Which Hard Drive Brand Is the Most Reliable? Seagate Western Digital

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Drive Population

At the end of 2013, we had 27,134 consumer grade drives spinning in Backblaze Storage Pods. The breakdown by brand looks like this:

Hard Drives by Manufacturer Used by Backblaze
Brand Number of Drives Terabytes Average Age in Years
Seagate 12,765 39,576 1.4
Hitachi 12,956 36,078 2.0
Western Digital 2,838 2,581 2.5
Toshiba 58 174 0.7
Samsung 18 18 3.7

As you can see, they are mostly Seagate and Hitachi drives, with a good number of Western Digital thrown in. We don’t have enough Toshiba or Samsung drives for good statistical results.

Why do we have the drives we have? Basically, we buy the least expensive drives that will work. When a new drive comes on the market that looks like it would work, and the price is good, we test a Pod full and see how they perform. The new drives go through initial set up tests, a stress test, and then a couple of weeks in production. (A couple of weeks is enough to fill the Pod with data.) If things still look good, that drive goes on the buy list. When the price is right, we buy it.

We are willing to spend a little bit more on drives that are reliable, because it costs money to replace a drive. We are not willing to spend a lot more, though.

2. Western Digital Black

Capacity: 500GB – 10TB | Interface: SATA 6 Gb/s | Cache: Up to 256MB | Spindle Speed: 7200RPM | Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF): N/A | Warranty: 5 Years

REASONS TO BUY

  • Perfect consumer-level HDD
  • 5-year warranty
  • Great speeds
  • Time-tested quality and reliability
  • Great price

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Maximum 10TB capacity

Our Rating:   9.7/10

For a second spot on his list, we chose a WD Black series drive, which has been on the market for a while and is proven to be very reliable and popular within the community. The Western Digital Black Series is the one we highly recommend for many use case scenarios for personal, professional, or business.

These drives come running the standard SATA 6/GBs at 7200 RPM, giving it great read and write speeds combined with the DRAM Cache of up to 256MB. Western Digital stands by this drive with a high industry standard of a 5-year limited manufacturer’s warranty. Besides that, the Black Series drives come in a size ranging from 500GB to 10TB of storage, giving you plenty of options to choose from.

It’s perfect for all levels of gaming, video editing, video processing, and many other professional areas that one can think of for a creative desktop computer. This is one of the only drives most gamers recommend as well as we do for any desktop computing and even adding it to a gaming console such as an XBOX or a PlayStation.

If you’re looking for the most reliable HDD at a consumer level, the Western Digital Black Series is the way to go. You will not be disappointed, as these drives even outperform some Network Attached Storage (NAS) Drives.

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Video

3D NAND vs V-NAND

3D NAND was originally developed by Intel and Micron. This type of NAND stacks 32 layers of memory cells while V-NAND or vertical-NAND stacks 48 layers of memory cells.

These new technological advancements have an increased the capacity of drives without altering production costs all while cutting the power consumption in half and increasing the longevity of planar NAND at the same time.

6. HGST Western Digital UltraStar DC HC520

Capacity: 12TB | Interface: 12 Gb/s SAS, 6 Gb/s SATA | Cache: Up to 256MB | Spindle Speed: 7200RPM | Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF): 2.5 Million Hours | Warranty: 5 Years

REASONS TO BUY

  • Excellent speeds
  • Highly reliable
  • Excellent for securing large amounts of data
  • Features advanced features and technologies
  • Best Enterprise level drive
  • Comes in both SATA and SAS 

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Premium price

Our Rating:   9.8/10

The best of the best from HGST Western Digital is the UltraStar DC HC520 drive with 12TB of storage. This drive is not only available in standard SATA 6/GBs, but also SAS which allows up to 12/GBs, making it really fast.

The Ultrastar series features a standard Enterprise Drive where it has the ability to read and write 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year non-stop, 2.5 million hours (about 285 years roughly) rated lifespan, and 550TB yearly workload.

Many have considered this the Western Digital Gold Plus Hard Drive because of the similarities just with more features and technology added. Speaking of those technologies found in the UltraStar, this drive features a dual-stage actuator for fewer traveling heads, vibration mitigation, and security format features.

Vibration mitigation and detection are key for large scale datacenter to withstand the vibrations that all of them combined make. Just like the Western Digital Gold, they offer HelioSeal Technology in storage capacities above 10TB to help reduce friction giving it a longer-lasting hard drive.

This is why Western Digital backs the HGST Western Digital UltraStar DC HC520 Hard Drive with their standard 5-year limited manufacturing warranty.

Whereas the Gold Series is Western Digital Datacenter Budget Hard Drive the UltraStar Series however is not. If you are looking for a Western Digital SAS Hard Drive, this is the only hard drive currently available in a large capacity format.

These drives are superficially designed and used for data center storage solutions due to the format security of 512e and 4kn which wouldn’t be read by anything else. I recommend these drives only if you are working in a large-scale data center environment or where securing a large amount of data is necessary–like cloud storage, video security, medical, legal and such do to the security technology built inside a dual firmware.

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02 RescueCom Report 2018

Samsung close behind Apple in RESCUECOM 2018 Computer Reliability Report. Milman is head of RESCUECOM, the industry leader in computer repair, which regularly provides data on their service records to give consumers information on which computers are the most reliable.

