How long does a hard drive last?

If you’re asking how long does a hard drive last, I found this study on hard drive longevity last week.

I take issue with the opening paragraph but the rest of the article is very good. The opening paragraph is a bit deceptive—hard drives were anything but common 30 years ago. Even 25 years ago, they were a serious status symbol. I remember in 1988, a classmate told me his dad had just bought a computer with a hard drive, and swore me to secrecy. Why? Because in today’s dollars, a computer with a hard drive in 1988 cost around $2,000, minimum, and given that his dad was working towards his master’s degree at the time, he probably had a really hard time affording that. If you had a hard drive even in the late 1980s, you were either very rich, or you took your computing very seriously and were willing to make some serious sacrifices somewhere else.

But, like I said, the rest of the article is very good. I’m being a curmudgeon.

how long does a hard drive last
We tend to focus on the ones that fail, but usually you can expect a hard drive to last around four years.

The conclusion sounds about right, that 80% of drives last four years. I know I focus on the 20% that fail, and I always have, but the last two drives I had that received regular use lasted longer than that. I had a Maxtor drive die after about six years of use–most of it running this blog–and I have a Quantum drive that’s now 13 years old and still going, though it stopped receiving regular use about five years ago. Since I only use that computer a few times per year now, it could easily last another decade.

I originally purchased that Quantum drive, incidentally, to run an early version of this blog, sometime in the year 2000. Maxtor had bought Quantum by then, and I went to CompUSA, bought a “CompUSA by Maxtor” drive, got home, opened it up, and found a Quantum drive inside, along with a note that said the enclosed Quantum drive met Maxtor’s quality standards. That was an understatement. That Quantum drive met Rolls Royce’s quality standards.

I scrounged up an old AT case, dropped in a cheap Soyo Socket 370 AT motherboard and a 300 or 366 MHz Celeron CPU–I don’t remember the exact speed anymore–and that hard drive, installed Turbo Linux and Apache and a blogging platform called Greymatter, and for a couple hundred bucks I had my own web server in the dining room of my apartment. Yes, the dining room. Well, it was supposed to be a dining room, but I used it as my office instead.

I’ve had good luck with hard drives, but prefer SSDs now. Besides better performance, SSDs, once they make it past their first year, fail very predictably. Their memory chips have a predictable number of writes in them, so with no moving parts to fail, they’ll generally run until their memory chips wear out. The SSD in the computer I’m typing this on estimates it has more than six years of life left in it. I’ll take that.

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