Is HGST a good brand? Are HGST drives reliable?

Western Digital phased out its HGST brand, but you may still encounter those drives from time to time. So is HGST a good brand? More importantly, are HGST drives reliable? And can you still buy an HGST drive today?

While “Brand X by Brand Y” type brands often indicate something lower-tier, that’s not really the case with HGST. Use of a separate brand was a legal requirement, and there never was anything second-rate about HGST.

Did Western Digital buy HGST?

Is HGST a good brand
Are HGST drives reliable? Did Western Digital buy HGST? Yes, and yes. In spite of the generic-sounding name, HGST hard drives always were very good.

In 2012, Western Digital bought Hitachi’s hard drive product line and intellectual property. Regulators in several countries were uncomfortable with the idea of letting just two companies, Western Digital and Seagate, control the entire market for computer hard drives. Two concessions were necessary to keep Western Digital from getting too powerful. First, some of the Hitachi intellectual property had to go to Toshiba. Toshiba had been making 2.5-inch drives for laptops for years, but this got them into the 3.5-inch market for desktops as well. Secondly, Western Digital had to operate the former Hitachi property as a subsidiary at least until 2017. With two independent product lines, the two would still compete, even if only the way Chevrolet and Pontiac used to compete within General Motors.

Using HGST as the brand name allowed Western Digital to retain some brand recognition, as many computer enthusiasts were familiar with Hitachi Global Storage Technologies or at least Hitachi. Seeing the HGST name on drives that still looked just like Hitachi drives made it pretty easy to figure out what the drives were.

In 2018, Western Digital started phasing out the HGST brand name and integrating it into its own product line. The Western Digital Deskstar and Ultrastar lines use HGST’s technology.

Are HGST drives reliable?

While it’s always possible to get a bad drive, HGST drives generally are very reliable. The technology has a direct lineage back to IBM in the 1990s, and with the exception of one generation of drives, the ill-fated 75GXP, those drives were reliable too. So we’re talking a track record of approximately 25 years, which is a good run.

HGST drives consistently performed well in Backblaze’s reliability study. They’re not always the best, but they’re almost always better than Seagate drives, and better than Western Digital’s own drives for that matter.

And while my experience is nowhere near as extensive as Backblaze’s, I rarely had problems with HGST drives throughout their history. The only brand I found more reliable was Quantum, but Quantum’s been gone 20 years.

Is HGST a good brand?

Whether HGST is a good brand depends on who you ask. HGST was a great drive to buy, so computer enthusiasts would say yes. But HGST didn’t have Western Digital’s name recognition, and it sounds like a private-label brand. Great product, marketing nightmare.

If you come across an HGST drive and the price is reasonable, there’s no reason to be afraid of buying it. If you want HGST’s quality and want the latest iteration of it, get the appropriate Western Digital Desktar or Ultrastar drive. Also make sure to check whether any drive you’re buying is an SMR-type drive. SMR drives perform badly in speed-sensitive operations, so don’t buy an SMR drive unless you’re just using it for storage where speed isn’t important.

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