Study finds hard drives fail much more often than expected

By Justin Mann on March 2, 2007, 8:42 PM
Just how often do hard drives fail? A lot more frequently than the manufacturers claim, according to a study done by Carnegie Mellon University. The study, which compared the failure rates of many SCSI, FC and SATA drives, determined that the failure rate for most drivers was between 2% and 4%, and as high as 13% in some scenarios. This is in stark contrast to the manufacturers, who list a failure rate of around 0.88%.

Where does the discrepancy come from? The study itself has points of failure, such as factoring in drives that were RMA'ed though not necessarily failed. Of course, a simulated environment in which the manufacturer tests equipment won't compare to the real world, where millions of possibilities for damage to the drive exist. They are often dropped, put in poorly ventilated chassis, put in excessively humid environments and others. Still, the study is interesting – and worth a read.




User Comments: 12

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Phantasm66 said:
I have 4 copies of my important stuff.1)One on the laptop I use.2)One on the Vista laptop I am migrating to.3)One on a removable USB disk.4)One on a removable USB disk.When I get my storage server properly running (one of these days) I will keep a copy there too.Call me paranoid, but I saw someone loose all their stuff once at work and they started to have a nervous breakdown in front of my eyes. My important data contains GBs of stuff I could never, never replace.
Mictlantecuhtli said:
I had backups of my small hdd, among other things, on two 250 GB hdds which both died at the same time a couple of weeks ago. I have no idea what caused it, S.M.A.R.T. didn't show anything unusual before that.The data itself apparently wasn't really important as I've been fine without them. Maybe someday if I have a spare 80€ I'll buy an identical drive and swap the circuit boards.It just gets a bit difficult to make backups of hundreds of GBs of data. Perhaps (re)writable Blu-Ray or HD-DVD will change that, but that's too expensive now.
DragonMaster said:
[quote] I had backups of my small hdd, among other things, on two 250 GB hdds which both died at the same time a couple of weeks ago. I have no idea what caused it, S.M.A.R.T. didn't show anything unusual before that. [/quote]Same model and size in RAID 1? That's one of the worst things to do : They do the same read/write operations, spin at the same time, are connected to the same PSU, have been made in the same batch, unless there's an mfg defect in one, they should fail at the same time. I heard a company went bankrupt after all their servers and backups failed within a two weeks interval. (All placed in differetn states, but same models again) IMO, to keep your data safe, you should use different backups (Tapes, high quality DVD±R, HDD, flash, etc.)
Phantasm66 said:
What I've finally managed to do is isolate my 100GB or so of indispensable information, and have that fit into a laptop hard drive. Its encrypted with trueCrypt on the copy that goes on my laptop I might carry around. There are other copies on another laptop and on some USB caddied disks.When I make backups I generally just copy and paste into a newly formatted volume, which is just labeled with the date.[url]http://www.truecrypt.org/[/url]
PanicX said:
I've never seen a RAID 1 develop simultaneous failures, regardless of the hard drive batches. Or any other type of RAID for that matter. The only reason you should have multiple failures at the same time is from undo environmental stress, i.e. water, heat, electrical damage. That truecrypt looks like a nice program, I'm going to have to check it out. I've been using [url=http://www.finecrypt.net]FineCrypt[/url] which is also a great tool, but limited to Windows as far as I know.
Mictlantecuhtli said:
My drives weren't using any RAID, they just were in the same IDE channel.
Nic said:
I've lost all my hard drive through power supply spikes from a faulty PSU. I now keep several backups on multiple PCs and USB drives. Losing over 1 Terabyte of data is painfull ...
arhhook said:
I wonder if things like shipping hard drives is enough to 'damage' or lessen the integrity of them? I guess it's certainly a possibility.
Phantasm66 said:
The only way to win is to have multiple copies of things that are completely independent of each other.
Soul Harvester said:
[b]Originally posted by DragonMaster:[/b][quote][quote] I had backups of my small hdd, among other things, on two 250 GB hdds which both died at the same time a couple of weeks ago. I have no idea what caused it, S.M.A.R.T. didn't show anything unusual before that. [/quote]Same model and size in RAID 1? That's one of the worst things to do : They do the same read/write operations, spin at the same time, are connected to the same PSU, have been made in the same batch, unless there's an mfg defect in one, they should fail at the same time. I heard a company went bankrupt after all their servers and backups failed within a two weeks interval. (All placed in differetn states, but same models again) IMO, to keep your data safe, you should use different backups (Tapes, high quality DVD±R, HDD, flash, etc.)[/quote]The truth is quite the opposite. With any RAID, the ideal scenario is to have identical drives with identical specifications, for a variety of reasons. If you truly believe that using the same make and model disks is a bad decision, do you not think that the entire industry would have picked up on it by now? No enterprise environment is going to have mismatched disks in a SAN or NAS, for sure.And, remember, [b]RAID IS NOT A BACKUP SOLUTION!!!!!!![/b]Many people believe RAID is backing up your data. It isn't. At all. It's that type of thinking that leads to data loss in the first place.[Edited by Soul Harvester on 2007-03-05 18:42:02]
Nic said:
If you have two (or more) hard drives fail at exactly the same time, then suspect the PSU ...
Coth said:
I had a Maxtor 300GB SATA go out on me but I was doing audio recording and that can be very HDD intensive along with video.
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