Over the years I’ve had many hard drives and by and large they have been pretty reliable. I did lose data once when the hard disk in a Dell laptop died but then, last week, the disk in one of my external Toshiba PX1223E-1G32 (320GB 7200 RPM external USB 2.0 hard drive with 8MB data buffer) let out a “clunk” before failing – there was still power to the enclosure but the disk was not spinning. To open the enclosure and investigate further would have voided the warranty and thankfully, it was the drive I use for backups (strangely, the one which sees least use) so I hadn’t lost any data – just the previous night’s backup. As it was less than a year old, I had no problems exchanging it for a new one (although it was the last one on the shelf at PC World), but it has dented my confidence in these drives.
Prior to the failure, the disk inside the Toshiba enclosure was reporting itself within the Mac OS X Disk Utility as a “WDC WD32 00JB-00KFA0” (a Western Digital Caviar SE WD3200JB), as does the one which is still working. My personal preference over the years has been to avoid Western Digital drives and to use drives from Seagate (one reason is that many Seagate drives have a 5 year warranty). Interestingly, the replacement for my failed disk is reporting itself as a “Toshiba USB 2.0 Ext. HDD Media”, which does make me wonder if there have been problems with failure rates on these disks and if Toshiba have switched their drive manufacturer as a result.
I accept that an occasional hard disk failure is inevitable (that’s one reason to take backups) but my understanding is that failures should normally be in early life, or after a few years (the curve is sometimes described as a bathtub); however on the way to work this morning I was listening to Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte discussing Google’s white paper about failure trends in a large disk drive population on episode 81 of the Security Now podcast. Interestingly, Steve Gibson commented that he doesn’t use Western Digital drives – maybe that’s something I should be considering too.