Why do Good Hard Drives Go Bad?

  • Comments: 5
  • Written on: July 13th, 2007

I was reading a great post on Robin Harris’ blog about hard drive lifespan and why hard drives just up and die sometimes. I learned a couple new things, so I figured I would pass the information on to my readers as well.

One of the most expensive (and heartbreaking) situations we handle for our customers is replacing a failing hard drive. The number 1 question I am always asked is what did I do to cause my hard drive to go bad?

The answer is… NOTHING! You did nothing wrong. Hard drive failure can happen to anyone at any time and is simply luck of the draw. A new Google-backed study with a sample size of 100,000 hard drives proves it.

Here are some of the more interesting facts from Harris’ pot:

  1. Enterprise drives are no more reliable than consumer drives. All of the extra money IT managers spend on enterprise drives instead of the lowly consumer drives simply pads the manufacturers’ profit margins. Enterprise drives have the same likelihood of failure as any other hard drive.
  2. The DOS-based SMART drive status that pops up when you start your computer is worthless. If SMART is saying your hard drive is dying, then it probably is. But SMART may be silent as your hard drive inches toward failure.
  3. Hard drive use has no influence on the lifespan of the drive. This one shocked me. It seems like common sense that the harder you push a device, the more likely it is to wear out and fail. Google found that the best thing you can do to a new hard drive is push its limits on day 1. If it is going to fail, it will. If it is not, then the drive will work for years.
  4. The operating environment temperature does not really matter to your hard drive. The temperature of a hard drive has to reach 104 degrees F before failure occurs. Some early SATA drives did this easily, as well as some of the early Maxtor slimline hard drives.
  5. The age of your hard drive is the single greatest determining factor in he chances of drive failure. After a hard drive is three years old, the chances of it dying go through the roof.
  6. Any physical jolt – even a minor drop – can instantly shorten the life of a hard drive. This one is common sense. Hard drives are made of mechanical components that move rapidly in close proximity to each other. Don’t be rough with it!
  7. “Pioneer” drives are most likely to fail early. Don’t rush out and buy the new had drive model right away. Wait three months until manufacturers get the production kinks out and start shipping a revised hard drive model.

So Harris points out that your individual luck is really what determines the likelihood of your hard drive failing. Google’s study data finds that brand, operating environment, and usage volume have as much to do with hard drive failure as the tiny gremlins that hang out on your desk when you are not looking do.

Please take a moment this morning to make a backup of your important data and then go buy a lottery ticket. This might be your lucky day!

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