IT Talk – The Disturbing Truth About Hard Drive Failure

Your hard drive may be more prone to failure than you think. Google and Carnegie-Mellon recently ran separate, unrelated studies. Both of them showed that the annual drive failure rate is as high as 2-4 percent, far above the 0.88% claimed by the industry. The Carnegie-Mellon Study even noted failure rates as high as 13% in some cases.

The industry isn't necessarily lying about the reliability of their drives. Part of the discrepancy is due to varying definitions of failure. Hard drive vendors base their rate on a failed effort to read or write in a set time period.

In contrast, the new studies use a more pragmatic definition of failure: any drive problem which requires the owner to replace their hard drive.

In looking for typical warning signs, Google uncovered this useful red flag: if you run Scandisk or any other error-checking software, and you find a scan error, your drive is 39 times more likely to fail in the next 60 days than a drive without a scan error.

If you detect scan errors on your hard drive, you should replace it.

The studies made a few other noteworthy finds. For example, slightly high temperatures don't increase the drive failure rate. In fact, most failures were observed in the 77-88 degree range. However, cooling is still important, since typical desktops run at 125 degrees or higher.

The study also found that fiber channel drives and SCSI drives have the same failure rate as the cheaper SATA drives (although the higher grade drives still offer better performance).

These new studies might eventually spur manufacturers to raise their standards. In the meantime, they confirm the obvious: you need a reliable backup system, and you should use it religiously.

About Brent Whitfield

Brent Whitfield is CEO of DCG Technical Solutions, Inc., which provides IT Support in the Los Angeles area since 1993. DCG exists to help our clients choose, implement, and manage IT and cloud solutions that are cost effective and reliable. DCG's pro-active approach to IT is ideally suited for companies who depend on reliable IT infrastructure, but don't want to spend a lot of money to keep it that way. DCG was recognized among the Top 10 Fastest Growing MSPs in North America by MSP Mentor. Brent has been featured in Fast Company, CNBC, Network Computing, Reuters, and Yahoo Business.

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