Study: A Look At Hard Drive Reliability In Russia

Practical Relevance

Reliability is hardly what consumers think most about when they decide to buy a storage product. Capacity, price, and speed receive most of the attention. The fact of the matter is that reliability is just assumed. This makes potential customers an easy target for marketing departments.

Furthermore, few people actually know what specific hard drive they get when buying an OEM PC because vendors tend to screen the identities of individual components. Many customers also get lulled into a false sense of security by warranty periods. A five-year warranty does not guarantee five years without hard drive failure, it just means you get a new drive should it actually fail. Statistical surveys of hard drive reliability are as rare as independent, long-term tests, but we found at least some insight through this analysis that we're discussing today.

Practical Relevance and General Validity

The Russian company Storelab, an Eastern European market leader in professional data recovery, is known for analysis and professional guidance published on its website. Storelab recently published the results of a long-term study based on its own operations and the observed failure rates of certain hard drives from leading manufacturers.

Storelab found some interesting results, and although the study is not large or scientific enough, it provides a useful insight into the hard drive market. While the hard drives from one manufacturer lasted 3.5 years on average, comparable models in capacity, features, and price from another manufacturer only lasted 1.5 years. Consumers might "only" lose their home photos and video (no small event when it means a decade of memories erased), but in the commercial sector, unexpectedly high failures can paralyze companies and destroy months of work. Even if safety measures have been taken to secure the data, premature drive failures mean increased costs due to labor, replacement, and interrupted operations. For these reasons, Storelab decided to publicly evaluate the failure data it had collected in order to demonstrate which manufacturer reaches the lowest failure rates.

We want to point out that Storelab's data consists exclusively of hard drives sent in for data recovery. This says nothing about the total number of claims handled directly by the retailer or manufacturer. But it does allow for detailed analysis of actual errors. It also needs to be said that drives sent in for data recovery have not necessarily been treated badly. An advantage of this analysis is the long-term factor, which usually only plays a minor role in market statistical surveys. With this all in mind, let's take a close look at the company's results!

  • cmcghee358
    Why post this study if, at every opportunity, you tell us that the data is so limited we aren't to use it as guidance on the quality of the listed drives?

    Seems a waste of time.
  • mitch074
    @cmcghee358: because if they didn't put it at least once per page, polemics could be started by any website linking to one page without it said "THG says Seagate drives are crap!".

    Which is true, but only according to a limited, but still relevant (and one of the few available) study.

    But, it correlates pretty well to what I experienced: the only failed Hitachi drives I got (and I got a bunch of them) were due to:
    - manufacturing fault (and RMA worked well and fast) creating faulty sectors,
    - old age (10 years) creating faulty sectors.
    Never once, in the two dozen Hitachi (and IBM) drives I had to manage, was a failure related to hardware fault - even dropping a (not running) 2001 drive from one meter height on solid concrete failed to damage it.

    I tried Maxtor, Toshiba, and WD drives, and most of these eventually developed unrecoverable hardware faults leading to massive data losses; Hitachi drives caused, at worst, a few files to be lost due to irrecoverable sectors (many times, I got SMART warnings before the data became impossible to rebuild).

    I got some Samsung drives recently; they're cheap, and they added shock resistance capabilities in the 2.5" versions, I'll see if they do better than the Hitachi ones (I do backups on Hitachi drives still). If this report is any indication, Samsung notebook drives in RAID 1 array for a desktop machine should allow for reliable operation - the one I have carried around for 2 years in my fanny pack seems sturdy enough, too.
  • jj463rd
    Oddly enough I had to get rid of some old relics (I.B.M. XT's) from the mid 1980's last year.All 5 of them had hard drives which still worked and the machines were still fully functional.Sad I would have liked to have kept them but there was too much clutter in my house.
  • jsowoc
    I'm not sure if my comment is valid, but because Seagate has a lot of market share, its drives are considered "reliable" by many. If I paid a premium for the drive, it's because I have (had?) valuable data on it, and am willing to pay for data recovery.

    Could this be part of the reason why Seagate has more than its fair share of drives sent in?
  • Quotidian
    yes, very nice...all my hard drives are seagate...:s
  • obrut
    I have replaced all my Seagate drives with WDs during the last year. My personal study for the last 20 years show that throughout this period only the WD drives show long enough lifespan and reliability. Recently (last 2-3 years) Seagate took quality out of the equation. Currently they are only interested in market share and not the fair name their own brand.
    Again, this is personal study - for example I have used only one Hitachi drive during this period, so I can't make statistics on the base of one.
  • liquidsnake718
    Well I live in the Philippines and im not happy to say that almost 2 years ago I bought a WD Passport and it died on me after 3 months. WD or the retailor replaced it for me via the local distributor. However I lost all of my data that was backed up because prior to that my significantly older Seagate serial IDE 80gb with THAT very same data died on me!

    Yeah WD gave me a slightly upgraded HD with 40 more GB but all that info and files that were lost was irreplacable. The problem, was a faulty pin, or the reader that looks like a raptors nail! The device would just click and click and my HDD wouldnt read.
  • I'm not sure why but I don't like Seagate too :) Most of my hard drives are Hitachi and I've got 2 failures - one after a power surge and another which was some bad sectors, but the drive was 60GB and it was around 3 years old. I have one Seagate drive and it works fine, I've been using it for around 3 years now on a storage server.
    I know a lot of people who had problems with that particular "CC Fly", maybe that is why I don't like Seagate. Nowadays I'm turning to WD, I really want to see how are they doing.
    Btw I have 3-4 40GB Maxtors that are still very much alive and working for about 9 years now :)
  • dragonsqrrl
    I remember reading about some problems with the Seagate 7200.11 series, along with a lot of bad ratings on Newegg.
  • Azriel4444
    The Seagate 7200.11 series was horrible. I avoid them no matter how cheap they are on sale. 7200.12 are way more dependable.