The Most (And Least) Reliable Hard Drive Brands

The Most (And Least) Reliable Hard Drive Brands

Backblaze uses 25,000 hard drives for its online backup service. This has provided some interesting information, such as how long hard drives are likely to last and the difference in reliability between enterprise and consumer drives. Today, Backblaze has spilled the beans on which drive manufacturers are the most reliable.

The comparison is between Seagate, Hitachi and Western Digital. (The company has a few Toshiba and Samsung drives, but not enough for analysis.) Backblaze says it buys the least expensive drives that perform well, based on stress tests and a few weeks in production.

As with the previous analyses, Backblaze measured the reliability of the drives by looking at the annual failure rate, the average number of failures while running a drive for one year. Here is a telling chart:

The company has also broken it down by drive model on its blog. The Hitachi GST Deskstar (7K2000, 5K3000, and 7K3000) had the lowest annual failure rates, from 0.9 per cent to 1.1 per cent. Meanwhile, the Seagate Barracuda Green had a whopping 120% annual failure rate (an average age of 0.8 years). While those were warranty replacement drives — probably refurbished ones already used — the other Seagate drives had failure rates between 3.8 per cent and 25.4 per cent.

Overall, most of the drives survived for at least three years, but it’s interesting information to keep in mind.

What Hard Drive Should I Buy? [Backblaze]


  • Interesting. Where as all my old personal usage seagates are still kicking on but the WD have mostly failed. Maybe I should be giving Hitachi a look.

    • Ditto, man. All the drives that have died on me have been WD’s (800 ~ 2000GB) – The Seagates have been perfectly fine!

      Looks like I’ll also be looking into Hitachi

    • External or internal?
      I’ve read anecdotal stories about enclosures from one brand having higher fail rates than another – but the drives actually kicked on.

      • If you mean that WD external HDD enclosures tend to be a bit shit (anecdotally) I too have observed this…

    • I had a really bad run on WD’s four years ago and stopped using them and started using SeaGates instead and haven’t had one die yet. Interesting.

    • At the risk of jinxing myself … likewise too.

      I run all Seagate in our NAS and haven’t had a failure in the past 5 years they’ve all been running. Same goes for some very old (10+ year) HDDs in external enclosures that are occasionally fired up for transfers/backups/etc.

      Anecdotes can always defy trends so presumably mine are part of the 73.5% that won’t/don’t fail. And given that even the Hitachis had a measurable failure rate, there’s not enough motivation to switch over right now.

    • Matches up… My experience is more like a 73.5% failure rate. Especially when you factor in Seagate drives from 2008. I did a check. Out of the 123 drives I used that year. 101 have had to be replaced due to failure or the RAID card reporting bad/reallocated sectors. Yes there were quite a few servers that year. These drives started failing within a year.
      I switched to Hitachi and have never looked back. I have had 6 drives fail for over 300 used. (Less drives as desktops in past few years have all been SSDs) of which OCZ was the Seagate of the SSDs and Intel/Samsung have been like Hitachi.

  • Being in a SAN these HDDs would never be turned off. Having a computer at home that is constantly turned on and off would alter the HDDs life expectancy compared to a SAN that is always running.

    Still interesting stats, next HDD i get may be a Hitachi.

    • That’s actually a big reason why this data’s a bit suspect. They’re running consumer-grade drives designed for normal desktop use in an environment they categorically weren’t designed for. The Seagate drives they’re using are the low-power 5400rpm ‘green’ drives and standard desktop Barracuda drives, and the MTBF for them is much lower to begin with. They’re cheap and unreliable and not at all designed to be run 24/7 in a RAID / SAN environment. Seagate make their Constellation drives for those purposes. Same for the WD drives they’re using. If you look at the breakdown the bulk of their failures are on WD green drives (which are crappy) and the few WD Red drives (designed for NAS / RAID usage) they’re running are less than a year old, so the 3% failure rate on those is infant mortality stuff which is common for all drives.

      The real stand-out though is the Hitachi stuff. Those are also desktop-class drives, but are lasting much better. That said, Hitachi is now owned by Western Digital so that reliability will probably evaporate. 🙁

  • Strangely I haven’t had a drive fail on me in at least 10 years. Average replacement time is about 4-5 years regardless – and this is due to size upgrades. But my current PC has 3 drives in it over 4 years old being used for back ups. But then I’m sure mine are used nearly as much as those used in a business.

