Ask LH: What Brand Of Hard Drive Should I Buy?

Ask LH: What Brand Of Hard Drive Should I Buy?

Dear Lifehacker, I keep a lot of media on my desktop hard drives, and run them almost continuously (I’d be lucky if my desktop was shut down more than once a week). After having two drives fail on me in just two years, I was wondering if there was a specific brand of hard drive you would recommend?

Thanks, Storage Newbie

Picture: Getty Images/ Sascha Schuermann

Dear SN,

Firstly, you need to recognise this reality: all hard drives will fail eventually — it’s only a question of when. Any system that relies on a single drive is going to get you in trouble sooner rather than later. Make sure that you have a reliable backup system in place. Ideally, you’ll have more than one backup drive as part of your routine, including an external drive as well as those built into your computer. Check our Hive Five roundup for some specific external hard drive recommendations.

We recently highlighted an analysis by online backup service Backblaze which concluded that Hitachi drives had the lowest failure rate, followed by Western Digital and Seagate. Those disks are being used very intensively and in a way that is quite different to ordinary home usage, but it’s an interesting measure nonetheless, and one you could take into consideration.

Whatever brand you choose, plan to swap drives before they die. Buying a new drive every 12 months is a lot less hassle and expense than trying to recover data after the fact. If readers want to share their own drive recommendations, we’d love to hear them.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • I have been running a pair of WD Green 3TB’s in my home server for about 3 years now with no issues. Running them in Raid for redundancy.
    Server (HP N36L) is on 24/7 and acts mostly as a HTPC (Running XBMC).

    However i have always heard that the Hitachi’s are the best drives.
    Although WD Reds are designed to be run all the time, which i have also heard good things about.

    My next drives will be 4TB Hitachi’s

    • I have to buy a lot of drives for scanning of 35mm movies. I bought just under 100 3TB and 4TB HDDs last year. All of the WD Greens failed excpet one (11 out of 12 drives), 2 WD REDs failed (out of 20), the rest were seagate and haven’t had a failure yet. Other people have had seagates drop dead, so it is a lucky dip basically. Keep regular backups and replace drives every couple of years.

  • If you’re buying 1 or 2 HDDs, reliability at the level Backblaze looks at isn’t an issue at all, hell even the “24×7” HDDs are probably not going to change anything for you, even when used in those kinds of situations. When looking at such small scale, it’s just going to come down to luck, more than reliability, all hard drives out there will last a good chunk of time, it’ll just depend on if you’re out of luck and get a dodgy hard drive.

  • if you don’t turn your pc off. then expect higher failure rates. I would be getting a drive that is designed for 24/7 operation or even NAS drives as they have higher MTBF rates

  • I have a pair of 3 TB WD Red labels(7200 rpm) in my home NAS, works a treat and would highly recommend since they’re under $150 a piece and because they are great for leaving switched on.

    Green Labels are great too with the lower spin rate (5400rpm) they do “usually” last longer but the sacrifice is they wont be as quick at transferring or running from.

  • Never had a drive fail on me.
    Have about 8 WD drives (portable and desktop) some of which are about 12-14 years old now and still kicking. Having said that my Toshiba portable and my Seagate internals haven’t failed either so lucky I guess (or my Intel and Kingston SSDs for that matter).

    But if you’re never turning them off, I’d suggest getting NAS specific drives. And have backups. Always with the backups.

  • I generally lose about a drive per year, at least that was the case when I was using Green style drives (Seagate, WD and Hitachi have all failed at some stage). Currently running 4 WD REDs and using Stablebit scanner to monitor the drive health, I have a spare drive to swap in as soon as I get an email that there is an issue.

  • I have owned 6 Western Digital Drives. and 6 Seagate drives.
    I have had more Western digital drives fail actually 5/6 had failed after 1 year but before the warranty expires, but after 1 year you are required to send them to WD which costs 60 bucks a pop and they need your credit card details etc its a pain in the ass! if its before the first year you can take it back to where u bought it from.
    so I’ve had 2 500gb raptors fail on a chkdsk test started smoking and sparking
    1 WD caviar 1TB
    2 WD greens 1.5TB and a 2TB
    And this morning after reading this article. I heard my last WD green start clicking and no longer show up in windows. I restarted and seems okay. could have been too hot in my room as I turned air con on and it seems fine. But once it starts I dont trust it. so ill be getting a 4tb Seagate with SSHD 8gb one and run that just as a a single drive i think, and wait for 1tb SSD’s to come down in price

    Seagate wise only 2 failed on me. a 512gb and a 1tb the rest were just upgraded before they broke as they were under 512gb long times ago!

    I even owned a Quantum Fireball back in the day (that used to make ppl gasp in shock when I was asked my PC specs. I said pentium 100 with 8megs of ram 2mb trident video card… and a quantum fireball lol haha

    • I have a Quantum Fireball 40GB from 2004 that is still working after many years of use in a PC as the boot drive and for games. It really is a lucky dip.

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