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Drive failure rates (was Re: DO NOT BUY Western Digital "Green" Drives (also present in WD "Elements" external USB cases))

On Sun, Sep 4, 2011 at 8:41 PM, <owens@netptc.net> wrote:
----- Original Message -----
Sent: 9/4/2011 6:26:48 PM
Subject: Re: DO NOT BUY Western Digital "Green" Drives (also present in WD "Elements" external USB cases)

On Sun, 04 Sep 2011 13:27:51 -0400
Doug <dmcgarrett@optonline.net> wrote:

Hello Doug,

> It's been a few years since I retired, but I remember the IT guys
> replacing a _lot_ of Western Digital drives. I guess the

In the same vein, I remember lots of Seagate drives being replaced. For
a while the company had a nickname of Seacrate. Possibly because that's
what most of their gear was worth at the time; Crating up, and chucking
in the sea.

At various times, products from certain companies go through a bad
time. Usually, it can be attributed to some factor or other. For
example, one drive manufacturer's drives started failing prematurely
because the wrong type of bearing oil had been used. Such issues often
go unnoticed until quite large numbers of faulty products are in use.
The offending company earns a bad reputation until the next company comes
along and makes a cock-up and everyone forgets about the first one.

WD, Seagate, and just about every other drive manufacturer has gone
through these cycles. It's nothing new, and will continue for years to

Regards _
/ ) "The blindingly obvious is
/ _)rad never immediately apparent"
The man in a tracksuit attacks me
I Predict A Riot - Kaiser Chiefs

The two most recent studies (one based on Google hardware and one from Carnegie-Mellon) provide two interesting insights:

1.  While there does not appear to be a strong correlation between failures and manufacturers there is a strong correlation between drive models from a manufacturer and failures.  The inference is that WD may not be failure-prone but some WD products are failure-prone.

2.  There is not a strong dependency between drive temperature and failures.

This is now a different topic than the original one on green drives.

Here is a study by google on their drive failure rates. 
This is from a few years ago, but I believe the correlations would hold true today:


The failure rate rises at the three year mark under higher temperatures.  This is
consistent with how I understood the relationship between temperature and
electronics.  It doesn't kill it immediately, but stresses the components and
shortens the lifespan.

For some reason, there is more failure in low temperatures and young drives.
I suspect there is another variable in there they have not isolated, such as
low humidity and static electricity, or vibration, etc. - something that would
have been common to the drives operating in a colder data centre.

There is also this 2007 study, showing the failure rates are much higher than the theoretical
number thrown out by drive manufacturers:


However it is based on consumer returns, not actual verified bad disks.
Some of the responses from manufacturers in that article seem to want
the blame offloaded to the customer.

A comment from 2010 following the article says that at the current low prices for
drives, they are at a commodity level.  Essentially he is saying there is no room
for quality to be built in with $60 hard drives, and you should stock drives
the way bakers stock bags of flour.

Personally, I've seen an overall increase in electronics failures straight off the shelf.
Indications are that motherboard makers, flash memory makers, etc.,
do not test or burn in the newly manufactured equipment to pull out the usual
small percentage of manufacturing flaws.  With cheap electronics, they can't
afford to QA the final product - it is cheaper for the customer to test it for
them and RMA it.

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