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How long do hard drives actually live for?

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Extremetech has an article today on an issue we've discussed before -- the longevity of hard drives.

This data covers only the first 4 years, but i have to admit it's a bit scary to me:

If you buy a hard drive today, there’s a 90% chance that it will survive for three years. If your drive makes it to the three-year point, you would be wise to back up your data, as there’s a 12% chance per year that your drive will die.

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If you don't have a good backup plan in place, start one this week.  I recommend a combination of monthly full drive imaging combined with a constant online backup service for your documents and/or file mirroring.


It’s also worth mentioning that Backblaze’s drives are spinning constantly — these failure rates are for drives that are turned on 24/7. Your home computer probably isn’t powered up 24/7, and thus the drives may last longer.
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It's nice that they mention it but saying your drives may last longer is a little misleading, IMHO.

Until someone comes up with some data that actually relates to consumer drives and the way they are generally intended to be used then I would have expected the failure rate for them to be slightly higher with the power on/off cycling that a normal consumer computer goes through.

I'm not sure exactly what you're saying -- are you saying that you think consumer drives might be expected to die faster than the backblaze drives, or?

I'm not sure exactly what you're saying -- are you saying that you think consumer drives might be expected to die faster than the backblaze drives, or?-mouser (November 12, 2013, 05:56 PM)
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They use consumer drives in a climate controlled environment - their usage scenario is completely different from a normal consumer.

Theirs are constantly spinning 24/7, as they mention - a normal consumer turns off their computer when they're finished, they turn it on when they want to use it.

Power on/off causes components to expand and contract, (resistors, PCBs, etc), as they start at close to ambient temperature and heat up as time goes on.  This movement while extremely small can be enough to stress either the solder joints or the components themselves - something a constantly on device isn't subjected to.

You also have Inrush currentw when a device is turned on - if you look at the manufacturers data for HDDs, Startup current is higher than what's required to keep it spinning - this current, while used predominantly by the motor and its associated components, could possibly affect other components that aren't rated to keep handling such transient surges.

Evening things out though is the comparison of the time BackBlazes HDDs spend spinning, (24/7), and the time a normal consumers HDD is spinning, (eg. 6-18 hours per day, 5-7 days per week, etc).

All I'm saying is that until someone does a comparable study of consumer drives and how they're generally meant to be used then saying they may or may not last longer is a bit pointless.

The only thing you can say about a HDD, (and any storage device), is that it will fail at some point ... and that's what you plan for.

I think 4wd is pointing out there's likely to be a difference in reliability between "consumer" and "enterprise" grade drives intended for workstation and server use. Especially since it's now cheaper for a manufacturer to play the odds and replace failures under warranty than to extensively engineer or test consumer hard drives. That's what "risk management" gets us.

My experience puts useful life of office store type drives between three and five years average.

SATA drives by the same manufacturers intended for server deployment average about seven years before experiencing problems or throwing a warning. They usually have more robust motors and spin at the slower 5300 speeds to keep heat and vibration down.

But a good part if the extended service life might also be attributable to servers usually being kept in climate controlled areas with very clean and tightly regulated power lines. Not something you can assume is the norm for home computers.  

ADDENDUM: whoops! 4wd got in while I was typing! ;D


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