Most defective HDDs fail in the third year

Failing hard drives have a lifespan of about 3 years, research suggests
(photo: CC0 Public Domain)

Problematic hard drives fail after an average of 25,233 hours of use — that’s 1,051 days, or two years and ten months, according to data recovery company Secure Data Recovery.

The Average Hard Drive Life Before Failure report was compiled based on data from 2,007 problem drives from which Secure Data Recovery recovered data.

Timothy Burley, author of the report, calculated the number of hours from the time the drive was first turned on until it arrived at the company’s repair shop. It also takes into account the number of bad sectors on damaged devices.

Drives damaged by extreme circumstances such as electrical shocks, malware, natural disasters or accidental damage are excluded from the report.

Of the cases included in the statistics, 47% are Western Digital drives, 28% Seagate, 10% Hitachi (owned by Western Digital, WD’s total share is 57%), 8% Toshiba, 6% Samsung and 1% Maxtor. On average, 1,548 bad sectors are seen per drive – by comparison, a 1 TB drive has just under 2 billion sectors.

The Toshiba drives proved to be the longest-lasting in the sample with an average time-to-failure of 34,799 hours, while the Hitachi drives performed the worst of all at 18,632 hours – they also had the most bad sectors.

Curiously, the five most fault-tolerant hard drives were manufactured before 2015, while the least durable ones were released after that date. The authors of the study explain the change with the introduction of more complex recording technologies by manufacturers: the design of the head has become more complex, and complexity traditionally increases the probability of failures.

An important clarification in the study is that it does not provide indicators for the average life of hard drives as a whole, but considers the average life of failed drives only.

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