When will my hard drive fail?

Google published failure statistics on 100,000 disks, but it’s impossible to predict exactly when your disk will fail.

Hard disk head (HDRI)
photo: Agadez

Disks fail. The question isn’t, “Will it fail?”. The question is, “When will it fail?”. That’s a fact of life.

I recently had a new client express surprise when I mentioned that his computers’ hard drives will fail, sooner or later.

Google studied 100,000 of their hard drives, and in 2007, in Failure Trends in a Large Disk Drive Population, they published their failure statistics and conclusions. Google uses low-cost drives just like the kind that are in our desktop PCs. (What exactly is inside a Google data center?)

StorageMojo, in Google’s Disk Failure Experience by Robin Harris, did a great job of summarizing the results. The article points out that when a disk’s SMART reports

  • scan errors
  • reallocation count
  • offline reallocation
  • probational count

the disk is failing and should be replaced before it dies completely.

For most users, the most relevant conclusion is that a disk is more likely to fail as its power-on time reaches 3 years and more. I usually recommend replacing working disks when they have 40,000 hours or more of power-on time. (There are 8760 hours in one year.) As usual, your mileage may vary.

Relevant articles:

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695
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