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 PostPost subject: How long does an external drive last?        Posted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 5:09 pm 
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I have two 500GB external hard drives which are constantly attached to my computer and am about to get a third external drive (1TB). I have a couple of questions regarding external hard drives as a backup storage medium.

Firstly, I use my external hard drives to pretty much keep everything I have. How long does an external hard drive last (assuming it is kept in good physical condition, i.e. not being accidentally damaged by dropping it, etc.)? Are the files on it likely to get corrupted?

Secondly, is it actually a good idea to leave them plugged in constantly? Do they overheat?

I'd like to know these things because all the files I own are more or less kept on them and I'd hate to lose them. Has anyone got any suggestions as to how to care for them so that they will last for longer?


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 5:34 pm 
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External harddrives aren't any different from internal ones as far as the mechanical bits go. It's pretty hard to estimate lifespans on drives especially if they're only used for storage, I have 15 year old drives that still work fine. As long as they're not being constantly hammered I'd say they'd last over 10 years.


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 5:56 pm 
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If you constantly read/write on the drives, and kept on for weeks. They only last 2 to 5 years. It's actually closer to 2 years. It also depend on brand, I find that Western Digital HDDs have shorter lifespan than maxtor hdds. There is also a luck factor in this too, some hdd just keep having error while another of the same model last longer.

HDDs could work more than 10 years in minimum use. Remember that HDDs have a different conteection interface back then, it it may not be the best to compare different HDDs, such as SCSI drives.

I find that companies don't tell you whant HDD brand did they put into the external HDD.


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 9:18 pm 
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Ive seen em die within months. The purpose of an external is backup and storage, not regular every day use. External drives do not make use of drive cache (by default) which is used to reduce read/write operations in an internal drive. Because of that, every chunk of data needs to be written immediately rather than being cached and written in one go when the cache is full. This has the effect of reducing the lifespan by 8-15 times, and due to the nature of usage, means when it goes tits up you lose far more. I know one guy who thought it would be a brilliant idea to use a 500gb external for torrents, it lasted approximately 8 weeks before the dreaded click of death (not an isolated case either). Depending on the drive, it may be possible to turn on drive cache via device manager. Externals will automaticaly be "optimized for quick removal" and the cache will be disabled by windows. So if you are going to be using your externals fairly regularly, you might want to consider changing the option to "optimize for performance". It will enable the cache but may mean a loss of data should the drive be unplugged before any cached data has been written to disk.


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 9:26 pm 
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Well if a drive lasts 2 months before clicking out there are other problems. An external harddrive isn't being used more than an internal, it might even be less if I'm not mistaken. As far as I know Windows doesn't index removable drives which in turn would lessen the wear a lot.


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 11:26 pm 
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It has more to do with the way the drive is being used. A rough example is this, say an internal has 8mb cache, data will be stored and written to the disk in 8mb chunks, that means it writes 8mb as one write operation, now think about an external where that same 8mb takes tens or hundreds of write operations to write the same amount of data to disk (64kb chunks for example). This is not so much of an issue when the disk is used for backup purposes as data is only written to the disk occasionally and all data is written in one go. Factor in power saving where the disc spins down when not in use and not only are you performing more read/write ops to an external but also performing more spinup/spin down cycles all of which has the net effect of reducing the lifespan over an internal where data is cached and the drive is nearly always prepared to read/write and is always spinning.


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 11:50 pm 
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Another factor is heat. Try to keep them cool by putting them on a surface that will radiate heat well, such as your metal PC case. The cooler a drive runs the longer they generally last. The disks warp when warmed up and cooled down so keeping a constant low temperature helps a lot.

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 PostPost subject: Re: How long does an external drive last?        Posted: Sun Jan 04, 2009 5:59 pm 
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And you shouldnt make it too cold - No freezer (or liquid nitrogen!) A fan woul do good. I made a custom waterblock for my external HDD

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 PostPost subject: Re: How long does an external drive last?        Posted: Sun Jan 04, 2009 7:30 pm 
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We have some LaCie externals for our macs, and they've lasted 5 years, being used occasionally.

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 PostPost subject: Re: How long does an external drive last?        Posted: Sun Jan 04, 2009 7:38 pm 
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It all depends on the make too. I bought 15 maxtor 150gig disks, and 13 of them died in the first year.

Needless to say, I don't by maxtors anymore.

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 PostPost subject: Re: How long does an external drive last?        Posted: Sun Jan 04, 2009 7:42 pm 
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Externals generally don't last long, and I don't know why. My 250gb backup USB drive for the BA site died the other day while I was away. I was lucky I had another spare USB drive attached to continue the backups, but I did lose the previous 5 days of backups. Thankfully, nothing went wrong. The drive is still under warranty too so I'll get it replaced and possibly use it elsewhere, or sell it as new on eBay to get a SATA drive as a replacement.

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 PostPost subject: Re: How long does an external drive last?        Posted: Sun Jan 04, 2009 11:06 pm 
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Wow, you guys had interesting experiences.

I have been using the same 200 gig external hard-drive for about 2 years to house my collection of torrented Linux CDs...

I use an external IDE-USB hookup from a cdrw...

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