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How Long Before My Hard Drive Fails?

Hard drive failure can occur at any time, but when will it happen to you?

There are no “right” answers, but a recent study shows there’s a good chance that a large majority of single drives will continue to function normally for two, three and maybe even four years.

Data back-up service provider Backblaze tracked the usage of 25,000 single hard drives in its operations and found failure rates of 5.1 percent in the first 18 months of usage, 1.4 percent in the second 18 months of usage and then 11.8 percent in the fourth year of use.

By the end of the fourth year, Backblaze reported, roughly 78 percent of their drives were still operational.

One caveat is that Backblaze’s equipment runs 24/7, so individual drives outside an around-the-clock environment may act differently and have different rates of failure.

Another big question remains: What impact will the use of new hard drive technology—like solid state driveshelium-filled drives and “shingled” drives—have on these statistics?

Nobody knows for sure, but it’s a safe bet that backup should still be an important part of any data storage scenario whether you’re talking about a consumer, a business or an online cloud storage provider (like Backblaze).

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