A recent report claims that Seagate and Hitachi hard drives are the most likely to fail.

In the context: While solid state drives continue to grow in popularity, some users still prefer reliable hard drives due to their affordable cost and high capacity. However, a recent study shows that buyers do not always choose the most reliable hard drives.

In recent times, the typical hard disk drive (HDD) usage has changed dramatically. Since solid state drives (SSDs) have become the primary storage device, hard drives are being used for gaming, file backup, or cheap secondary storage. Prices for hard drives have dropped significantly over the past few years, prompting some buyers to include them in their computers just in case. So finding a reliable one is just as important.

Timothy Burley from Secure Data Recovery wanted to find out why hard drives fail and which manufacturers the most reliable. So he tested 2007 broken hard drives from six manufacturers—Western Digital, Seagate, Hitachi, Toshiba, Samsung, and Maxtor. Capacity ranged from 40 GB to 10 TB. He received discs from customers in 2022. Burleigh recorded each hard drive’s hours of operation and the number of pending sectors to determine their longevity and failure conditions.

Toshiba came out on top with an average lifespan of 34,799 hours. Hitachi finished last with just 18,632 hours. Maxtor showed impressive results, almost reaching 30,000 hours. The Western Digital and Seagate hard drives clocked in at around 20,000 hours, while the Samsung clocked in at just over 19,000 hours, slightly better than the Hitachi.

The next metric that Burleigh pointed out was the “pending sector count.” Pending sectors are bad disk subdivisions. The average number of all examined disks is 1548 sectors. Burleigh notes that a 1TB hard drive has “only just under 2 billion sectors”. While the average may seem small, bad sectors will quickly accumulate until the hard drive becomes unusable. Thus, higher values ​​are an indicator that the device is heading towards failure.

In this test, Hitachi again comes in last place with an average of 3348 pending sectors, twice the average. Seagate followed close behind with 2671 sectors, and Toshiba didn’t do very well either, averaging nearly 1900 pending sectors. Western Digital, Samsung and Maxtor fared much better, scoring 628, 529 and 228 bad sectors respectively.

Burley calculated that of all the failed hard drives he received, 80% suffered from unpredictable failures, including electrical problems, malware, natural disasters, or simple mishandling. He excluded these drives from the study because he was looking for hard drives that had failed under regular and predictable use. It is also interesting that most hard drives fail due to external factors.

Burley concludes that the test shows that a drive that should fail starts showing signs after about 25,233 hours, or two years and 10 months of use. If your hard drive exceeds this period, it can live much longer. It’s interesting (and perhaps not surprising) that many manufacturers only give a 2-year warranty on their consumer hard drives, so be careful.

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