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How long will my external hard drives last?


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7 replies to this topic

#1 bigbrown411

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Posted 04 September 2013 - 10:18 PM

I use mine once every 4-6 months for 3hrs to sometimes 24+hours. After that, I put them in my closet and never touch them again. I have cases for all them. I have 4 1tb seagate go flex external hard drives. 1 of these hard drives is only a year old and the other 3 I just recently purchased. I also have a 320gb seagate external hard drives that is over 2 years old and is still in perfect condition. If I keep using my hard drives like this, how long should they last?



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#2 smax013

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Posted 05 September 2013 - 10:13 AM

I use mine once every 4-6 months for 3hrs to sometimes 24+hours. After that, I put them in my closet and never touch them again. I have cases for all them. I have 4 1tb seagate go flex external hard drives. 1 of these hard drives is only a year old and the other 3 I just recently purchased. I also have a 320gb seagate external hard drives that is over 2 years old and is still in perfect condition. If I keep using my hard drives like this, how long should they last?


There is no real good answer to this question, in my opinion.

I have heard people say that hard drives typically last on average 4 years. When I heard this average mentioned, there was not specific statement as to what the usage pattern was, but I assume it was a fairly consistent/constant use. Assuming this number is accurate, then that likely means your drives could potentially last for a decade or more.

The problem is that there is just too many variables. It is possible that those drives could last for more than a decade. It is also possible that one (or even more than one) of them could die tomorrow.

So, to me, the best way to answer that question is to assume that ANY hard drive that you have could die 5 minutes from now. With that assumption in place, you then should evaluate what system you have in place to backup your critical data so that any one drive dying does not cause you to lose data. You can factor in that generally speaking the odds that two drives dying on the same day are rather low (except for situations like your house burns down and destroys both drives).

The point is that if you have the data on those drives in more than one "place" (i.e. have it on multiple drives), then one drive dying should not really impact you. And the more "places" (aka drives, discs, flash drives, etc) that you have your data, the lower your risk is to even multiple drive failure in a short period of time.

#3 bory504

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Posted 05 September 2013 - 11:19 AM

 

I use mine once every 4-6 months for 3hrs to sometimes 24+hours. After that, I put them in my closet and never touch them again. I have cases for all them. I have 4 1tb seagate go flex external hard drives. 1 of these hard drives is only a year old and the other 3 I just recently purchased. I also have a 320gb seagate external hard drives that is over 2 years old and is still in perfect condition. If I keep using my hard drives like this, how long should they last?


There is no real good answer to this question, in my opinion.

I have heard people say that hard drives typically last on average 4 years. When I heard this average mentioned, there was not specific statement as to what the usage pattern was, but I assume it was a fairly consistent/constant use. Assuming this number is accurate, then that likely means your drives could potentially last for a decade or more.

The problem is that there is just too many variables. It is possible that those drives could last for more than a decade. It is also possible that one (or even more than one) of them could die tomorrow.

So, to me, the best way to answer that question is to assume that ANY hard drive that you have could die 5 minutes from now. With that assumption in place, you then should evaluate what system you have in place to backup your critical data so that any one drive dying does not cause you to lose data. You can factor in that generally speaking the odds that two drives dying on the same day are rather low (except for situations like your house burns down and destroys both drives).

The point is that if you have the data on those drives in more than one "place" (i.e. have it on multiple drives), then one drive dying should not really impact you. And the more "places" (aka drives, discs, flash drives, etc) that you have your data, the lower your risk is to even multiple drive failure in a short period of time.

 

Agreed. I have seen external hard drives fail right when you open the box. You could have them for a pretty long time if you keep using them the way you are, but there are many unexplainable things Ive seen before so there is no guarantee. Especially with hard drives.


Sincerely, Blake.

7 year Computer Hardware + Software Technician.

Operations Technician at a retail company.

Rhythm guitarist for the band Headspill.

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#4 dpunisher

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Posted 05 September 2013 - 11:57 AM

I do believe that any hard drive should be treated as if it will fail in the next 5 minutes.  This means never trusting your data to one drive.

