5 factors to consider when purchasing a HDD

17 May 2013 by Robert Winter

As we work for a data recovery company and see all the HDDs that fail we often get asked the question: What is the best most reliable HDD to buy?

It depends on many factors and if we were to quantify these by importance this would be our top five:

1. Design maturity

How long has the model/type been in production. The latest high capacity leading edge technology HDD is often not the best choice.  Early production runs tend to have lower reliability and in extreme cases have design flaws.  A highly publicised case was when Fujitsu MPG and MPF series HDDs had a firmware bug that made them fail after a short time in use.

2. Handling

Probably one of the biggest influences on how long the HDD will last if you are installing it yourself.  Static will potentially stress the electronics and any significant knock may damage the internal mechanical parts.  If you care about the longevity of the HDD walking around with an operating laptop is not recommended.

3. Environment

Extremes of temperature and a poor quality electrical supply will stress the electronic components and solder joints more than normal.  A dirty electricity supply, i.e. one with frequent power surges, can potentially stress the electronic components more than a clean electricity supply. We recommend that you use a surge protector and ensure thermal stability.

4. Fit for purpose

Some HDDs are designed specifically for a heavy workload or duty cycle, they are less susceptible to vibration and more adapt at quickly reading and writing to random locations.  Others are happiest performing long reads or writes, such as for video streaming. By selecting a drive that is specifically designed for the use that you intend you can lengthen your HDD’s lifespan.

5. Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF)

Quoted by manufacturers as a measure of reliability but often misinterpreted.  A MTBF figure of 200,000 hours does not mean all HDDs will run for 200,000 hours without failing. I like to interpret it differently. After 100,000 hours half of the HDDs will have failed. In other words if there are 100,000 HDDs manufactured and in operation. One HDD is failing every hour. I recommend you use factors 1 to 4 to choose your HDD.

And please remember: all HDDs fail it is just a matter of time and you cannot predict with any certainty when that will be, so you better make sure you have a backup, whichever HDD you choose.

Further reading: The Reliability Bell Curve: What Does “More Reliability” Actually Mean?

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