The Life of a Hard Drive

A hard drive is a mechanical device and it will eventually fail, no matter how well you look after it. Although it could very well outlive your usage of it, there is a chance that it could malfunction and take your data with it. When buying a new hard drive, it’s best to know how long it’s going to last and what the failure rate is. You’re investing your money in something that will be storing your valuable data on it, so find out how reliable it is before you buy.


A good measure of hard drive quality is to look at user reviews for the product. Don’t just look at professional reviews, since it’s unlikely that the drive would have been used in a real world situation. Scan user reviews and look to see if there are any recurring problems with the drive. This could be anything from driver incompatibility to something more serious like a high failure rate. A marginal amount of negative reviews is passable since you’re never going to find something everyone is completely satisfied. However, if reviews are overwhelming down then it’s best to move on to a different product.

You should also pay attention to the failure rate of the hard drive. This will usually be listed on the product page or on the company website. If it isn’t listed then be slightly cautious as if the figure is low then there’s really nothing to hide. The failure rate represents how often the drive will fail within the warranty period. However, research has shown that hard drive failure rates are, on average, fifteen times higher than manufacturer’s claim. This is down to a variety of reasons, such as the different environments hard drives are stored in or intensive use that causes premature wear.

Different drives come with different warranties, so be sure to see how long each one will cover you for when comparing the statistics. Most companies sell additional warranty (sometimes from a third party company) to ensure extra cover. The reason the failure rate is for the warranty period only is because, as explained, all hard drives will eventually fail. You just want to make sure that you’re getting the best deal for your money to make the most of the drive.

There are steps you can take to ensure that your hard drive is going to last as long as possible. The first of these is to buy only from a reliable company such as Seagate, Western Digital or Samsung. You want to be getting a brand new hard drive – not second hand or refurbished. A refurbished drive is one that has previously malfunctioned and has been fixed and put on sale for a cheaper rate. These will usually come with a far shorter warranty than a new drive due to the higher chance of the drive failing again in the future. You’ll also need your drive to be shipped through a reliable courier (although there’s less you can do to control this) to make sure it’s packaged properly and isn’t thrown around. When the drive is in your computer, do not expose it to a lot of heat or vibration. Jolting the drive can cause the delicate drive head to come in contact with the sensitive platter. If this happens then it could scratch it and cause data loss. It’s also advisable to take a can of compressed air and clean out the dust from inside of your case every once in a while. Treating your drive like an antique vase will give it a greater chance of surviving.