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!). The challenge many end users are facing is how to choose the most reliable hard disk drive from the dozens of different brands and hundreds of different hard drive models.
A study conducted by cloud-based online backup tool Backblaze might help you to make the right decision. Backblaze is an American company founded in 2007 by a group of engineers and enthusiasts. Their core business is cloud storage and data backup. Backblaze took note of how many of its data center’s hard drives failed over the course of a year. The reports are created every quarter and they are very much appreciated by the community.
The most common hard drives tested by Backblaze are HSGT (Hitachi Global Storage Technologies), Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital. They are 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. The capacity of tested disk drives goes from 4 TB to 16 TB, depending on the disk model.
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Backblaze have conducted two tests in 2021. The main testing criteria were lifetime failure rate and hard drive reliability. Let’s hear what the reports say.
In the first test performed in 2021, Backblaze did an observation on 171,919 hard drives spread across four data centers on two continents. 348 hard drives failed which is equal to 0.85% of the overall annualized failure rate (AFR). According to Backblaze, this is a satisfying result considering the fact that they added 42,000 new hard drives to their farm and migrated another 23,600 drives over the period. Four drive modes recorded zero failures, including Seagate ST6000DX000 (6TB 128MB Cache 7200RPM), Toshiba MD04ABA400V (4TB 128MB Cache 5400RPM), Toshiba MG08ACA16TEY (16TB 512MB Cache 7200RPM), and WD WUH721816ALE6L0 (16TB 512MB Cache 7200RPM). Two disks recorded only 1 failure; Toshiba MG07ACA14TA and Seagate ST16000NM0138. We can conclude that these mentioned models had very well performed and would be the best choice. If you need a disk with a less storage capacity, e.g. 4 TB disk, HSGT HMS5C4040ALE640 would be the best choice considering the 0.64% annualized failure rate (only 5 disks failed out of 3163). In the table below, you can find an official report done by Backblaze.
In the second test performed in 2021, the story was a bit different. Backblaze tested 177,935 disks, 439 failed which is 1.01% of the overall annualized failure rate (AFR). It is a bit higher than in Q1, but we should also consider that amount of tested disks was increased by 6016 drives. Only three hard drives recorded zero failure, including Seagate ST6000DX000 and WDC WUH721816ALE6LO which are the same model as in the first test, and then HGST HUH721212ALE600. According to both reports, we can conclude that Seagate ST6000DX000 and WDC WUH721816ALE6LO were the best performers in this competition.
According to Backblaze; the average age of Seagate ST6000DX000 is over six years (74 months) and with one failure over the last year, this drive is aging quite well. The disk WDC WUH721816ALE6LO has only been installed for three months, but no failures in 624 drives are a great start. HSGT HUH721212ALE60 resides in Dell storage servers. After recording a quarterly high of five failures last quarter, they are back on track with zero failures in the Q2 2021 quarter and a lifetime failure rate of 0.41%.
More details are shown in the report below.
The Shortcomings of the Study
The BackBlaze report provides good insight because it employs thousands of hard drives for storage and that makes it one of the best sources of information to find out the reliability of hard drives. However, Backblaze’s report is not perfect and has been subject to controversy. It is said that the company has changed its storage pod designs and that might have impacted the reliability of a certain cluster of drives. The company has also used consumer drives in an enterprise setup and had run those on a 24/7 duty cycle. Moreover, the 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.
According to the last test, obviously, for 4TB drives, you should consider skipping Seagate and opt for Toshiba and HSGT. 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 specific models of the Seagate 6 TB, HSGT 12 TB, and WDC 16 TB, have had a 0 percent failure rate in 2021 – which is quite impressive. And they can be one of your next disks.
We can conclude that reliability and failure disk rates depend on the disk models and the environment where they are running. One additional metric we should also consider before purchasing disk would be MTBF (Mean time between failures). For example, the MTBG of Seagate ST6000DX000 is 1.4M of hours.
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.