Average life of heavily used hard drives

Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

Does anyone know on average how many years hard drives last? Hard
drives that take a lot of use like gaming, video editing and stuff
like that? I know a hard drive can die after a year the same way it
can die after many years, but I'm just trying to find out an average.
16 answers Last reply
More about average life heavily hard drives
  1. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    Previously Nero <nero@savingtheworld.net> wrote:
    > Does anyone know on average how many years hard drives last? Hard
    > drives that take a lot of use like gaming, video editing and stuff
    > like that? I know a hard drive can die after a year the same way it
    > can die after many years, but I'm just trying to find out an average.

    HDDs should last several years under heavy load, if they are cooled
    well. If they run hot, they will die young even if not used at all.

    The average is in the manufactuerers documentation in the form of the
    MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) and the component lifetime.
    The second is the time the MTBF holds, i.e. after that the failure
    rate may increase.

    Arno
  2. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    Nero <nero@savingtheworld.net> wrote:

    > Does anyone know on average how many years hard drives last? Hard
    > drives that take a lot of use like gaming, video editing and stuff like that?

    The use has no effect on the life at all. All that matters is the time its on
    for.

    > I know a hard drive can die after a year the same way it can
    > die after many years, but I'm just trying to find out an average.

    Most find that drives are replaced because
    they are too small well before they die.

    You'd think that that wouldnt be so true of say 160G drives,
    but I'm finding that its still true, mainly because I have replaced
    the VCRs with hard drive and still upgrade them before they die.

    I havent actually had a drive die in more than a full decade
    and plenty older than that one are still going strong.
  3. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    On Sat, 30 Jul 2005 14:26:00 +1000, "Rod Speed" <rod_speed@yahoo.com>
    wrote:

    >Nero <nero@savingtheworld.net> wrote:
    >
    >> Does anyone know on average how many years hard drives last? Hard
    >> drives that take a lot of use like gaming, video editing and stuff like that?
    >
    >The use has no effect on the life at all. All that matters is the time its on
    >for.

    Is that right, I had heard a hard drive takes more wear and tear from
    turning it off and on, and it's better to leave them on. Although I
    must admit most of the hard drives I've had die are the one's I've
    left on all the time, lol (mostly the ones in my tivo). Good thing I
    now have my system to hibernate after a couple of hours.
  4. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    Nero <nero@savingtheworld.net> wrote
    > Rod Speed <rod_speed@yahoo.com> wrote
    >> Nero <nero@savingtheworld.net> wrote:

    >>> Does anyone know on average how many years hard drives last? Hard
    >>> drives that take a lot of use like gaming, video editing and stuff like
    >>> that?

    >> The use has no effect on the life at all.
    >> All that matters is the time its on for.

    > Is that right, I had heard a hard drive takes more wear and
    > tear from turning it off and on, and it's better to leave them on.

    Correct. But leaving the drive off lasts even longer.

    > Although I must admit most of the hard drives I've had die are
    > the one's I've left on all the time, lol (mostly the ones in my tivo).

    LIkely they arent being cooled properly.

    > Good thing I now have my system to hibernate after a couple of hours.

    I dont hibernate at all myself except with the dinosaur
    in the kitchen that can go for days not being used.
  5. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    Rod Speed wrote:

    >Nero <nero@savingtheworld.net> wrote:
    >
    >> Does anyone know on average how many years hard drives last? Hard
    >> drives that take a lot of use like gaming, video editing and stuff like that?
    >
    >The use has no effect on the life at all. All that matters is the time its on
    >for.

    Clueless.
  6. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    Just to clarify what Arno wrote: MTBF and average life time are
    unrelated.

    Failure rates of disk drives (or any mechanical devices) follow a
    "bathtub" pattern. The initially high failure rate (DOA, infant
    mortality) drops quickly (within hours/days) to a baseline, which stays
    more or less constant (generally for years under proper usage and
    conditions), then starts to rise slowly due to wear.
    Now the MTBF is the inverse of the failure rate in steady state, i.e.
    at the baseline of the bathtub curve. It is only the height of the
    bathtub bottom, not the length of the bathtub that determines MTBF. The
    length is the lifetime, which is rarely specified (because
    manufacturers would get into too much hot water if they did.) Generally
    the warranty period is a good indication of the expected lifetime since
    manufacturers like to brag about their warranty but don't want to spend
    much on warranty replacements of course.

