Hard Drive Failure Rates Studied: Seagate vs. WD vs. Hitachi

By Published January 21, 2014 at 12:20 pm

PC components have frighteningly high failure and DOA rates when compared against other industries, but perhaps one of the least reliable components - and worst to lose - is the hard drive. While talking with a representative from the audio industry at CES, the point was made that "you only need to have the device fail one time before you decide to never buy from that company again." That's generally true, and is generally why we opt for WD or Hitachi in our gaming PC builds -- I've personally had too many drives fail from other sources not to do this.

Online backup provider Backblaze ran an internal reliability study on 25,000 hard drives and statistically analyzed the endurance of devices from each major company: Seagate, WD, and  Hitachi. The worst hard drive manufacturer, according to Backblaze, is Seagate -- swaggering in with a 14% annual failure rate across all of its offerings.

It looks as if Hitachi has the lowest failure rate (best reliability) among all tested hard drive manufacturers, with WD performing second best, and Seagate performing worse than both its competitors combined (... and multiplied, twice).

Backblaze reports that hard drives tend to fail at either the 18 month or post-3-year marks. This isn't too surprising and is in-line with components across the industry. Interestingly, Backblaze even issued warranty replacements as drives failed, then tested the received units on their bench. The company notes:

"The Seagate Barracuda Green 1.5TB drive, though, has not been doing well. We got them from Seagate as warranty replacements for the older drives, and these new drives are dropping like flies. Their average age shows 0.8 years, but since these are warranty replacements, we believe that they are refurbished drives that were returned by other customers and erased, so they already had some usage when we got them."

Number of Hard Drives by Model at Backblaze
ModelSizeNumber
of Drives
Average
Age in
Years
Annual
Failure
Rate
Seagate Desktop HDD.15
(ST4000DM000)
4.0TB 5199 0.3 3.8%
Hitachi GST Deskstar 7K2000
(HDS722020ALA330)
2.0TB 4716 2.9 1.1%
Hitachi GST Deskstar 5K3000
(HDS5C3030ALA630)
3.0TB 4592 1.7 0.9%
Seagate Barracuda
(ST3000DM001)
3.0TB 4252 1.4 9.8%
Hitachi Deskstar 5K4000
(HDS5C4040ALE630)
4.0TB 2587 0.8 1.5%
Seagate Barracuda LP
(ST31500541AS)
1.5TB 1929 3.8 9.9%
Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000
(HDS723030ALA640)
3.0TB 1027 2.1 0.9%
Seagate Barracuda 7200
(ST31500341AS)
1.5TB 539 3.8 25.4%
Western Digital Green
(WD10EADS)
1.0TB 474 4.4 3.6%
Western Digital Red
(WD30EFRX)
3.0TB 346 0.5 3.2%
Seagate Barracuda XT
(ST33000651AS)
3.0TB 293 2.0 7.3%
Seagate Barracuda LP
(ST32000542AS)
2.0TB 288 2.0 7.2%
Seagate Barracuda XT
(ST4000DX000)
4.0TB 179 0.7 n/a
Western Digital Green
(WD10EACS)
1.0TB 84 5.0 n/a
Seagate Barracuda Green
(ST1500DL003)
1.5TB 51 0.8 120.0%

Backblaze also statistically analyzed the rate at which each company's drives died, noting a higher initial failure rate for WD than either Hitachi or Seagate, but better stability once burned-in.

blog-survival-drives-by-month

With this data noted, it's generally a good idea to burn-in test your components upon receipt to ensure long-term reliability, as we've written before. For hard drives, using a tool like iometer or HD Tune (both with free versions) can help perform a burn-in test. Use one of these to root-out any rapidly-failing drives before committing important data to them.

Read more of Backblaze's report here -- definitely interesting.

- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.

Last modified on January 21, 2014 at 12:20 pm
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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