    Maybe it’s about time I looked at upgrading again – I’m sure my luck is going to run out sooner or later.

  • I’d love to see how Toshiba stack up. I’ve had a reasonable number of Seagate drives fail, but many many more Toshiba drives.

    • Most Toshiba drives are actually rebranded Hitachi’s, especially their 3.5inch desktop drives.

      • Weird. It seems out of character that I had them fail, then.
        They were all the same model 2 1/2 inch drives purchased around the same time, so it may have just been a bad model or batch.

    • I do domestic and small business tech support for a living, in the last 2 years I have seen approx. 15 hard drives fail that were unrecoverable, of those I would say at least 12 were Toshiba laptop drives.

      Never seen a failed Toshiba 3.5″ drive but if people ask my advice about which laptop to buy I say “anything but Toshiba”.

  • Interesting statistics, I’d never trust a Hitachi after the Deathstar’s all those years back.

    Anecdotally I see alot of failed Hitachi’s and Seagates in DVR’s that my work sell’s

    • Same here. I had a horror run with Hitachi’s (and Samsung) and vowed never to touch either again.
      My Seagates & WD’s are all kicking along nicely, some 6-7 years old..

  • I have had no trouble with WD external HDDs dying on me, I have about 4 of them between 500mb and 3gb, I have had to replace cases for 3 of them because the power supplied have just died, but the drives themselves I find very reliable

  • Glad someone else refers to them as deathstars, I had a woeful run with some about 5 years back.

    Remember how backblaze shucked drives during the thailand flood ? These would have all been WDD and Seagate from places like Bestbuy and Wallmart and we’ve already seen videos of staff throwing things around at places like that. Add to that people going across country and filling thier car boot with drives makes you wonder how this may have contributed to higher failure rates.

  • Looking at that graph at the top, Id rather go with WD. It seems to me the WD’s are going to fail quick and hard but if they last a month or two they seem to be pretty reliable. easy to replace under warranty where as the others die off over the 3 years.

  • So they are using consumer-grade HDD’s to run a commercial enterprise. Personally I’d rather be paying $10pm and having someone who’s not trying to cheap-it-out… as BackBlaze freely admits to in the blog post. Those drives are built to a price point, designed for home use, not for the pounding they get in a commercial data farm.

    Also they do not include any data from the other two giants (volume wise) of the HDD world being Toshiba and Samsung. So this is hardly a definitive and conclusive study. I realise that’s not what they set out to do, and they are merely sharing the data they DO have. But still…

    I’d be much more interested to see what Google has to say on the subject. Surely the largest (non Governmental) HDD user in the world at present. But like most things Google… I’m guessing it’s data IN and not data OUT that remains the mantra 🙂

    Amazon’s various AWS businesses would be another interesting and massive HDD user if they ever shared their internal performance data.

    • You do understand the point of RAID, right? There is no single copy of data at any point in time.

      It is FAR, FAR cheaper to use consumer grade hardware and have to replace it more often than buy “enterprise” grade hardware – which is often almost identical, mind you – at 3-4x the price.

    • Samsung sold off their HDD division to seagate in 2011, so it’s out of scope (although whether the previously-samsung factories are dragging the seagate’s score down or pushing it up we’ll never know).

      Google released a very interesting study into HDD failure in 2007, which you can read here:
      They specifically avoid discussing specific manufacturers, but it has some very interesting results about lifetime and failure rates. As far as I know nobody else has released a study that large before or since.

  • I only had one hard disk failure ever. Yes, was a Seagate failing within a year.
    I am using a Maxtor 300GB HDD now for nine years already!

  • A few years ago the company I was working for bought 16 enterprise (2TB) Hitachis for a SAN and 16 consumer grade Samsungs (1.5TB) for a second SAN. In the ensuing years we had 4 of the Hitachi drives fail and none of the Samsungs.

    I suspect it depends heavily on the exact model of drive.

    At one point the general opinion was that Seagate alternated good drives with bad drives. On the “good” cycles they updated the drive electronics and firmware. On the “bad” cycles they would just add platters, and tweak the electronics to cope with the larger size. This was 15 years ago however, so I don’t know if they still do that – from the graph it appears not to be so.

  • Hitachi have lower failure rate than Seagate?
    Guess I’m one of the unlucky few that had a Hitachi disk failure within the first 24hrs, and one of the lucky few that have yet to encounter a Seagate disk failure

  • This aligns pretty much with my experiences (can’t speak for the hitachi drives). Every seagate drive I’ve ever had has died whereas every WD drive I’ve had in the last 5 yrs are still kicking.

