BackBlaze, a robust pioneer in low-cost cloud services, released a comprehensive report with a study of more than 25,000 consumer-grade hard drives. The report examined the lifetime of the hard drives in a four-year period, and discovered that only 26% of the hard drives failed in that four-year time frame. For a computer component that’s been plagued with frequent stories of failure, that's pretty good!
But how can you tell if your hard drive is deteriorating? How long before your hard drive fails?
What is a Failed Hard Drive?
Professionals and individual users sometimes differ on their definitions of a failed hard drive. From a professional data recovery perspective, a hard drive is considered failed when it no longer spins or connects to the operating system. A failed hard drive will not sync, or remain in sync with a RAID array. Through a series of statistical analyses, it’s possible to predict when some hard drives are most likely to fail.
Hard Drive Failure: The Bathtub Curve
What researchers soon discovered about hard drives is how the failure followed the "Bathtub curve," a popular concept in engineering. In the BackBlaze study, about 5% of the drives failed in the first year and a half. Once you reach the 1.5-year to 3-year lifespan, the hard drives began to succumb to random failures. While BackBlaze had no data outside the four-year period, the company expects a fairly constant failure rate (around 12%) in the third and fourth years. Extrapolating the data, BackBlaze predicts that the median lifespan for most drives is six years. Desktops have a little more reliability when it comes to hard drive lifespan because of less motion. The laptop is in a perpetual state of mobility, which has a realistic impact on the health of the hard drive.
Failure Rates Increase with Age of Drive
There will always be some hard drives that due to manufacturing defects may fail within the first year. Most drives will continue to spin after three years and a decent percentage will still be spinning by year eight. Most warranties for the hard drive usually only back you for one to three years. Even before a warranty ends, backing up your data is still important. Replacing the drive itself typically won't include data recovery
Getting into a habit of backing up your data on a weekly or even daily basis will save you time and frustration. The loss of important company data can be financially crushing to an organization or devastating to a family’s precious photos.
What’s Next After Hard Drive Failure?
There are many factors, ranging from manufacturer to user error, that can cause a hard drive to fail. Mechanical failure, circuitry failure, or exposure to the elements are all potential causes of hard drive failure. All drives will fail eventually. When a drive has failed and data is lost, the cause matters far less than the possibility of data recovery. Trust Secure Data to recovery your data if you’re faced with a hard drive failure. Submit an online help form or call us to get your recovery process started.