    You can have a very high MTBF, i.e. a very reliable drive, but it may
    wear out within a year (deep but short bathtub.) Conversely, you can
    have a population that dies slowly but constantly over 20 years (long
    but shallow bathtub - low MTBF but high average life.) By definition,
    when the devices start to wear out, you're out of the steady state and
    those failures don't count against the MTBF.

    MTBF is usually monitored by ORT (Ongoing Reliability Test) processes
    that take a sample of new drives (after burn in to get rid of infant
    mortality) and run them for a couple of weeks or months, so reliability
    is only proven for that long. Experience, component data and field data
    are used to extrapolate from there on. If some new component is
    introduced (which is the case for practically any new product), there
    may be surprises if the component doesn't meet what the supplier
    promised, or if the designers specified a component that's not quite
    right for the intended function, or if there are interactions that
    nobody foresaw. Happens all the time.

    Just remember that wear generally rises with the exponential of the
    temperature. Switching a drive on generates a lot of heat from friction
    and inrush current.
    I concur with Rod. The only drives that died on me over the last couple
    of years were Notebook drives. No surprise there (bleeding edge + power
    cycles + abuse). But I still have a couple 2 and 4 G SCSI drives
    running in my Linux boxes. They must be mid-90's vintage.

    Ralf-Peter
  7. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    Nero wrote:
    > Does anyone know on average how many years hard drives last?

    Are modern consumer hard drives likely to last as long as older drives did?
    They're now cost reduced and not built to the same standard IMO.

    I`ve seen many >10Gb drives fail in under a year, but older (<4gb) seem
    to go on long after they're obsolete.

    > Hard drives that take a lot of use like gaming, video editing and stuff
    > like that?

    So long as there's adequate cooling, the usage pattern shouldn't affect
    drive longevity.

    How cool is cool enough?

    Check the manufacturers specs, but a general rule: keep it under 45C

    --
    Mike
  8. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    RPR <rohbeck@yahoo.com> wrote

    > Just to clarify what Arno wrote:
    > MTBF and average life time are unrelated.

    > Failure rates of disk drives (or any mechanical devices) follow
    > a "bathtub" pattern. The initially high failure rate (DOA, infant
    > mortality) drops quickly (within hours/days) to a baseline, which
    > stays more or less constant (generally for years under proper
    > usage and conditions), then starts to rise slowly due to wear.
    > Now the MTBF is the inverse of the failure rate in steady state,
    > i.e. at the baseline of the bathtub curve. It is only the height of the
    > bathtub bottom, not the length of the bathtub that determines MTBF.

    It isnt even that. MTBFs are purely calculated, not measured
    and bear no real relationship to actual average life at all.

    > The length is the lifetime, which is rarely specified (because
    > manufacturers would get into too much hot water if they did.)

    It isnt even possible to specify it. The best that can be done
    is to see what the average life turns out to be, and thats quite
    difficult to quantify, and that data is useless by then anyway
    because you cant buy the drive new anymore anyway.

    > Generally the warranty period is a
    > good indication of the expected lifetime

    Like hell it is. 3 years was close to universal with mass market
    commodity drives. Then most manufacturers decided that the
    inevitable cost of the extra 2 years of warranty prevented them
    from being as aggressive on the price of the drive, so most of
    them changed to 1 year instead for that reason.

    Now we have seen Seagate decide to offer 5 years in the hope that
    that would increase their sales volume enough to come out ahead.

    > since manufacturers like to brag about their warranty but don't
    > want to spend much on warranty replacements of course.

    Its much more complicated than that.

    > You can have a very high MTBF, i.e. a very reliable drive, but it may
    > wear out within a year (deep but short bathtub.) Conversely, you can
    > have a population that dies slowly but constantly over 20 years (long
    > but shallow bathtub - low MTBF but high average life.)

    And you can get some duds like the IBM 75GXPs and the
    60GXPs and the Fujitsu MPGs which died like flys and the
    MTBF had absolutely no predictive value on that what so ever.

    > By definition, when the devices start to wear out, you're out of
    > the steady state and those failures don't count against the MTBF.

    You clearly dont have a clue about MTBF at all.

    > MTBF is usually monitored by ORT (Ongoing Reliability Test)
    > processes that take a sample of new drives (after burn in to
    > get rid of infant mortality) and run them for a couple of weeks
    > or months, so reliability is only proven for that long.

