How long do hard drives last? This critical question should come to mind for every business and individual with valuable data. Not enough people realize that their hard drive will fail given enough time. To quote from Chuck Palahniuk’s book, Fight Club, “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everything drops to zero.”

The fact is that your hard drive will eventually fail. The question is, how long does it take until your hard drive feels the tremors of age?

The life span of a hard drive depends on many variables, like the brand, size, type, and environment. More reputable brands who make dependable hardware will have drives that last longer. If you read/write more data on your disk, your hard drive will age faster. Hard drives respond to the cleanliness of the environment, so stay alert for electrical issues and dust. And lastly, what Prosoft Engineering always says, make sure to have an up-to-date backup of your hard drive.

A Hard Drive’s Life Span

Generally speaking, you can rely on your hard drive for three to five years on average. The online backup company BackBlaze analysed the failure rates of their 25,000 running hard drives. They found that 90% of hard drives survive for three years, and 80% for four years. But this number varied across brands. Western Digital and Hitachi hard drives lasted much longer than Seagate’s in Backblaze’s study.

Here’s an infographic rate based on the data from Backblaze’s study:

Hard Drive Lifespan

The data shows that hard drives have three failure rate segments. The first segment links to the first year and a half where 5% of the hard drives fail per year. The high initial failure rate can be chalked up to manufacturing defects. Every batch of hard drives will have a few lemons.

After that, the failure rate levels out to 1% per year. This is explained by random drive failures. Then after three years, hard drives begin to wear out. The components can only move so much before they begin to fail.

It should be noted that Backblaze used consumer-grade hard drives that normally come with 12 to 36 month warranties. The warranty lengths, then, seem to be correct, while enterprise-grade hard drives generally come with five year warranties or longer.

Differences In HDD And SSD

Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) vs Solid-State Drives (SSDs)

The two most popular types of hard drives have different life expectancies. My colleague wrote an informative blog post detailing the difference between HDDs and SSDs. But here, I’ll touch on how long they will last.

Hard Disk Drives physically write code onto the hard disk platter in the drive. Because HDDs have miniscule moving parts inside, they are more vulnerable to physical failures. You’ll find HDDs in most desktop computers and laptops. In most cases, they will fail sooner than SSDs because they have delicate moving parts.

Solid-State Drives use flash technology to save data. Solid state drives are more expensive, but also more reliable than hard disk drives. There is no moving platter in an SSD, so they aren’t susceptible to more traditional hard drive failure. However, an SSD still uses a capacitor and power supplies, which can malfunction.

Signs Of A Failing Hard Drive

There are numerous subtle signs that your hard drive might be failing. Watch out if your computer is slowing down, frequently freezes, or displays a warning for corrupted data or bad sectors. Malware viruses and improper shutdowns can impact your hard drive too.

For diagnostic help, you can try running your computer in safe mode. Or for an all-in-one Mac hard drive protection software, try Drive Genius 5, the preferred tool of the Apple Genius Bar. The software automates your hard drive security by scanning for logical and physical problems. It can repair directory issues and consistency errors. The newest feature is the Malware Protection, which looks through your new downloads and old files for known malware.

But if you notice strange clicking or grinding noises coming from your hard drive, you might be experiencing a physical failure. Make sure to power off your hard drive to avoid further damage. For more information on physical hard drive failure, read our recent hard drive recovery page.

Hard Drive Failure Warnings

Ways To Stop Your Hard Drive From Failing

You can protect yourself against hard drive failure by taking a few precautions. The first step is having a backup. By having a completed, current backup, you protect yourself against potential data loss. For advice on how to maintain your backup correctly, check out the complete guide of data backup for home and professional users.

The next step is to secure the environment around your hard drive from threats. Many things can disturb a hard drive. These include dust, heat, weather, theft, electrical surges, and travelling hazards.

Lastly, replace your hard drive after 3-5 years. As you just read, hard drives fail over time. By moving your data onto a new hard drive, you create data redundancy and give yourself more time to safely store your data.

If Your Hard Drive Has Failed

There are essentially two reasons why drives fail: physical and logical. For logical failures, you can use data recovery software such as Data Rescue to find your data again. The data recovery software works for drives that have been corrupted, erased, and crashed.

For physical hard drive failure, you can contact The Data Rescue Center in Silicon Valley, California. The Data Rescue Center offers free shipping, free estimates, and a free no-data, no-charge policy. The Data Rescue Center is the most professional and technologically advanced facility in the United States. Our U.S.-based support staff will help you through all of your difficulties to make sure you have a successful recovery.