Which Hard Drive Brand Is the Most Reliable?

Considering your priceless memories and career-enabling information can be stored on a single drive, you can probably benefit from a better understanding of different hard drive brands and what you can expect from them. After all, when you’re choosing your hard drive, you’re deciding where and how to keep your data as safe as possible. Any drive you buy today will fail eventually, but the more reliable your drive is, the longer you should be able to use it (though you should still be backing up your data regularly!).

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The most common hard drive manufacturers are Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and HGST. They’re all known for producing high-capacity drives that compromise slightly on data performance (they’re somewhat slower than solid-state drive alternatives) but offer a whole lot of storage. Which manufacturer is right for you?

A study conducted by cloud-based online backup tool BackBlaze might help you make that decision. Backblaze took note of how many of its data center’s hard drives failed over the course of a year. It found that Western Digital’s drives were overall the least reliable.

This comes as a big surprise considering Western Digital is a hugely popular brand among PC enthusiasts and mainstream users alike. BackBlaze’s findings are relevant to businesses and average consumers alike in that the cloud-based storage company uses the same typical, off-the-shelf products that regular consumers use.

The analysis officially released by the company states that during 2015, BackBlaze used over 56,000 hard disk drives which were in turn organized into 1,249 storage pods. The drives were of various capacities, some storing only 1 TB while others stored up to 8 TB. The only hard drive manufacturers used by the company were HGST, Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital.

The hard drives failed differently depending on their make, model and capacity, but the difference based on manufacturer was substantial. HGST was the most reliable of the hard drive providers and had an annual failure of only 1 percent. Toshiba had an annual failure rate of nearly 3.5 percent, Seagate ranked in at slightly more than that but still under 4 percent, and Western Digital topped the charts at just under 7 percent.

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However, these numbers were found when looking only at manufacturers and not taking into consideration different models and capacities. When BackBlaze measured the failure rate of its data center’s 4TB drives (the ones most commonly used in its storage pods), it found that Toshiba drives actually failed the most often, followed by Seagate.

At the end of the day, it’s still difficult to figure out which manufacturer to trust when it comes to buying your hard drive; obviously for 4TB drives you should consider skipping Toshiba and Seagate and opting instead into Western Digital or HGST. However, even among different capacity drives there are different models at different price ranges that can be expected to be more or less reliable over time.

For example, Backblaze found that the Western Digital Caviar Green 1 TB drive had a 0 percent failure rate in 2015. The Seagate Desktop HDD.15  faired about half a percentage point better than the Seagate Barracuda XT. In the 6TB realm, the Seagate 6 TB SATA 3.5 beats out the Western Digital Red 6 TB by almost two percentage points.

So it all becomes somewhat confusing and complicated once you really begin to sort through all the information with the intention of figuring out which drive manufacturer and model is going to be the best and most reliable for you. Luckily, unless you’re actually in the business of data storage, these tiny percentage differences won’t make that big of a difference for you; just keep backing up your data and you shouldn’t have to deal with any data loss disasters any time soon.