Skip to main content

The average life span of your hard drive will shock you

If you’ve ever had a hard disk drive (HDD) fail on you, you’re certainly not alone. It turns out that this is actually a lot more common than most people think.

According to research carried out across a sample of over failed 17,000 hard drives, the failure occurred after only two years and 6 months. Does that make the HDD one of the weakest components inside your PC?

A hard disk drive that showcases the inner components.
Benjamin Lehman / Unsplash

Cloud storage and backup company Backblaze released an interesting report about the average time it takes for an HDD to fail. Backblaze examined a total of failed 17,155 HDDs of varying sizes and models. Based on that sample, it came to the conclusion that, among the drives that failed, the average life span was only two and a half years.

The company was able to run this study on its own failed drives that were previously used in its data centers. This includes models from Seagate, Toshiba, or Western Digital (WDC). In total, 72 different models were included.

Backblaze recorded the power-on hours of each drive, along with their failure dates, serial numbers, capacity, and SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) raw data. The study excluded all failed boot drives, drives with data errors or inconsistencies, and drives with no SMART raw attribute data.

In addition to exposing the short average life span of an HDD, the study also finds that Seagate drives are the most susceptible to failure, while WDC models saw the least casualties.

The massive Seagate 12TB ST12000NM0007 turned out to be the fastest to break, reaching an average age of 1 year and six months and a total of 2,023 failures. The only HDD to break down even more often was the Seagate 4TB ST400DM000 (5,249 failures), but it also lasted a lot longer on average — 3 years and 3 months.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Overall, Backblaze found that the average annualized failure rate (AFR) of its active HDDs was 1.4%, meaning that 1.4% of all of its HDDs failed each year. By the end of the first quarter of 2023, Backblaze was monitoring a total of 241,678 drives, but this also includes SSDs. To calculate the AFR, it excluded boot drives and drives used for testing, which resulted in 237,278 drives with a 1.4% yearly failure rate.

Should you be worried if you’re still using an HDD, given that once they fail, they seem to only last for such a comparatively short time? Not necessarily. Backblaze doesn’t have any HDDs in sizes that are typically used by consumers (1TB, 1.5TB, 2TB, 3TB, and 5TB), and it seems that the smaller the HDD, the longer it can last. The tests also only included failed HDDs, and as the AFR tells us, not that many of them fail each year to begin with.

Many people also no longer use HDDs, having switched to SSDs as their prices continue dropping. Still, it’s always a good idea to back up your data.

Editors' Recommendations

Monica J. White
Monica is a UK-based freelance writer and self-proclaimed geek. A firm believer in the "PC building is just like expensive…
Best LastPass alternatives for 2024
A digital security lock.

Whether you're security-conscious or have a terrible memory, using a password manager is a great way to free up brain space and secure your most important information. Unfortunately, LastPass -- once one of the best password managers -- has had several security incidents over the years, making customers look to other options.

This list of both free and paid password managers are solid replacements for LastPass.
Best LastPass alternatives

Read more
Real-time video translation comes to Microsoft Edge
Microsoft Edge browser on a computer screen.

Following up on the massive Copilot+ announcements from yesterday, Microsoft's AI toolset keeps getting bigger and bigger. As part of its annual Microsoft Build develop conference, Microsoft has announced an update to Edge that grants it the power to translate videos to different languages in real time.

Microsoft affirms that the upcoming AI feature will translate videos on the browser to multiple languages using subtitles and/or dubbing in real time. Microsoft has not said if the option will be set by default or where the user can go to turn this feature on or off, but it could be somewhere in Settings.

Read more
All the Copilot updates announced at Build 2024
A Team Copilot being used alongside a Teams video call.

It’s that time of year again, and Microsoft is making various announcements regarding Copilot at its annual Build developer conference. As expected, AI is a massive part of what’s being said, just like last year.

Perhaps the biggest announcement in that regard was that GPT-4o was already live in Azure AI and would soon be coming to Copilot. It was mentioned as part of the Copilot+ press event yesterday, but not much information was provided, aside from the Minecraft tutorial demo.

Read more