Life of an external hard drive

  ChrisAnnSen 17:04 24 Jan 2017

I've been told by PC World that external hard drives generally only last 3 years before they can become corrupted. He then went on to give the hard-sell for their cloud storage service.

Was this salesman talk or is it true?

Are there any signs to warn of an external hard-drive becoming faulty or does is just happen, thereby losing all access to backups, stored files etc.

  Forum Editor 17:39 24 Jan 2017

In broad terms, once your drive has got through the first few months of use you can reasonably expect it to last for at least another four years with average use.

I have external drives that are five years old and still going strong, but they are not used every day. All of my critical data files are backed up to the Cloud (Microsoft's OneDrive) every day.

You will usually (but not always) get some warning when a drive is going to fail - it may become noisy, or start giving trouble when you run searches - that kind of thing.

If you have really important files, you can't do better than running a backup routine to a reputable Cloud service. Your data will be on secure servers which are mirrored at frequent intervals - it's about the safest storage method you are likely to find, and of course you can access your files from any machine, anywhere in the world.

  wee eddie 17:58 24 Jan 2017

Firstly, everything has a finite lifespan.

There has been research done on Hard Drives running continuously, it seems to suggest that roughly 80% are still running at the end of a 3 year period.

How you treat your Drive is more likely to cause it to fail than the mechanics themselves. I would guess that most of us destroy our External drives when we disconnect them improperly. e.g. While Windows is still accessing the drive, which it does regularly while the drive is connected.

You must use the "Safely Uninstall" Route.

A single backup is not the best idea. Tradition suggests a 3 tier system for ultimate safety. To my mind your PC and 2 other copies should be quite sufficient, but one must be kept, either off site or in a safe/fireproof environment.

Every time I have bought a new PC, the old one's Hard Drive has been turned into an External Drive, it gets Formatted and is then used for backups.

  ChrisAnnSen 19:14 24 Jan 2017

Thanks for your comments. It appears then that the salesman was telling the truth. We have always mistrusted Cloud storage but it appears that we are just behind the times. Will investigate it further and decide where to trust our data. Thanks again.

  wee eddie 20:01 24 Jan 2017

Chris, if you only run your External Hard Drive for an hour each day.

That Statistic of 3 years constant running would mean that your Hard Dive would have an 80% chance of lasting 66 years

  wee eddie 20:04 24 Jan 2017

Chris: While the Salesman was not lying, but, depending upon the exact words he used, he was definitely not telling you the truthful answer to your question.

  ChrisAnnSen 20:22 24 Jan 2017

66 years will do me!

Thanks for being so reassuring wee eddie - however I think we may well get another hard-drive for the continuous backup drive - as it is at least 4 years old although it has never been disconnected.

  Burn-it 20:50 24 Jan 2017

Actuallly it is the cycling of drives that shortens the life. Drives that are left on 24hours a day often last far longer than drives that are powered off and on regularly. I have drives that are 20 years old and are used every day. I have only ever had one drive fail that wasn't maltreated either by dropping, overheating or disconnecting whilst in use.

  ChrisAnnSen 20:55 24 Jan 2017

That's good to know, thanks Burn-it.

  Secret-Squirrel 08:51 25 Jan 2017

I've been told by PC World that external hard drives generally only last 3 years before they can become corrupted.

I think you were told rubbish Chris - although it depends on what was meant by "corrupted". If it's common file corruption then that can usually be fixed easily with a Windows disk check.

Hard drives are generally very robust and reliable and should last many many years before failing. In fact, it's highly likely that you will have bought a bigger, better drive long before before it starts to fail.

We have always mistrusted Cloud storage ...........

Me too. Cloud-storage companies go out of business all the time, and if teenagers can hack into TalkTalk, Yahoo, the FBI, NASA, and the US government then it's probably only a matter of time before the same thing happens to a high-profile tech company.

  ChrisAnnSen 09:28 25 Jan 2017

It's a case of great minds thinking alike then Secret-Squirrel ;)

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