  • I’ve had the WD vs Seagate argument with people in the past, with me preferring WD. Now I have an internet article to back me up, making me the supreme victor!

  • Makes sense – the brand with a reputation for running hotter than the competition would be expected to have life expectancy issues when banks of drives are operated non-stop in close proximity to each other.

  • I’ve been using Seagates since 1997 and not one has failed on me in 16 years. Hopefully as I type this Im not jinxing myself :-S

  • Don’t know why I still have it but there’s an 8 year old 80GB Western Digital HDD sitting in my computer right now. Never once have I had a problem with it (other than it’s laughably small these days). I don’t think I’ve had a hard drive fail on me in 15 years.

  • Intressting..

    I have two 1.5 TB seagate drives from the barracuda series, they are 3 years old now and have ran total of 10000 hours around 1 year (lol I’ve spent 1 year of 3 years infront of my computer).

    But in the tests hitachi seems to be best, in my new system i will get on end if this year may be a hitachi. My brothers PC good a hitachi, and it works fine.

    I also good a 7 years old 300 GB WD drive which still works.

  • I have literally purchased 500 or so drives in the last 5 years, out of my experience, Hitachi =garbage tied with Toshiba, I no longer buy WD as their failure rate in my experience is unacceptable, many dead out of the gate. Seagate has outperformed all in that area and the number of dead drives in my store back up my findings. Shipping is a huge factor as well, many times I have seen 20 drives shipped from coast to coast, bouncing off who know how many loading docks thrown by irate Purolator dudes that have to work overtime. The only separation of the drives from the concrete being the bottom of the cardboard box!!!!! Like really? I blame shipping on the majority of failures as most enjoy throwing your stuff around like a football. I run 6 drives at home all Seagate’s as a server servicing the house, no problems, never catch me putting any other drives in my machine. And the RMA process with Seagate is flawless to say the least WD not so much.

  • Granted I’ve only ever used stuff at home, but of the data losses I suffered prior to really taking backups seriously, the worst two were a failure of CD-R, and a seagate hard drive…

    I’ve had drives that gradually became corrupted with age, but that Seagate drive was the only outright disk failure.

    Just suddenly stopped working without warning.

    Interestingly, I tried to get an identical drive of the same model and firmware, (for amateur data recovery purposes. The data wasn’t valuable enough to worry too much about the consequences of failure), though that drive was sold as working, it was almost as dead as the one I was trying to recover data from.

    Seeme a particularly unreliable model, but anecdotally I haven’t heard many good things about Seagate, and this data confirms that, as well as matching up with my own experiences…

    I have a lot of other drives these days, a WD one in a third party case, samsung and hitachi laptop drives… And… Something else I can’t quite remember, but I haven’t suffered another data loss due to hardware failure in about 12 years… (Well, I have been making backups since then, but actually what I mean is I haven’t had a hardware failure since then.)

  • I having been a computer systems engineer and integrator as well as a technician can vouch, that those figures are probably true. Seagate used to be King, fast, quiet and what seemed a perpetual lifetime of reliability in all applications, PC’s & Application Specific. The table have turned. Hitachi is now the King, I have never had a drive fail in any application, Pc or Data Centre Streaming. They are a little noisy a little like the Maxtor Drives were before Seagate took them over in 2006. If my memory recalls, it was not long after that Seagate bought out Maxtor that I began to notice a difference. Maxtor were always the worst drives, in every way. I’m not sure, but maybe some wrong decisions were made at Seagate on the manufacturing processes, but for sure, Seagate drives were arriving D.O.A every week, and failure rates very high. I haven’t installed one for nearly 5 Years. I have always found W.D. hit and miss, very variable in performance and reliability. Only ever used them if I could get the Seagate needed. For the last 4 Years, I have used nothing but Hitachi, and cross fingers, have never had one fail, or anyone of my customers, clients or colleagues tell me of an Hitachi HDD Failure. All drives fail at some point, as the motors and bearings, and all moving parts have wear. I think Seagate Technology is better however, and it is therefore a shame that the Reliability has rendred most of there HDD Ventures of late to the Concepts Gallery. Get it together Seagate.

  • Of course the ‘green’ drives will have high failure rates, they’re not designed to be smashed 24/7.

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