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hard drive lifespan
Old 02-08-2017, 11:21 AM   #1
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hard drive lifespan

What is a reasonable age at which to replace a working computer hard drive (Western Digital)? This is not a mission-critical drive, and though I make backups several times per year it would be a pain if the drive fails. The drive in question is 10 years old and is approaching 50000 hours of use. I'm thinking new drives are so cheap that delaying replacement may be more unwise than frugal. OTOH maybe these drives are built for 20+ years and 100000+ hours of use. What's a reasonable time period to go before replacement?
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Old 02-08-2017, 11:23 AM   #2
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I had one HD go 9 years until I replaced the computer and it was still good. Another hit trouble in 6 years. I haven't kept any other computer longer than that.
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Old 02-08-2017, 11:27 AM   #3
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They usually quit working about the time Microsoft forces an OS upgrade. I'm kidding. Although it seems every update brings my out-of-support OS to a crawl.

If its 10 years old, replace it. You're on borrowed time. Or, at least, take backups to a steadystate device of some type (Assuming that 10 yr old computer has USB drives.)
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Old 02-08-2017, 11:32 AM   #4
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It will fail at exactly the time when you can't afford it to.
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Old 02-08-2017, 11:48 AM   #5
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Over the years, I have had 2 failures. One was a 40MB (yes, 40MB) drive, and the other a 60GB drive. That's 2 out of about 2 or 3 dozens. But then, I do not run them 24/7 and retire them only after 3 or 4 years because they became too small to hold ever-growing data storage needs. I do keep them all in a closet, as trashing them seems wasteful, plus I want to have spare drives to install test software.

I currently have 3 2TB drives in use, and each of them holds the same as the rest of the smaller capacities. Well, not quite, as I also have about 4 (or is it 5 or 6) 1TB drives. Man, I really don't know how people can make them so cheap. It's astounding.
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Old 02-08-2017, 11:50 AM   #6
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When I worked, we had to replace drives every now and then we had 80 computers.
I have found it's pretty random, a drive can last a long time like you have seen, or when its only a few months or years old it dies.
Perhaps since drives are so cheap these days, you want to simply put a second drive in the computer if its a desktop. Then you can back up to this second drive incredibly fast. Even set up an auto backup for every day.
Or just copy over your files once a week.
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Old 02-08-2017, 11:53 AM   #7
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I have an automated system backup done every morning (while I'm still snoozing in bed ) to another internal drive, and thus really don't think much about a drive dying since if the drive where my system resides goes kaput, I should have a working image from at least the day before.

Through all the years, I've only had one HD that went bad. It didn't crash and burn but I had to replace as it caused my programs to take a long long time before launching.
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Old 02-08-2017, 12:00 PM   #8
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Some interesting numbers on just this topic:

https://static.googleusercontent.com...k_failures.pdf

https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hard-...rates-q2-2016/

I've had 3 WD HDDs. One failed after 3-4 years of living a pretty rough life in an external enclosure.

I have an HGST too, now owned by WD, but from what I've been reading about twice as reliable.
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Old 02-08-2017, 12:00 PM   #9
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Hey, talking about terabyte drives, do people realize how long it takes to fill one up with data?

I frequently have to move my files from one server to another. Even when using gigabit wired Ethernet (not the slow stinkin' WiFi), my maximum data rate is only 300Mbps, or 37 MB/s. And this rate is sustained only for very large files like video files. Smaller files take a lot longer (even photo files are still "small").

That means moving 1 TB of data takes 1,000,000,000,000/37,000,000 = 27,000 seconds or 7.5 hours. Now, they even have drives up to 6 TB and above!
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Old 02-08-2017, 12:01 PM   #10
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They should have a MTBF published. I am not sure that really tells you anything meaningful.

Last year I w*rked we replaced about 1200 of them in 4 physical machines. Took forever, scheduling potential downtime, redundant copies, restoring massive tables a real PIA.

Then the failures started. Sometimes 3-4 daily, the new disk was full of duds. We tried using the MTBF numbers and it was difficult for either party to understand if this was really out of tolerance.

The vendors concerned as our management was threatening to send 1200 used drives back. Eventually the failures stopped.

I'd replace.
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Old 02-08-2017, 12:12 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by NW-Bound View Post
Hey, talking about terabyte drives, do people realize how long it takes to fill one up with data?

I frequently have to move my files from one server to another. Even when using gigabit wired Ethernet (not the slow stinkin' WiFi), my maximum data rate is only 300Mbps, or 37 MB/s. And this rate is sustained only for very large files like video files. Smaller files take a lot longer (even photo files are still "small").

