Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

When will your hard drive fail?

If you are using a computer with an internal or external hard drive, you need to realize that at some time in the future, the hard drive will fail. The failure will be catastrophic and you will lose all the data on the hard drive. You may be able to recover some or all of the data but you will have to pay a fee to a company that specializes in data recovery. is an industry leader in online (cloud) data storage. It is likely the lowest cost cloud storage company in the world right now. They now use over 80,000 hard drives to store their customers' data. I recently received an email notice of a post from the BackBlaze blog.

This is the kind of data that every computer user, including all of us online genealogists, to make knowledgeable decisions about our data backup needs. For my part, after debating for a long time about my need for online storage, I subscribed to However, I also have two 8 TB hard drives and a 4 TB hard drive for my local storage needs.

The amount of statistical data supplied by is extremely useful. For comparison, it is far more useful than the user reviews on supplies real, compiled data from its experience with all of its hard drives. Here is an example of one of the tables they have in their blog post.
Here is a short explanation, from the blog post, about the collection of the data.
Backblaze has now recorded and saved daily hard drive statistics from the drives in our data centers for over 4 years. This data includes the SMART attributes reported by each drive, along with related information such a the drive serial number and failure status. As of March 31, 2017 we had 84,469 operational hard drives. Of that there were 1,800 boot drives and 82,669 data drives. For our review, we remove drive models of which we have less than 45 drives, leaving us to analyze 82,516 hard drives for this report. There are currently 17 different hard drives models, ranging in size from 3 to 8 TB in size. All of these models are 3½” drives.
 This data was comforting to me since I use Seagate 8 TB drives for my personal backup. This chart also demonstrates the technology change as hard drive capacity increases. The most important information to be gleaned from these statistics is that hard drives are very reliable but you do need to be aware of the need for more than one backup method. It is also a good idea to replace older drives before they fail. Another good idea is to use multiple hard drives for your backup needs.

Thanks to for this highly useful information.


  1. I appreciate this article. I am looking into different options of storing my data externally. On a side note, how do you dispose of old hard drives? Also old laptops or computers?

    1. You could pile them up in the basement like we do, but there are a number of electronic disposal options with stores and other companies such as Best Buy.

  2. I got a comment that was accidentally deleted suggesting that BackBlaze publishes the data on hard drive failures to promote the sale of online storage. If this is the case, then why show that most of the hard drives are extremely reliable? IN addition, why show that "commercial" level.drives are no more reliable than consumer drives? Personally, I have had enough hard drives fail to give me an incentive to back up with multiple hard drives as well as use an online service.

  3. Hi James. I use a laptop. Many times, I suddenly find the cursor arrow has jumped to a strange spot. In the last week, I've been looking for a folder/file; only to find it is no longer there, or in a different place. Today it was folder containing all the relevant images of my evidence/source. Oh no!!! Fortunately the last time I had modified any of the files had been in March. Both my mirror backup and my no deletion backup had copies.
    I suspect the problem is that my thumbs flick over the touch pad (that I never use unless I forget the mouse) and it depends upon where the arrow is on what happens. ANother reason to back up.

    1. I find the pad on many laptops to be a problem. There is a way to disable the touch pad on some computers.