Hard Drive Failure Rates – 2015

Posted in : Harddrives on by : HeadGeek Comments: 0

I was inspired to write this article because in the first 5 months of this year, I have had to deal with a large number of complete Hard Drive failures.  With the majority of these failures, I was able to replace the Hard Drive before it completely failed.  However, in one instance, a Hard Drive failed completely without any warning.  The Hard Drive health indication was 98%, two days before it completely failed, with a loss of 2 TeraBytes of data.

I was able to get data from BackBlaze.  This data is bang on with the ages and failure rates for the Hard Drives that I have serviced within the first 5 months of this year.  You have to remember that this data is for Hard Drives that are powered on 24/7.  Most users can count on their Hard Drives lasting about 40% longer.  However, I can confidently say that every Hard Drive will eventually fail!

The common causes of Hard Drive failures are:

  • Age
    • How old and how long the Hard Drive has been used
  • Vibration or Noise
    • If the Hard Drive is shaken or dropped while in use
    • If theHard Drive is installed in a noisy environment
      • Vehicles or noisy machine shops are a few examples
  • Power Cycle
    • Powering the computer with a hard drive off and on
    • Use of an external Hard Drive that is powered off and on
  • Inadequate Cooling
    • If a Hard drive is always running hot, the life of the Hard drive will be shortened
  • Dirty Environment
    • Dust filled environment
    • Smoke filled environment
      • Smoking around a computer is tough on its inner works.  What most people don’t know, is that a Hard Drive actually breathes during its operation.


There is a safety mechanism built into every Hard Drive called S.M.A.R.T.   It monitors the Hard Drive, and will warn you if the Hard Drive has too many errors and should be replaced soon.  These warnings will appear when your computer is turned off, or restarted.  If you have any Hard Drive monitoring software, you will receive these warnings.

It should be said that S.M.A.R.T. is not perfect.  The first example is that I had a customer report that his computer was running extremely slow.  I was able to determine that the Hard Drive was writing information at 5% of its capacity.  S.M.A.R.T. reported that the Hard Drive was at 100% health and efficiency.  The second example was a Hard Drive that was tested, and was shown to be at 98% health and efficiency, only to completely fail 48 hours later.



HGST is a subsidiary of Western Digital.  This Chart shows the failure rates from common Hard Drive sizes by year.  The Gray line is 2013, while the blue colored lines show 2014 failure rates.

With data from BackBlaze, I was able to create the following chart with a breakdown by model.



If you want a copy of the Excel Spreadsheet data that I used to generate this data, click HERE.  From the chart, the Hard Drive model that I would avoid like the plague would be the Seagate 3T – ST3000DM1001.  The one that I would most likely buy would be the HGST 4TB HMS5C4040BLE640, which has a very low failure rate.  It should be noted that with the 6TB Hard Drives, that they are still too young and there is not enough data to properly rate the drives.

The following chart shows the 4 TeraByte Hard Drives reliability in 2013 and 2014.



I would recommend the 4 Terabyte Hard Drives as an upgrade/replacement Hard Drive for your data.  So far, with their low failure rates, and the price has dropped, it makes for the most reliable per dollar this year.

I would like to close in what I tell all my customers, “backup, backup, and backup!”  The more important your data, the more times you should back it up.  Always be ready when your Hard Drive blows up, and buzzes or clicks at you and refuses to work.

Stanley Komarniski
HeadGeek – Geek Translation