How long do hard drives really last?

One-hundred percent of all hard drives will eventually fail. This is a fact. Some will fail prematurely due to manufacturers’ defects while others will fail because a mechanical part finally wears out. The question is, how long until that happens?
Online backup provider Backblaze.com has kept 25,000 consumer-grade hard drives constantly running for the last four years, diligently noting whenever a hard drive breaks down. The results are very interesting.
• Ninety-two percent of all hard drives will survive the first 18 months. These failures are typically due to manufacturers’ defects (oftentimes called the “lemon effect”). Hard drives’ warranties are typically one to three years, which is basically the manufacturers saying that they are only on the hook to replace the lemons.
• During the next 18 months, only a very small percentage of drives (~2%) will fail. These failures are from random “unlucky” issues and occur rarely anytime during the life of the drive.
• Beginning in year three, hard drives start to wear out due to usage. They are simply mechanical devices that are getting old. Eighty percent of drives will make it to year four and then they drop off at about 12% or more per year thereafter.
• The failure rate is essentially a U curve with most failures very early on or after the three-year mark.

So, What Does This Mean?
Simple. Back up your data. With a 1-in-10 chance that your hard drive dies in the first three years of its life and an accelerating chance of failure after that, there is no excuse for being caught without a solid backup. Ever.
Make a plan. Build equipment replacement into your budget at least every four years for most devices, with a 10% equipment-replacement expense built in over the 1st year and then again starting in year three.
As for that 10-year-old PC in the back room still running Windows XP and your most critical reporting software, the clock is ticking …

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