, and migrate data to a new drive? If so, after how many hours?

Or should we just run them into the ground until they fail?

Here's a screenshot of one of my favorite tools (CrystalDiskInfo), showing smart data of my oldest drive, with 39,000 hours powered up:

Is powered-up hours even the right metric to use -- or should we be using the actual years since manufacture?

Hi mousie,

well, my experience shows me that an electronic device has the following lifetime failure curve: Either its DOA (death on arrival) or it will break after the first few days/weeks of use. If that period is passed, the electronic device works reliable as long as no external desasters (shock, overvoltage) takes place. This period will last very long and mostly i exchange the whole pc before that electronic device will brake.

Normal HDDs (not SSDs) are a bit of another story, as they contain, beside the electronic, mechanical parts (spinning plates, hopping heads). That means that the electronic part of a hdd follows the lifecycle i mentioned above, while the mechanic parts suffer more and more and wear out from steady use.

So it looks in the first place a good idea to exhcange HDDs regularly before fail. But this inherits another danger to run into an electronic failure of a new HDD and you still don't have the guarantee, that the mechanic parts of the new HDD will work as expected. And this counterparts the idea of pre-emptive exchange of HDDs.

IMO from my 25 years experience in IT business (handling also technical problems - incl. hardware failures - of customers on the support line), it makes no sense to exchange in advance. Keep good backups and use a raid system (what we do with our customers) which enables you to nearly hot-plug-exchange a failed HDD within only minutes of outage of the system without any data loss. Then run the HDDs until they brake again. That saves money and resources too.

Of course, if any symptoms arise (bad blocks etc.) even if the HDD is still working fine (except that infrequent little glitches), that is a sure sign to exchange the HDD IMMEDIATELY!

Just my 2ct.


I would say no. If the drive is in good state, I would let it run not until it dies, but until more space or capacity is needed.

Stoic Joker:
Personally, I only replace things when they either die, or get flaky, but I'm also a big fan of hot-swapable hardware RAID. however I have run across folks that used the MTBF as a replacement point for drives in their companies (high end commercial) SAN. I'm sort of torn as to the logic in that as it seems to me that you'd just be swapping one evil (disk failure), for another (RAID rebuild) ... either of which has potential to end catastrophically.

Perhaps in mission critical high availability systems it would be best to schedule ones performance hiccup outages by replacing drives on a preemptive basis (at considerable co$t...). But outside of that it strikes me as a bit wasteful and rather silly. Did I mention I tend to be just a tad on the cheap side..?

Did I mention I tend to be just a tad on the cheap side..?
-Stoic Joker (August 02, 2012, 06:45 AM)
--- End quote ---

Hahahah~! :D

For myself, I think that the decision to replace hardware first needs to be balanced against the likelihood of failure and the cost to recover.

Typically, if you have backups, and can recover with them, then the question is about how much the cost of unplanned downtime is versus the cost of planned downtime for the replacement.

Copying data is trivial. Configuring a server or setting up a new desktop isn't. They take time and are painful.

I guess is all boils down to the specific situation. I'm all in favor of the cheapest one too though! :) (Generally, I find the cost of a hard drive is significantly less than the cost of disaster recovery and setting up a server again -- assuming the backups are for data, and not the system. I have a complete system backup on this desktop, but still wouldn't want to fart around with recovery.)


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