Question How long should a HDD last?

Le Québécois

Senior member
Dec 1, 1999
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3
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Out of curiosity, how long should a HDD like a Western Digital Black last?

In my system I currently have one 10 years old WD Black 640 GB and one 7 years old WD Black 750 GB.

Both have been used to install and run programs/OS when I first bought them but it changed for storage and accessing media files(pictures, movies and music) when I bought my first SSD almost 5 years ago. Both work fine, normal noise levels, pass any diagnostic tools I've used on them. I'm not worried about losing the data on them since I frequently do backups. The computers in which they've been used in were usually on for 12-18h/day every days for the last 7-10 years.

Here why I'm wondering how long I should expect them to work. I'll soon replace them with a single WD Black 2 or 4 TB drive and I'm wondering if I should keep using them, either by giving them away to family members for their own(very old) systems or perhaps as external drives for backups. I never really kept any HDD for this long before as I would always upgrade for something faster or bigger within a few years usually.

What's the conventional wisdom on this?
 

pcgeek11

Lifer
Jun 12, 2005
19,174
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Your question is way too broad for any kind of meaningful answer. There are too many variables involving the reads, writes, heat, on/off cycles ....

There is no good answer to this question. Look at manufacturers MTBF Figures.

MTBF = Mean Time Between Failures.
 

IntelUser2000

Elite Member
Oct 14, 2003
8,171
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MTBF figures are typically in the million or 2 hours range. A million hours is equal to 24/7 operation for 114 years.

Even if you used it for 10-15 years consistently, there's nothing that says it should fail soon. There are 30-40 year old computers that operate without issues.
 
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VirtualLarry

No Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
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Given the second chart, above, I guess I wasn't wrong in my practice of purchasing new HDDs every three years and replacing them, in individual PCs, at around the three year mark.

Now, I generally only use them in NAS units, in a configuration that offers redundancy, so I run them a bit longer, as if they fail, I can recover them. Well, hopefully. I haven't had any drives in a NAS fail yet, although I had one bad drive in an 8-drive unRAID server.
 
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Le Québécois

Senior member
Dec 1, 1999
560
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So... .... There's no conventional wisdom on this. Makes sense, there's just too many variables(what you use them for, quality of material, etc...) on top of the fact that it's not an item people tend to keep for that long. I'll probably use them to replace the now 13 years old WD Blue 500GB drives in my parents' systems, should be an upgrade while I can still use their old ones as backups just in case.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to reply!
 

thilanliyan

Lifer
Jun 21, 2005
11,519
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I have 2 10 yr old WD Black 640GB drives. Replaced them with 2 2TB WD Black drives for storage. I figured once the 640GB drives hit 10 yrs it was time for an upgrade.

I actually kept one of the 640GB drives as a scratch/temp disk in the system...if it fails I don't care.
 
Feb 25, 2011
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Conventional wisdom for enterprise is five year replacements, and I definitely see more failures with the 4+ year old drives.

But in those uses cases, you've got a gazillion drives in a big array getting absolutely hammered 24/7, you've got five-year service contracts that cost more than the equipment, (Whereas getting a tech out to replace a drive on a per-incident basis is expensive enough to make new hardware look good) and you've got density and power use improvements that mean the new drives pay for themselves in reduced energy/cooling costs.
 

gipper53

Member
Apr 4, 2013
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Just my opinion of course, but in a typical home PC if the hard drive makes it past the first year then it will likely last a looooong time. Sure, they can fail at any time but so can other components. Follow rule number one with computers: backup, backup, backup!
 
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SoftwareEng

Senior member
Apr 24, 2005
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The same as a life expectancy of a person. It can break at any time, due to a mechanical or electrical failure. Always assume your hard drive is about to crash fatally and you'll lose your data. SMART monitoring will sometimes help as it'll warn about impending doom, but not always. I had a desktop HDD fail after 10 years, but if you read drive reviews on Amazon, you'll see some horror stories. You never know if any of your drives stored off-site are still good until you plug them in.

Be afraid, be very afraid. I'm not kidding.
 

SPBHM

Diamond Member
Sep 12, 2012
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assume that any SSD/HD is about to fail and keep backup of important files,

I've had HDs fail for no good reason and with a clean SMART more than once,
at the same time my 2 drives on this PC have accumulated a lot of hours and are working OK, one started to give smart errors (pending sectors) 5 years ago or so, but I'm still using it for less important things OK, I just make sure to check file integrity and run chkdsk when needed...




I do have HDs from the 90s that still work, but they don't have a huge amount of hours used.
 
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C1

Platinum Member
Feb 21, 2008
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If one takes the time to look closely at an HDD, then they will notice a small access hole with a label warning not to cover or block the hole. Typical warning is either "do not cover any drive holes" or "do not cover this hole."

The drives are vented to the outside air for pressure equilzation purposes. If the drive is stored in an area involving a corrosive atmosphere, then its life may be negatively affected even though it is simply stored unused.

For example, after I moved here to high density California from low density Virginia, I had all kinds of trouble with mechanical switches in stereo systems. And that was because of the corrosiveness of the atmosphere due primarily to the volume of cars and their catalytic converters (ie, acidic/corrossive atmosphere).

If you're gonna store an HDD long term, then consider sealing it in an air tight nitrogen gas filled container .

https://superuser.com/questions/368774/what-is-the-purpose-of-the-holes-marked-do-not-cover-on-hard-drives
 
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mopardude87

Diamond Member
Oct 22, 2018
3,348
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Depending on usage i could see a decade of usage out of a WD. Have seen plenty of 10 year old WD drives in perfectly good working order. I actually got one in my closest right now from 2005 that works perfectly fine. Got a 2007 era Seagate too with perfect health. If these things have any bad sectors or anything i would have trashed them quite some time ago. The Seagate luckily is one of the last good ones before trash Maxtor got bought out by Seagate and well my first 1tb from them crapped out pretty quick. No more Seagates for me!