    MTBFs arent even measured at all like that.

    > Experience, component data and field
    > data are used to extrapolate from there on.

    Wrong again.

    > If some new component is introduced (which is the case for
    > practically any new product), there may be surprises if the
    > component doesn't meet what the supplier promised, or if
    > the designers specified a component that's not quite right
    > for the intended function, or if there are interactions that nobody foresaw.

    And some drives like the IBM 75GXPs and the 60GXPs can turn
    out to have a fundamental design problem that doesnt show up
    for quite a while in the field and the MTBF is completely irrelevant.

    > Happens all the time.

    Doesnt actually happen that often with hard drives.

    > Just remember that wear generally rises
    > with the exponential of the temperature.

    Thats utterly mangled as well.

    > Switching a drive on generates a lot
    > of heat from friction and inrush current.

    And that is why the power cycles are
    specified separately in the datasheets.

    > I concur with Rod. The only drives that died on me over the last
    > couple of years were Notebook drives. No surprise there (bleeding
    > edge + power cycles + abuse). But I still have a couple 2 and 4 G
    > SCSI drives running in my Linux boxes. They must be mid-90's vintage.

    I've got some IDEs of that size in dinosaurs that dont warrant
    anything bigger, tho I did bin the 2G because its irritatingly slow.
    The 4G is a bit marginal in that area, but since it only affects the
    boot time and I dont normally boot, just return from hibernation,
    I havent bothered to replace it with something faster.
  9. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    On Tue, 2 Aug 2005 07:51:51 +1000, "Rod Speed" <rod_speed@yahoo.com>
    wrote:

    >RPR <rohbeck@yahoo.com> wrote
    >
    >> Just to clarify what Arno wrote:
    >> MTBF and average life time are unrelated.
    >
    >> Failure rates of disk drives (or any mechanical devices) follow
    >> a "bathtub" pattern. The initially high failure rate (DOA, infant
    >> mortality) drops quickly (within hours/days) to a baseline, which
    >> stays more or less constant (generally for years under proper
    >> usage and conditions), then starts to rise slowly due to wear.
    >> Now the MTBF is the inverse of the failure rate in steady state,
    >> i.e. at the baseline of the bathtub curve. It is only the height of the
    >> bathtub bottom, not the length of the bathtub that determines MTBF.
    >
    >It isnt even that. MTBFs are purely calculated, not measured
    >and bear no real relationship to actual average life at all.


    The MTBF is the mean time between failure. It's an indication on how
    often an administrator with a large number of drive ought to change a
    drive. Let's say the MTBF is 10 000 hours and he has 1000 drives, then
    every 10 hours one drive is expected to fail, on average
    It ought to be mesure with a very large number of drive running at the
    manufacturer, unfortunately not for a long time ...

    Nick
  10. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    Mike Redrobe <mike@redrobe.net> wrote
    > Nero wrote

    >> Does anyone know on average how many years hard drives last?

    > Are modern consumer hard drives likely to last as long as older drives did?

    Depends entirely on what you call 'older drives'

    > They're now cost reduced

    Nope.

    > and not built to the same standard IMO.

    Bullshit.

    > I`ve seen many >10Gb drives fail in under a year, but older (<4gb) seem to go
    > on long after they're obsolete.

    Quite a few of those drives failed too.

    >> Hard drives that take a lot of use like gaming, video editing and stuff like
    >> that?

    > So long as there's adequate cooling, the usage pattern shouldn't affect drive
    > longevity.

    The main exception to that is power cycles.

    > How cool is cool enough?

    > Check the manufacturers specs,

    I wont run at the max of those myself.

    > but a general rule: keep it under 45C

    But short term exceeding that but still less than 50 is fine too.
  11. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    Nero wrote:

    > Does anyone know on average how many years hard drives last? Hard
    > drives that take a lot of use like gaming, video editing and stuff
    > like that? I know a hard drive can die after a year the same way it
    > can die after many years, but I'm just trying to find out an average.

    That's not "a lot of use". "A lot of use" is a datacenter where a few racks
    full of drives are getting hammered 24/7.

    The drive will last however long it lasts--typical failure modes in the real
    world are electronics failures that have no relation to usage patterns and
    physical crashes that again have no relation to usage patterns. Wear of
    the bearings on the head positioning mechanism is seldom a factor, and that
    is the only thing that would be affected by heavy use differently than by
    light use.

