New Study Examines Hard Drive Failure Rates of Top Manufacturers

New Study Examines Hard Drive Failure Rates of Top Manufacturers

February 7

Computer hardware components are notoriously known for clunking out at the most inopportune of moments. The hard drive is arguably the most unreliable of all those components. A study StorageCraft conducted on hardware failure found that hard drives are the most common source of hardware problems, beating out the failure of motherboards, power components, and other internal components by far.

A recent study looked at the failure rates of hard drives made by Hitachi, Seagate, and Western Digital (WD), three of the industry’s biggest vendors. It analyzed more than 27,000 units over a three to four-year period and recorded when each one failed. The study found that based on their combined averages, drives made by these particular vendors fail around 5.1 percent during the first year, just 1.4 percent at the 18-month mark, and have the most trouble after three years, when rates shoot up to nearly 12 percent.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the aforementioned research effort is the affirmation that all hard drives are far from equal. Hitachi products were found to experience the least failures, followed by WD (though WD bought out Hitachi’s hard drive unit a while ago, so that may change things a bit), then Seagate. Speaking of Seagate, the firm had an annual failure rate of 14 percent across all its tested offerings, but some were far more problematic than others. The Seagate Barracuda 7200 was one of the worst offenders, charting an alarming failure rate of 25 percent per year. The study, however, found the Seagate Desktop HDD .15 to have a more reasonable annual failure rate of 3.8 percent.

Giving Hard Drives Their Due Diligence

Now you know it isn’t just your luck – or lack thereof. Hard drives are tricky pieces of equipment. Dare I say, unreliable. Having said that, they are critically important and make up a component you can’t really to afford to lose. In addition to exposing the weaknesses of a few hardware makers, reports like this highlight the importance of choosing the right hard drive from the jump, more than anything. And while the above findings may have you a bit weary now, neither of these guys are bad options – not even Seagate. We have to keep these things in perspective.

A bad drive is a bad drive, but it’s suspected that the Seagate units that produced the highest number of failures were refurbished and previously used before put into the testing environment. Western Digital products were found to have the highest rate of failures initially, but did pretty well once they made it past the six month mark. Hitachi appears to be the safest bet, though it was purchased by WD as we mentioned, so its difficult to tell who’s producing what these days. The point is that there were too many factors involved in this study to really call one vendor more reliable than another.

When it comes to buying a hard drive, the manufacturer is only one of several important aspects to take into account. You also have to consider things like the level of technical support you get, as well as the warranty. If you have a Seagate or WD drive that clunks out on you in under a year, at least you know you’re covered under the warranty and can swap it out with a replacement. Extended warranties make valuable insurance for the same reason.

The StorageCraft survey I mentioned in the intro found that 99 percent of respondents experienced  hardware failure of some sort. Your equipment is going to go. The better you are equipped to handle the those failures in the way of backup plans and making smart purchases from the start, the better off you’ll be. Trust me.

Photo Credit: Adnan Ghosheh via Flickr