Waste not none i say.
 

Oyeve

Lifer
Oct 18, 1999
21,364
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I have 5 non-productive but still on 24/7 servers at work going on 12 years now. around 14 HDDs. WD. Still spinning all these years. I worry about my current servers with around 30 SSDs in them as I don;t know how they react when they fail. I am hoping they just stop writing to but can still be read. I also have a few TB drives in a few NAS devices that I use for backing them up. The NAS drives fail a lot. 5 in the past 5 years or so.
 
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FeuerFrei

Diamond Member
Mar 30, 2005
9,152
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I'm running a 500 GB Western Digital Black I bought in 2014. 5 year warranty. It's acting up now. It appears to be unable to boot Windows, or at least to repair Windows. Startup Repair utility never finishes. I'll have to install WIndows to a new drive. And attempt to recover data off the WD.

Full disclosure - it weathered a lightning strike that damaged a mobo and monitor, yet seemed to run ok for the last six weeks with the new hardware I installed.
 

SamirD

Golden Member
Jun 12, 2019
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I've not really been able to find a pattern to modern drives an their failures. For the oldest of drives, like the original ide and scsi drives, age for sure and their quality at the time, and it's somewhat the same for modern drives except that modern drives are much more reliable in general.

I think the only drives I've seen that are starting to fail are some WD greens I acquired that have 80k power on hours (that's like 8 years) and some hgst/wd enterprise drives with 40-60k poh. I think storage and usage conditions also matter a lot as I know we've only had one of our 2tb wd/hgst enterprise drives fail since 2012 and we have over a dozen of those.

I think the biggest factor would be age. I've known drives to fail when you take them out of or change their normal working environment, like going from 24x7 to a lesser duty cycle. Or not being left on to being left on. Or an internal drive converted to an external. Seems like environment is a big factor, especially temperature. I've seen drives cooked even when new. It's why I always require a fan in external drive cases or have an external fan to blow on the case. Heat kills--that much I know for sure.
 

VirtualLarry

No Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
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I'm not sure where you're getting your info from but that's completely false. A hard drive should and will last longer than 3-5 years.
Maybe a WD Black, or refurb enterprise drive that's lived a comfy life in a humidity-controlled and air-conditioned data-center.

But a cheap OEM HDD, in a pre-built econo-box? I've seen PLENTY of those fail after 3-years, so that's my personal rule-of-thumb as well.
 

daveybrat

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Jan 31, 2000
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Maybe a WD Black, or refurb enterprise drive that's lived a comfy life in a humidity-controlled and air-conditioned data-center.

But a cheap OEM HDD, in a pre-built econo-box? I've seen PLENTY of those fail after 3-years, so that's my personal rule-of-thumb as well.
Oh don't get me wrong, i've seen many mechanical hard drives die early deaths. But i work with customer's PC's all day and many of the mechanical hard drives that are bad that i replace are around 6-10 years old. Claiming that all drives last about 3-5 years is just incorrect.
 
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igor_kavinski

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Jul 27, 2020
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I've noticed that people who use their HDD's to store movies/TV shows and watch that media a lot, they get early drive failures. The heads probably can't take the near constant reading that media consumption requires.
 

mindless1

Diamond Member
Aug 11, 2001
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I'm not sure where you're getting your info from but that's completely false. A hard drive should and will last longer than 3-5 years.
No that really is the most often cited "conventional wisdom", that many HDDs do last longer than that, but that the failure rate starts to really climb past this, so if you want to minimize the chances that you'll be dealing with a drive failure, you replace the drive before that happens.

Another factor for this recommendation is consumer HDDs used to have 3 year warranty and enterprise, 5+ year.

It's also the first hit if I google search for "backblaze how often should I replace HDD" and has the same graph that Maxima1 posted.
 
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mindless1

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Aug 11, 2001
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I've noticed that people who use their HDD's to store movies/TV shows and watch that media a lot, they get early drive failures. The heads probably can't take the near constant reading that media consumption requires.
Video storage was the use for my Seagate Expansion 3TB that very recently failed at about 8-1/2 years old, BUT only recently, I'd been hitting the drive harder, transcoding old video to a lower bitrate to save on storage space... If I hadn't been doing that, I wouldn't have detected the bad clusters for a lot longer.
 
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igor_kavinski

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2020
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A question: I have a 3TB unopened Seagate drive coz I bought it on sale and never needed to use it. It's been 6 or 7 years. Does the platter surface coating degrade or something? What are the chances that the drive won't be able to function normally?
 

VirtualLarry

No Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
53,501
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A question: I have a 3TB unopened Seagate drive coz I bought it on sale and never needed to use it. It's been 6 or 7 years. Does the platter surface coating degrade or something? What are the chances that the drive won't be able to function normally?
Bearing lube can dry out after 10-15 years.
 
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mindless1

Diamond Member
Aug 11, 2001
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Seems like environment is a big factor, especially temperature. I've seen drives cooked even when new. It's why I always require a fan in external drive cases or have an external fan to blow on the case. Heat kills--that much I know for sure.
I used to do that, but the external drives I've bought in recent years, run much cooler than their predecessors. Granted, I try not to buy a model that has as many platters stuffed into it as possible.
 
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