    --
    --John
    to email, dial "usenet" and validate
    (was jclarke at eye bee em dot net)
  12. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    Nick <nick@no-domain> wrote
    > Rod Speed <rod_speed@yahoo.com> wrote
    >> RPR <rohbeck@yahoo.com> wrote

    >>> Just to clarify what Arno wrote:
    >>> MTBF and average life time are unrelated.

    >>> Failure rates of disk drives (or any mechanical devices) follow
    >>> a "bathtub" pattern. The initially high failure rate (DOA, infant
    >>> mortality) drops quickly (within hours/days) to a baseline, which
    >>> stays more or less constant (generally for years under proper
    >>> usage and conditions), then starts to rise slowly due to wear.
    >>> Now the MTBF is the inverse of the failure rate in steady state,
    >>> i.e. at the baseline of the bathtub curve. It is only the height of the
    >>> bathtub bottom, not the length of the bathtub that determines MTBF.

    >> It isnt even that. MTBFs are purely calculated, not measured
    >> and bear no real relationship to actual average life at all.

    > The MTBF is the mean time between failure.

    Duh.

    > It's an indication on how often an administrator with
    > a large number of drive ought to change a drive.

    Nope.

    > Let's say the MTBF is 10 000 hours and he has 1000 drives,
    > then every 10 hours one drive is expected to fail, on average

    Wrong.

    > It ought to be mesure with a very large number of drive
    > running at the manufacturer, unfortunately not for a long time ...

    It aint even that.
  13. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    Hello,

    >> The MTBF is the mean time between failure.
    >
    > Duh.
    >
    >> It's an indication on how often an administrator with
    >> a large number of drive ought to change a drive.
    >
    > Nope.
    >
    >> Let's say the MTBF is 10 000 hours and he has 1000 drives,
    >> then every 10 hours one drive is expected to fail, on average
    >
    > Wrong.
    >
    >> It ought to be mesure with a very large number of drive
    >> running at the manufacturer, unfortunately not for a long time ...
    >
    > It aint even that.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Failure_rate

    Roman
  14. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    Previously Mike Redrobe <mike@redrobe.net> wrote:
    > Nero wrote:
    >> Does anyone know on average how many years hard drives last?

    > Are modern consumer hard drives likely to last as long as older drives did?
    > They're now cost reduced and not built to the same standard IMO.

    > I`ve seen many >10Gb drives fail in under a year, but older (<4gb) seem
    > to go on long after they're obsolete.

    Actually I think that the overall reliablility has dramatically
    increased. However it seems to me that a decade ago or more drives
    had a tendency to die young or very old, while today they sort
    of die all the time. Also people have much more of them, which
    certainly affects perception.

    Arno

    >> Hard drives that take a lot of use like gaming, video editing and stuff
    >> like that?

    > So long as there's adequate cooling, the usage pattern shouldn't affect
    > drive longevity.

    > How cool is cool enough?

    > Check the manufacturers specs, but a general rule: keep it under 45C

    I would advise < 45C when under heavy load. That comes down to
    something like 20C...35C under no load, depending on you set-up.

    Arno
  15. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    >> MTBF is usually monitored by ORT (Ongoing Reliability Test)
    >> processes that take a sample of new drives (after burn in to
    >> get rid of infant mortality) and run them for a couple of weeks
    >> or months, so reliability is only proven for that long.
    >MTBFs arent even measured at all like that.
    That's how we verify MTBF at my employer. I get the ORT reports every
    month and convey the info to my customers.
    How do you guys do it, assuming you also work in the mass storage
    industry?

    Ralf-Peter
  16. Archived from groups: comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage (More info?)

    RPR <rohbeck@yahoo.com> wrote:

    >>> MTBF is usually monitored by ORT (Ongoing Reliability Test)
    >>> processes that take a sample of new drives (after burn in to
    >>> get rid of infant mortality) and run them for a couple of weeks
    >>> or months, so reliability is only proven for that long.

    >> MTBFs arent even measured at all like that.

    > That's how we verify MTBF at my employer.

    'verify' isnt the same thing as the original calculation of MTBF.

    > I get the ORT reports every month
    > and convey the info to my customers.

    Separate matter entirely to the MTBF which doesnt change in the datasheet.
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