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When are Hard Drives too old?

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When are Hard Drives too old?

Postby ManFromGlass » Tue Oct 13, 2020 1:27 pm

I just noticed that some of my backup and clone drives are almost 10 years old. At some point they will start failing. I’m thinking I need to start replacing them just in case. Not an inexpensive proposition as I have more than 30 not including SSDs.
I’m just curious what your replacement strategies are?
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Re: When are Hard Drives too old?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Tue Oct 13, 2020 1:39 pm

All hard drives fail eventually, it's a matter of 'when' not 'if'. When the drives in my NAS started approaching 8 years old I upgraded to a new NAS with SSD storage in it. For me, 8 years is about the max I'm comfortable with even taking backups into account.

Backups save your data but you still experience the interruption/hassle of replacing drives, installing software and/or restoring data if they go unexpectedly so it's best to do it proactively at a time of your choosing.

Backblaze publish regular reports on the lifetimes and failure rates of the drives in their datacentre which you might find interesting reading: https://www.backblaze.com/b2/hard-drive-test-data.html
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Re: When are Hard Drives too old?

Postby The Elf » Tue Oct 13, 2020 1:42 pm

Yep, NAS here too - and I keep a small stock of replacement drives. NAS generally report if a drive is starting to fail, so you have time to replace it. A few cycles of this and I'd be looking to replace. At the moment all my drives are spinny drives, but SSD will doubtless be the next generation of NAS I acquire.

If I get five years out of a spinny drive I'm content to replace it.
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Re: When are Hard Drives too old?

Postby merlyn » Tue Oct 13, 2020 2:02 pm

Hard drives store S.M.A.R.T. data which gives an idea of how healthy a drive is. A drive that is on 24/7 won't last as long as a drive that is only powered up occasionally, and the S.M.A.R.T. data will show how many hours the drive has been powered up. 20,000 hours is an often quoted figure for the average lifetime of a drive, although I have had drives last much longer.

As far as I know it's straightforward to look at S.M.A.R.T. data on a Mac.
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Re: When are Hard Drives too old?

Postby CS70 » Tue Oct 13, 2020 9:05 pm

ManFromGlass wrote:I just noticed that some of my backup and clone drives are almost 10 years old. At some point they will start failing. I’m thinking I need to start replacing them just in case. Not an inexpensive proposition as I have more than 30 not including SSDs.
I’m just curious what your replacement strategies are?

It is a surprisingly difficult question to answer, at least quantitatively, because there's not much reliable data for enough years.

The best answer so far, is from the Backblaze data set at https://www.backblaze.com/b2/hard-drive-test-data.html . Overall, under continuous use, after 3/4 you get a decisive increment in failure rate for "normal", consumer drives, and, using that as a prediction, half of new drives would fail after 5/6 years. But it also seem to depend a lot on the specific driver manufacturer, model and year of manufacture (for example, Seagate consumer drives seem to be getting better since 2019). Some (notably Hitachi for the Backblaze data set) seem to have much longer lifespans.

If you don't spin them all the time - say they stay powered off half a day... nobody knows. You can extrapolate linearly, but there may be effects of the power on/power off (or simply stuff like component aging) that affect the lifespan.

If you spin your disks even less than that (say once every two days) they could potentially last quite a long time - unless of course there are effects related to the passage of time, we are not aware of.
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Re: When are Hard Drives too old?

Postby ManFromGlass » Tue Oct 13, 2020 10:55 pm

Some get spun up once or twice a year. I’ve heard that is not good either because something inside could seize up from lack of use.
I may have to go the Backblaze or similar route. I’ll do a price comparison with buying hard drives. It almost seems like the prices of both spinning and SSD drives have locked in and won’t go lower. I thought I would be all SSD by now but the larger ones are still quite pricey.

I tried an 8GB hard drive for backup and it lasted only 2 years. It had fairly regular usage. Fortunately my mantra is if you don’t have 3 copies then you don’t have a backup.
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Re: When are Hard Drives too old?

Postby CS70 » Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:22 pm

ManFromGlass wrote:Some get spun up once or twice a year. I’ve heard that is not good either because something inside could seize up from lack of use.

I guess dust would be your worse enemy. The materials are made not to seize, and they have just gotten better with the years. A couple years ago I spun again a 60GB :D hard disk after around 20 years of not use, and - to my surprise - it did start just fine!

