Want a reliable hard drive? Splurge for 4TB, study of 40,000-plus HDDs finds


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Spending a little extra on a 4TB hard drive doesn't just grant you more storage. It might also give you better reliability.

That's one conclusion from cloud backup provider Backblaze, which has compiled a new list of its most reliable consumer hard drives. The firm, which produced a similar study last year, uses a mix of consumer drives from HGST, Seagate, and Western Digital, putting more than 40,000 drives under heavy use in its storage pods.

As with last year's study, HGST (formerly Hitachi, now a subsidiary of Western Digital) had the most reliable drives overall, with failure rates as low as 1.4 percent for its 4TB drives. Western Digital came in second place overall, followed by Seagate in third place.

backblazehdds Backblaze

HGST had the most reliable drives overall, but Seagate's 4 TB drives are cheaper.

But this year, Backblaze also found an interesting relationship between capacity and reliability. In the case of Seagate and HGST, their 4 TB drives were more reliable than any other storage option. Backblaze gave particular praise to the Seagate Desktop HDD.15, which hits a good sweet spot between reliability and price. (Backblaze didn't have enough 4 TB Western Digital drives in its storage pods to count toward testing, because they have generally been much more expensive than competing hard drives.)

That doesn't mean capacity is directly proportional to reliability. In the case of Seagate and HGST, 3TB drives were less reliable than 1.5TB drives, which weren't as reliable as 4TB drives. Seagate's 3TB drives performed especially poorly, with failure rates as 40 percent. Western Digital's 6TB drives have done fairly well so far, but Backblaze says it still needs to collect more data as it phases in this larger drives.

Why this matters: As my colleague Ian Paul pointed out last year, Backblaze is putting its drives through much more rigorous use than the average consumer, so you're unlikely to see the failure rates that Backblaze does. And in some cases, drives may have consumer-facing features (such as a power-saving mode) that aren't conducive to use in a commercial cloud storage environment. Still, the list provides a sense of which hard drives can withstand heavy use, and makes a case for spending a little more on a higher-capacity drive.

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