Average Hard Drive Life Breaks 3-Year Mark in Study of 2,007 Faulty Drives – Ars Technica

An analysis of 2,007 damaged or defective hard disk drives (HDDs) led the data recovery company to conclude that “older drives generally appear to be more durable and resilient than newer drives.”

The statement comes from a Los Angeles-based HDD, SSD, and RAID data recovery company called Secure Data Recovery that’s been in business since 2007 and claims to have resolved more than 100,000 cases. I studied the hard drives it received in 2022. “Most” of those drives were from 40GB to 10TB, according to blog post Spotted by Secure Data Recovery blocks and files Thursday.

The Secure Data Recovery job on March 8 disabled hard drives it received with engineer-verified “running hours,” or the total time a drive was in operation, from the time its owner started using it to When the device accesses Secure Data Recovery.

The company also determined the drives’ current pending sector count, which depicts “the number of bad or unusable sectors a hard drive has developed during routine reads and writes.” The company said the company’s data does not include hard drives that have experienced unexpected failures or damage due to unforeseen events, such as power surges, malware, natural disasters and “accidental mishandling”.

Of the sample, 936 drives are from Western Digital, 559 are from Seagate, 211 are from Hitachi, 151 are from Toshiba, 123 are from Samsung, and there are 27 Maxtor drives. Notably, 74.5 percent of hard drives came from either Western Digital or Seagate, which Secure Data Recovery indicated accounted for 80 percent of hard drive shipments in 2021, citing data from the Digital Storage Technology Newsletter shared by Forbes.

Secure Data Recovery also noted nonspecific differences from model to model when examining the operating hours and bad sector numbers of Western Digital and Seagate drives.
Zoom in / Secure Data Recovery also noted nonspecific differences from model to model when examining the operating hours and bad sector numbers of Western Digital and Seagate drives.

The average time before failure between the sample size was 2 years and 10 months, and the average time for 20,007 defective hard drives was 1,548 bad sectors.

“While 1,548 bad sectors among hundreds of millions or even billions of sub-disk partitions may seem insignificant, the rate of development often increases, and the risk of data corruption multiplies,” the blog said.

Secure Data Recovery isn’t the only company using their business to search for storage ideas. As Blocks & Files points out, backup and cloud storage company Backblaze uses hard drives that exceed the average lifetime for secure data recovery seen by customers of the hard drives they sent in last year. At the end of 2022, Backblaze had an average hard drive life of 230,921 years, 3.6 years versus the average time of 2 years and 10 months before failure among the hard drives Secure Data Recovery worked on last year. Backblaze’s sample size is obviously much larger. Moreover, his analysis is more detailed, breaking down HDD failure rate trends model by model. The inconsistencies show the challenges in accurately determining when a hard drive might fail, and thus the importance of backing up data.

Older drives show better durability

If you feel that hard drives are not built to last as long as they once were, you are not alone. The Secure Data Recovery blog has suggested that there is a relationship between when a hard drive was made and how long it lasted before failing.

We found that the five most durable and resilient hard drives from each manufacturer were made before 2015. On the other hand, the least durable and most resilient hard drives from each manufacturer, on the other hand, were made after 2015.

Unfortunately, Secure Data Recovery doesn’t specify what you mean by “most.” But she cited hard drive manufacturers pushing the performance envelope as a reason why hard drive reliability is declining with more modern products. This includes size limits that cut “the allowance between moving parts, and appear to affect mechanical damage and wear resistance.”

Secure Data Recovery also blamed a three-letter acronym that has become almost a four-letter word for storage users in 2020: SMR. Disclosure that several brands, including Western Digital, Seagate, and Toshiba, secretly sold machines with interlocking magnetic recording discs instead of CMR (traditional magnetic recording) discs Shocked consumersAnd even Western Digital ended up paying $2.7 million in a class action.

While users were primarily upset that SMR drives provided slower random write speeds than drives using CMR, Secure Data Recovery also believes that SMR affects the reliability of hard drives, as the discs put components under “more stress”.

Again, we find ourselves with somewhat limited information, as the blog didn’t disclose how many drives it tested used CMR vs. SMR discs. However, the company argued:

For example, the surface of a hard disk with SMR is more complex, since its tracks overlap. This complex design leaves dishes more vulnerable to deterioration.

In addition to the dish surface, data management must be considered for devices with SMR. Mesh hard drives are either device-managed, host-managed, or host-aware. Incorrect protocols may affect its performance. Repeated reads and writes can lead to logical errors. Excessive and improper use may cause damage to the arm and head of the operator.

Thus, discs with CMR seem to be more durable and resilient than those with SMR.

However, as the blog points out, there are benefits to the new hard drives as well, such as potential performance gains and the inclusion of two-year warranties with most consumer drives.

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