The market for computers is shrinking due to compu

The market for computers is shrinking due to computing alternatives like tablets and phones. To be successful, manufacturers are going to have to spend more on research and development and rely less on older designs that worked years ago, but are not well suited to today’s very complex operating systems.

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04 SquareTrade Report 2009

Laptop reliability by manufacturer. They next turn their attention to the relative reliability of different laptop manufacturers. Their study data includes 9 brands with a minimum of 1000 units, which is enough to give us a statistically significant look at the 2 year failure rates. Figure shows the 3 year forecasted malfunction rates for the 9 brands (excluding accidental damage):

ASUS and Toshiba come out on top.  With 3 year mal

ASUS and Toshiba come out on top. With 3 year malfunction rates forecast to be under 16%, laptops from these two manufacturers are nearly 40% more reliable than Hewlett-Packard, the worst performer in our study. Sony and Apple also performed better than the average. The industry leader HP, which shipped nearly 16 million laptops in the past year according to IDCiii, ranked dead last in our reliability study with over one-fourth of laptops expected to malfunction in 3 years. Gateway and Acer, the #2 makers of laptops were also nearly as unreliable as HP, with an expected malfunction rate of over 23%.

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Bigger Seagate Drives

The bigger Seagate drives have continued the tradition of the 1.5TB drives: they’re solid workhorses, but there is a constant attrition as they wear out.

2.0 to 4.0TB Seagate Drives Used by Backblaze
Model Size Number of Drives Average Age in Years Annual Failure Rate
Seagate Desktop HDD.15 (ST4000DM000) 4.0TB 5199 0.3 3.8%
Seagate Barracuda (ST3000DM001) 3.0TB 4252 1.4 9.8%
Seagate Barracuda XT (ST33000651AS) 3.0TB 293 2.0 7.3%
Seagate Barracuda LP (ST32000542AS) 2.0TB 288 2.0 7.2%
Seagate Barracuda XT (ST4000DX000) 4.0TB 179 0.7 n/a

The good pricing on Seagate drives along with the consistent, but not great, performance is why we have a lot of them.

Is an SSD Ideal for You?

It’s undeniable that replacing your spinning HDD with an SSD is worth it. They make your computer boot faster and make programs more responsive. If you really need that speed boost for productivity or faster loading times in games, then an SSD will definitely be worth it.

SSDs are impervious to being bumped around, they consume less power, and take up less space making them perfect for laptops.

Note: It’s worth noting that you will need an SSD with a larger storage capacity than your HDD if you wish to transfer or clone your files from your HDD to SSD. If that’s the case, you’re likely going to pay a hefty amount since SSDs are so much more expensive per GB.

If you’re interested in seeing which SSDs are the best on the market, then check out our roundup on the best SSD for gaming. Head over to our best gaming hard drives article if you want to invest in the right mechanical hard drive to use in an SSD/HDD setup.

What is the Most Reliable Hard Drive?

Backblaze is probably the most cited resource for hard drive reliability. The organization, led by a team of experts, has already tested a total of 10,000 hard drives last year. These hard drives belong to some of the most popular brands discussed above. The drives are tested based on their annual failure rate which pertains to the failure of the drive when (1) not connecting with an operating system, and (2) not syncing or remaining synced in a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) stack.

Hard Drive Annual Failure Rate

Hard Drive Annual Failure Rate

Backblaze analyzed the tested drives’ reliability based on the annual failure rate and not on the number of drive failures to come up with more accurate data. Results show that the most reliable types of drives are SSDs rather than the generally used hard drives. However, there were still a few well-known brands such as Seagate and Western Digital HDDs that topped the list.

The most reliable manufacturers, according to Backblaze, are Western Digital, Seagate, HGST, and Toshiba. Some of the hard drives models which are considered the most reliable are Western Digital’s Redline, Toshiba MD04ABAV line, HGST 8 TB 7200 RPM hard drive, Seagate 8 TB 7200 RPM hard drive, and Western Digital Blackline.

The test does not debunk the reliability of the other brands as all tested brands are fairly reliable in the first place. Those which topped the list, however, had the lowest annual failure rate which means that the hard drives can last for a relatively longer time than the other brands.

The Shortcomings of the Study

The BackBlaze report provides good insight because it employs thousands of hard drives for storage. That makes it one of the best sources of information to find out the reliability of hard drives. However, Backblaze’s report is not perfect and has been subject to controversy. It is said that the company has changed its storage pod designs and that might have impacted the reliability of a certain cluster of drives. The company has also used consumer drives in an enterprise setup and had run those on a 24/7 duty cycle. Moreover, the numbers were found when looking only at manufacturers and not taking into consideration different models and capacities. When BackBlaze measured the failure rate of its data center’s 4TB drives, it found that Toshiba drives actually failed the most often, followed by Seagate.

Reliability

Manufacturers don’t publish the failure rate of their products but BlackBlaze, one of the largest cloud storage service regularly publishes the failure rates observed in its server farms. Despite what people say based on their personal experience, there isn’t much reliably difference between manufacturers. Some models were notoriously bad in the past like the 4TB from Seagate but actual statistics show similar results and both brands can be equally trusted.

In any case remember to always save your data on separate locations such as different hard drives or to the cloud. Hard drive fail and the probability of failure increases over time.

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