 

That being said, hard drives fail in in sort of an inverse bell curve.  High failure rates in the first hours of use due to defects, then a long mid life where everything runs fine, then as they age, about the 4-5 year mark, the failure rate jumps.

 

As far as the OP, your hard drives should last a long time- hopefully decades.  Realize though that there are other modes of failure in your case such as enclosures, and power supplies etc. The biggest problem you face is the "OOPS" moment when you drop the drive on the floor while moving it.   If it was just a case of the hard drive itself, using it in the way you described, your grandkids could probably read the data from it, assuming there was any way to access that ancient storage form that far in the future.  That is something to think about.  How long will you need to keep that data?  Hell, 10 years down the road we might have some sort of fancy holographic 3d laser cube data storage that can store 1+ petabytes on a sugar cube sized medium.  


I am a retired Ford tech. Next to Fords, any computer is a piece of cake. (The cake, its not a lie)

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#5 bory504

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Posted 05 September 2013 - 12:04 PM

I do believe that any hard drive should be treated as if it will fail in the next 5 minutes.  This means never trusting your data to one drive.

 

That being said, hard drives fail in in sort of an inverse bell curve.  High failure rates in the first hours of use due to defects, then a long mid life where everything runs fine, then as they age, about the 4-5 year mark, the failure rate jumps.

 

As far as the OP, your hard drives should last a long time- hopefully decades.  Realize though that there are other modes of failure in your case such as enclosures, and power supplies etc. The biggest problem you face is the "OOPS" moment when you drop the drive on the floor while moving it.   If it was just a case of the hard drive itself, using it in the way you described, your grandkids could probably read the data from it, assuming there was any way to access that ancient storage form that far in the future.  That is something to think about.  How long will you need to keep that data?  Hell, 10 years down the road we might have some sort of fancy holographic 3d laser cube data storage that can store 1+ petabytes on a sugar cube sized medium.  

 

Your last sentance was so awesome lol.


Sincerely, Blake.

7 year Computer Hardware + Software Technician.

Operations Technician at a retail company.

Rhythm guitarist for the band Headspill.

:guitar: 


#6 GreenGiant117

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Posted 05 September 2013 - 12:23 PM

Theoretically, barring them being exposed to excess humidity/moisture, and shielded from electromagnetic sources, they will last indefinitely.

 

The signal on the disks should not degrade, the motors should not go bad, the ports should never go bad.

 

Really its all up to chance, they could all die tomorrow, or they could all last another 30 years.

There are still working hard drives from the 70's and 80's, and server drives (slightly different I know) will run continuously for 10+ years



#7 hamluis

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 05:20 PM

Well...the one thing that's sure...anything with mechanical, moving parts (like a hard drive) is probably not going to last as long as something without moving parts (like a SSD) might.

 

The history of mechanical hard drives as far as failure...is pretty well-documented...and, as others have pointed out...it can happen anytime and that should always be remembered by all those who don't back up, don't use System Restore, don't give a damn...until it's too late :) and the drive has failed.

 

I don't advocate all SSDs on a system (price is still too high for that type of storage) but I certainly advocate putting Windows and installed apps...on a SSD, rather than a PATA/SATA hard drive.  I cannot quantify what I feel is a higher margin of safety...but, logically, it makes sense to me.

 

Since you inquired about external hard drives...consideration should also be given to the fact that external drives have an additional point of possible failure (the endlosure) that internal drives do not have.

 

Louis


Edited by hamluis, 18 September 2013 - 06:04 PM.


#8 smax013

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 01:11 PM

Theoretically, barring them being exposed to excess humidity/moisture, and shielded from electromagnetic sources, they will last indefinitely.


While those things can certainly prematurely kill a drive, to my knowledge, the main thing that keeps "spinning" hard drives from lasting forever are the moving parts...i.e. the drive bearings, etc. Anything with moving part will tend to wear out over time.

So, in the case of the OP, barring some accident (i.e. dropping drive, electrical surge, etc) or some manufacturing defect, the less frequent use of the drives should mean that they last longer than average.




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