Lifetime of Hard Drives and Backing Them Up

Sorry I'm a newbie at hard drives and want to learn more :)

First with the IDE/SATA disc hard drives.... (atleast I think it's a disc in there)
What is the general lifetime of a Hard Drive?

What causes it to stop working (mostly asking why it "naturally" stops to work)?

What happens when it stops working? Can I still retrieve the files somehow? Or are they gone forever?

How should I back them up? Copy the entire hard drive manually onto a back up hard drive or use some software to copy it?
I've read some stuff about Norton Ghost and images... Are those just to compress the files? But that would also make it harder to access because you would need to extract them again?
I assume you just store the hard drive somewhere safe after backing up?

For SSD hard drives, I heard there's a software to display how long it has left to "live"?

In terms of security of the files, are SSD more or less secure? Are SSD more vulnerable to data loss or corruption?

Also an off-topic question, but if I purchase an SSD Sata II for my laptop... What happens if the laptop says its for SATA? I'm guessing it's SATA I, I'm not too sure. Will it just run at a slower speed, making it not worth it to buy? (And exactly what speed is decreased, like where would I notice it? Boot up, starting programs, copying files, etc?)

Phew, Hopefully someone can answer some of my questions :)
Thanks for reading :D
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  1. Best answer
    1) General life of a hard-drive depends a lot on its purpose and run-time
    -Server class HDD's tend to have a MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure, usually shown in how many hours it can survive powered on) a lot higher then mainstream hard-drives.
    -This MTBF has increased a lot since the beginning of HDD's. A mainstream Class Spinpoint F1 has 600.000h MTBF(70years) a RAID class version has 1.200.000h MTBF (140years). But hard drives die way before that due to voltage fluctuations, power spikes, general production failures, getting outdated, replaced, head or platter failure.

    2) Depending on how it broke down some of the parts might be replaced to get it back working. the S.M.A.R.T. capability of drives will warn a user ahead of time of possible imminent failures. Having a redundant RAID array like RAID 1 or 5 will provide you with the insurance that in case 1 drive fails you will not lose data.

    3) Backing up can also be done manually, although people forget and usually when they do disaster strikes, so they use software that automates backup, the software never forgets. Where you backup is a personal choice also the number of backups you make, the quality and quantity rises with the importance of your data.

    4) SSD's dont have moving parts unlike traditional HDD's they rely on CHIPS that flow electric current trough it so they run a lot faster because nothing has to move. The most gain is when seeking data as on a traditional HDD the Head has to move to find the track where the data is stored this is called Seek time and it differs from HDD to HDD but compared to an SSD the SSD has virtually no seek time. SSD drives also don't suffer from the g force fragility as much meaning if it hits the ground it has no moving parts that can shatter while a traditional HDD can have its Read Heads hit the platter and scratch it or even break off completely or cause bending in the platter or the heads that when turned on will scratch the surface of the platters.
    This makes SSD's more secure then a HDD as it is harder for it to be destroyed physically.

    5) SATA is a standard like USB the number behind it shows the revision that usually improves in speed and will most likely always be reverse compatible.
    SATA I has 1.5GB/s Bandwidth SATA II has 3.0GB/s SATA III has 6GB/s.

    6)1.5GB/s should theoreticaly be 187MBytes/s there is no traditional laptop drive that gets even near that. Speaking striktly on bandwidth most ssd's go past that but you drive probably goes around 30-40Mbytes/s this would be for you a 4-6 times faster bandwidth.
    Now speaking on access times as i mentioned earlier this has nothing to do with what type of SATA it is it does not influence it.
    So worst case scenario you will lose some bandwidth but not the access speed and even with the lost bandwidth you will still have a drastic improvement.
    And there is a hidden benefit too SSD drives require less power then traditional HDDs meaning you will end up increasing your laptop battery life.
    The benefits will be seen on anything as the HDD is the slowest component in every system.

    I hope this is a detailed enough infomation for you.
  2. Best answer selected by Pixelation.
  3. Well put x3style. I think this info could be very useful as a reference.
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