The latest report claims that Seagate and Hitachi hard drives are more likely to fail

In the context of: While the popularity of SSDs continues to grow, some users still prefer owning a reliable hard drive for its affordable costs and high storage capacities. However, a recent study showed that buyers may not always choose the most reliable hard drives.

Recently, the usual use of a hard disk drive (HDD) has changed dramatically. With solid-state drives (SSDs) becoming the primary storage device, hard drives are the perfect solution for games, file backups, or cheap extra storage. Hard drive prices have dropped dramatically in the past few years, prompting some buyers to include one in their computers just in case. So finding a reliable one is just as important.

Timothy Burlee of Secure Data Recovery wanted to find out why hard drives fail and their manufacturers the most reliable. So he tested 2,007 broken hard drives from six manufacturers—Western Digital, Seagate, Hitachi, Toshiba, Samsung, Maxtor. Capacities ranged from 40GB to 10TB. He obtained the drives from customers in 2022. Berlee recorded the operating hours of each hard disk drive (HDD) and calculated the pending sector to determine longevity and failure conditions.

Toshiba came out on top with an average life of 34,799 hours. The Hitachi finished dead last, managing just 18,632 hours. Maxtor’s performance has been astounding, reaching nearly 30,000 hours. Western Digital and Seagate HDDs clocked around the middle of 20,000 hours, while Samsung clocked just over 19,000 hours, barely better than the Hitachi.

The next metric that Burley looked at was the “number of sectors outstanding”. Hanging sectors are bad subdivisions of disks. The average number of all studied drives is 1548 sectors. Burley notes that a hard drive with 1 TB of storage capacity “has just under 2 billion sectors.” While the average may seem small, bad sectors will quickly accumulate until your hard drive is no longer usable. So large numbers are an indication that the device is heading towards failure.

On this test, the Hitachi finished last again, with an average pending sector count of 3,348 — more than double the average. Seagate followed closely behind at 2,671, and Toshiba didn’t fare well either, averaging around 1,900 sector hanging. Western Digital, Samsung, and Maxtor fared much better, scoring well below average with 628, 529, and 228 bad sectors, respectively.

Burley estimated that of all the failed hard drives he’d acquired, 80 percent had suffered unexpected failures, which include electrical problems, malware, natural disasters, or simple mismanagement. He excluded these drives from the study because he was looking for hard drives that had failed in regular and expected use. It is still interesting that most hard drives fail due to external factors.

Burley concludes that testing shows that a drive marked for failure begins to show signs after about 25,233 hours, or 2 years and 10 months of use. If your hard drive exceeds this time frame, it should be able to survive for much longer. Interestingly (and perhaps unsurprisingly) many manufacturers only have two-year warranties on consumer hard drives, so be warned.

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