That means moving 1 TB of data takes 1,000,000,000,000/37,000,000 = 27,000 seconds or 7.5 hours. Now, they even have drives up to 6 TB and above!
I like 3.0 (and soon 3.1) USB transfer speeds so much more. I've gotten up to 400+ MBps (yes, bytes, not bits) on 5400 RPM HDDs.

They'll transfer the fastest when writing to the outside of the disk, since the outer edge of the disk spins so much faster than the inner portion. So you tend to see major increases or decreases in speed depending on where your data is being placed. Also makes it more worthwhile to defragment, so the write head isn't having to bounce between slower and faster sectors.

One trick to get faster speeds is to partition a hard drive at the point where write speeds drop. There are a number of programs that let you find out how your HHD is performing.
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Old 02-08-2017, 12:19 PM   #12
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I never replaced any before an actual failure, then replace and restore the backup. Use RAID arrays and you can replace a single drive online and keep going. I have some very old drives (MFM type ) from the 80's still working in restored vintage PC, stack of early IDE drives from the 90s still going. It just depends, I have brand new ones that have failed within a few months of use.
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Old 02-08-2017, 12:29 PM   #13
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Oh, I did drop one by accident. This didn't fail but more got killed by slippery hands .
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Old 02-08-2017, 12:31 PM   #14
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I've never had a HD failure, but I've never kept a PC more than 6 years. But I'd proactively replace a 10 year old HD.

Maybe of more interest, I had shared IT responsibility for about 60-80 Win PC users from 1993 thru 2011. We used basic Dell desktops & laptops, usually replaced every 5 years or so. There were only 2-3 HD failures among all the users all those years. Of course everyone was backed up to a server most of those years, so HD failures were more a nuisance than a real problem.
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Old 02-08-2017, 12:34 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by RetiredGypsy View Post
I like 3.0 (and soon 3.1) USB transfer speeds so much more. I've gotten up to 400+ MBps (yes, bytes, not bits) on 5400 RPM HDDs.

They'll transfer the fastest when writing to the outside of the disk, since the outer edge of the disk spins so much faster than the inner portion. So you tend to see major increases or decreases in speed depending on where your data is being placed. Also makes it more worthwhile to defragment, so the write head isn't having to bounce between slower and faster sectors.

One trick to get faster speeds is to partition a hard drive at the point where write speeds drop. There are a number of programs that let you find out how your HHD is performing.
My transfer speed between servers is limited by the gigabit Ethernet. Perhaps for the future, I can configure my servers to use eSata or external USB 3.0 so that I can move the HDDs between servers for bulk transfer and bypass the Ethernet.

It is not something that I have to do often though. I still think I spend way too much time managing my home network rather than enjoying it.
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Old 02-08-2017, 12:50 PM   #16
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Wow, so you are still using a 10 yo PC? It sounds like this is also the boot drive. I'd replace it with an SSD. It would give new life to your old PC; don't forget that RAM for old PC's has gotten cheap too. If you need the storage space and don't want to pay the extra cost, then get a small SSD for the boot and a big standard spinning drive for the data. There are also hybrid drives that contain a small SSD and a regular drive in the same box, but plugs in like a single drive.

We're running 8 yo boxes, but all have SSD boot drives and decent amounts of RAM. No need to upgrade.
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Old 02-10-2017, 05:51 PM   #17
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Ok, since the feedback says it's time to replace, I'm ready to do just that. This is a bootable Win XP drive that will be retired. I was about to clone it via Acronis only to learn that software wants SP3, which for data safety I was going to apply AFTER making the copy.

Does anyone have recommendations for other drive cloning software? Searching online I see a number of options, and lots of horror stories.
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Old 02-10-2017, 05:55 PM   #18
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Does anyone have recommendations for other drive cloning software? Searching online I see a number of options, and lots of horror stories.
I use CloneZilla. It is a based on Linux.
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Old 02-10-2017, 05:59 PM   #19
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don't forget that RAM for old PC's has gotten cheap too.
Not necessarily so. When there is less of a certain type of RAM being made, the price goes up. 8GB DDR2 RAM for my old Dell Precision laptop is $241.99 at Crucial. Everybody's gone on to DDR3 and DDR4.
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Old 02-10-2017, 06:15 PM   #20
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Ok, since the feedback says it's time to replace, I'm ready to do just that. This is a bootable Win XP drive that will be retired. I was about to clone it via Acronis only to learn that software wants SP3, which for data safety I was going to apply AFTER making the copy.

Does anyone have recommendations for other drive cloning software? Searching online I see a number of options, and lots of horror stories.
I like Macrium reflect. The free version allows for cloning, and I believe works with XP.
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