Hard Drive Buyer's Guide-According to me
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I have been meaning to post a page like this for a couple of years now. Lots of people have asked me in the past, what do you think about such and such a brand, or what would you recommend?
Well, let's answer both those questions! Click on the hyperlinks below to go to that particular section.


Seagate

One of the two major drive manufacturers. And I say avoid most anything they make, because it seems as though Seagate drives fail much more often than they should.

There are a couple of potential reasons for this. The first of which is a more lax quality-control, or the fact that the drives could well be made of pressed garbage if you want to be less charitable. It seems that a number of drives that have failed in my possession should never have been allowed to reach the store shelves.

Another reason could be the fact that Seagate drives use both a 1TB-per-platter scheme, as well as the new SMR or "Shingled Magnetic Recording" scheme. Both of which bring about the same problems: you need to have a very accurate seeking mechanism in order to optimally use this new technology. It's like MFM vs RLL drives all over again.
Unlike running MFM drives on RLL, however, it seems that these voice-coil drives can actually re-seek in the event that they miss the track they want. However, this means that, if the seek isn't accurate and the drive needs to re-position, it puts more wear on the seeking mechanism, which can result in a much sooner breakdown.

The last reason which is heat. Heat is the mortal enemy of any moving medium; if it's hotter, the disc will expand, the opposite happening in cooler weather. I'm not sure of the actual numbers, but my own tests show that Seagates run hotter than other drives. In my case, by almost 5 or 6 degrees, which might not seem like much, but it is HUGE! The effect of the expansion and contraction means that the tracks on the platters shift, which results in alot more seek errors and means that the head has to re-position, producing more wear and more heat in a never-ending cycle.

The one thing Seagates have going for them is their reliable SMART data. You will know when a Seagate drive is about to fail LOOOONG before it's too late. Trust me, I've replaced well over 100 drives in the last six years.

I have bought 10 Seagate laptop drives (not including the one SSHD I bought recently) in the last six years, both 5400.6 and 7200.4 types, some for my own use, some for other people. All 10 have failed, 4 of the replacements have failed, three replacement replacements have died, and one of the third-generation replacements has also died, with another one on it's way out. That is an atrocious failure rate.
On the desktop side, however, I have had more luck with stuff I've bought. I have purchased for my own use 3 desktop drives, one a 2TB ST2000DM001, and two 80GB refurbished SATA drives. The 2TB drive has been running perfectly fine (although I still don't trust it, several months later), but one of the 80 gig drives did fail. It's replacement (which I did in-store, thanks Seagate!) has been running perfectly as well.
But still, I can't even BEGIN to count the number of 7200.9, 7200.10, 7200.12 and especially 7200.11 drives that I have had to replace over the last six years.

And then there's the SSHD, which has also been running just fine (albeit with very little use).

I guess what I really want to say is, unless you want a cheap drive as a stop-gap solution, don't bother and buy something else. Seagate only provides a 2 year warranty on their desktop stuff, while last I knew they still had 5 years on the laptop drives, so they don't even seem to be that confident in their stuff. A hard drive should be able to last more than two years, come on.


Western Digital

Unlike Seagate above, WD has been an absolutely rock-solid brand for me. I have bought countless drives for others, recommended it to others, and bought six for myself. No one has complained, and I only had to replace a single drive in six years. Contrast to Seagate, with well over ten replacements over six years.

The one drive that ever gave me problems was a WD Elements 500GB drive. I had it replaced under warranty once, and then the replacement proceeded to fail a month later. At that point I had enough, because the thing was dreadfully unreliable anyways; constantly spinning down and clicking, it would disappear randomly and you would have to plug it into a different port to get it back, things like that.

Overall I would highly recommend WD drives, but WD, of course, offers five different types of drives. Below are my thoughs of each drive type:

WD Green

Only use these for backup drives. They are slow as all get-out. But they are reliable, again never had one fail.

WD Blue

Rock solid, these are what the older Caviar SE drives became. A little on the slower side, but still plenty fast and reliable enough.

WD Black

These drives are the fastest of any drive I have tested. Definitely pick one up if the price is right.

WD Red

These are meant for NAS/server applications, so consumers might want to get something else. I dealt with a few of them before, and while there are faster things out there, the red drives do still work just fine, and are reliable.

WD Purple

No experience with these, but they are intended for security/DVR use.


IBM/Hitachi

IBM doesn't make drives anymore, but any IDE IBM drives I would not touch with a ten foot pole unless they are free. Their SCSI stuff is fine, but very old at this point.

I'm not sure if Hitachi makes drives anymore either, but despite many negative reviews out there, I haven't had a problem with their drives at all, both IDE and SATA.


Toshiba

Not much to say here. Their older stuff has been a hit or miss with me, as has their modern stuff. I've retired a number of their older drives, and I had a Toshiba laptop that had it's 250GB Toshiba replaced seven (!!!) times under warranty, but I have still got some older Toshiba drives running, and I have three Toshiba drives on my main system running without any problems.


Other Manufacturers

Note that I don't think any of these guys produce drives anymore.

Samsung

Amazing drives. Not a single one has failed, except for one that was dropped by a co-worker.

Maxtor

Rather surprisingly, I have had zero Maxtor drives fail, except for one of the DiamondCrash drives. However, I have several IDE drives and one SATA drive, all of which are working perfectly.

Fujitsu

No real experience.


So that's it, I hope that was helpful, and didn't just serve as an outlet for my rant about Seagate drives.

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