I may have to go the Backblaze or similar route. I’ll do a price comparison with buying hard drives. It almost seems like the prices of both spinning and SSD drives have locked in and won’t go lower. I thought I would be all SSD by now but the larger ones are still quite pricey.

I tried an 8GB hard drive for backup and it lasted only 2 years. It had fairly regular usage. Fortunately my mantra is if you don’t have 3 copies then you don’t have a backup.

The challenge with backup companies is that in the end you depend on the company's continued existence. So you end up backing up the backup company to even the odds. But yeah probably these days is just as a good option as any.
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Re: When are Hard Drives too old?

Postby bluedot » Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:36 pm

Solid State Drives (SSD's) have no moving parts to fail. Anything with a platter, its time will come when you need it the most.

I work on film, and these #$@% drives are my personal nightmare. SSD all the way.
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Re: When are Hard Drives too old?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:41 pm

I've been using Backblaze for years and have found their service to be very good. I cannot comment on, or compare them to, other providers though.

Things I like about Backblaze are:

  • Unlimited storage for backups (mine varies, but I've had about 2.5Tb up there at some points. I've heard tales of folks using 30+Tb)
  • Encryption at your end. If you lose or forget your encryption key (which takes the form of a password), you're on your own.
  • Incremental ongoing automatic backups. The client agent monitors your system and auto-uploads stuff that's changed as needed.
  • You can login to the website, enter your decryption key, and download individual files, groups of files or folders etc. from your backed up data directly from their website.
  • The above direct download option includes a search facility for filenames or parts thereof
  • In a dire situation you can have them send you a USB drive (or drives) containing all your data. This comes at a fee, but much of that is refunded if you return the drives afterwards.

The disadvantages:

  • They don't back up OS files, just data
  • Some file types such as virtual machine images are excluded by default from backup (not sure if you can override this or not)
  • To enable backup of large files (greater than 5Gb I think) you need to modify the client settings (via the provided management interface, not hacking anything directly) to include them
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Re: When are Hard Drives too old?

Postby Agharta » Wed Oct 14, 2020 12:12 am

bluedot wrote:Solid State Drives (SSD's) have no moving parts to fail. Anything with a platter, its time will come when you need it the most.

I work on film, and these #$@% drives are my personal nightmare. SSD all the way.

SSDs can have an issue with data retention if they don't get powered on every so often so that is part of the equation.
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Re: When are Hard Drives too old?

Postby The Elf » Wed Oct 14, 2020 12:12 am

Eddy Deegan wrote:[*] Unlimited storage for backups (mine varies, but I've had about 2.5Tb up there at some points. I've heard tales of folks using 30+Tb)
Happy Backblaze user here, and I'm waaay past the 30TB mark, I can tell you!
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Re: When are Hard Drives too old?

Postby pk.roberts » Wed Oct 14, 2020 8:57 am

As a slight aside, CrystalDiscInfo is a useful (and free!) little utility which will allow you access to HD data and can warn of incipient failure.
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Re: When are Hard Drives too old?

Postby manwilde » Wed Oct 14, 2020 1:53 pm

Following comments here I´ve downloaded and installed Speedfan on my older desktop. Both internal HDDs are over 12 years old, and the external is a bit older. On the S.M.A.R.T. tab, all of them rank 90% "Fitness" and 90% "Performance", and attributes worth checking by the software seem to be OK.
Now ,whether I should feel confident about this or replace/backup my drives is a different matter...
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Re: When are Hard Drives too old?

Postby CS70 » Wed Oct 14, 2020 1:59 pm

manwilde wrote:Following comments here I´ve downloaded and installed Speedfan on my older desktop. Both internal HDDs are over 12 years old, and the external is a bit older. On the S.M.A.R.T. tab, all of them rank 90% "Fitness" and 90% "Performance", and attributes worth checking by the software seem to be OK.
Now ,whether I should feel confident about this or replace/backup my drives is a different matter...

It likely depends on how much of these 12 years they have been actually spinning...
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Re: When are Hard Drives too old?

Postby merlyn » Wed Oct 14, 2020 3:05 pm

manwilde wrote:Now ,whether I should feel confident about this or replace/backup my drives is a different matter...

I don't really see that as an 'or' :)

Backup!

Out of interest did you see how many hours the drives have been powered up? My boot drive is at 25,000 hours and is still passing the SMART test. It's backed up of course. I have another drive that's exactly the same size and is a clone of my boot drive, so it's a drop in replacement. I go between the two drives -- clone my boot drive then use the clone, and so on.
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