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Thread: Portable hard drive failures

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    Portable hard drive failures

    This is really pissing me off.

    This morning my 3 mth old WD 500gb drive failed.

    Prior to that I had a Seagate do the same thing after 7mths.

    It's not about losing data, I have a good back up system, it's more the point when these have failed I have to just smash them and thrown them in the bin even though they're under warranty. If I can't run them up to delete the files I'm not prepared to return a drive full of both my personal and business info for repair with the risk of 'whoever' to sharing it around with whoever else.

    I'm between a rock and a hard place.

    What suggestions are out there ?

    This is the main use,

    I store my outlook .pst data file on it, lightroom catalogue file and another couple of utilities then point either my work computer, or laptop at home to read the same current files. It stays on pretty well all day at work, then most of the evening at home, so maybe runs 16-18 hours a day, sometimes 24 if I leave it on overnight.

    It also has personal & business info and a buch of recent pics that I sort & fiddle with as I get time.

    I would have thought these are capable of running 24/7 without failing.

    Are the new solid state drives more reliable than a disc based one ?

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    I have all up 9 hard-drives running of my system, the main lot being a RAID5 setup that has over 10TB of storage capacity. I have not had a hard-drive fail for years (touch wood), but they can and do fail, and we all need to ensure we have a reliable back-up solution to deal with that.

    However, to have 2 drives fail in a short time, is either unlucky or there is another issue here. Do you have power-surge protection?

    the new SSD are basically really large memory cards, just like go in your camera. Experience shows they can fail too!
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    OK, you got to ask yourself why are they failing? For two to fail in a short period could be how they have been used or coincidence.

    Are they subject to any movement at all or any shocks? The most common hard drive failure is a head crash. This is where the head makes contact with the platter, which in end causes bad sectors and then failure. The easiest way to cause a head crash is to start moving the drive around while its in use (& subjecting it to hard knocks). While a portable drive does have additional protection, they are merely a standard hard drive in a casing with a bit more shock absortion.

    Of course, this may just simply be bad luck. Google did a white paper a few years ago on hard drive failures (Google actually used standard run of the mill PC hard drives in their servers, so they did a study on their failure rates). THey suggested that the half life for most hard drives was actually half of the manufactures rates, but they also did suggest that 3 years was a good life span. 3 and 7 months suggest bad luck or other reasons for the failures

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    I've been running my LaCie 1Tb drive (almost 24/7 - I turn off if thunderstorms are forecast) for over a year now with (touch wood) no problems. I use it to back up a whole lot of stuff including my pics.
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    That's the weird thing, I have a NAS on the home network with 4 drives, not a problem either.

    Same as work, I haven't had a failure in years.

    It's just the portable ones giving me grief.

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    Rick, 10TB.. ?? you've been shooting raw for a long time

    Hoffy, I can't say I'm rough with them, they get normal use of put in bag, take home plug in, but that's worth looking at.

    Anolog6, I haven't tried that brand. I'll look.

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    The big issue with Solid State storage, that in applications such as this, the technology is still in its infancy when compared to mechanical hard drives. While they obviously work, I don't think there is any real data on actual life spans of data stored on such devices.

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    there are different types of fail too... I had one loose its formatting and it was a simple case of using a proggy i DL to put the formatting back on there... there are plenty of data recovery programs out there too (I have had to use one).

    unfortunately there is no real way to deal with this problem tho.

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    hoffy, it wouldn't be for permanent storage, just the the convenience. the main storage is regular drives.

    The portable ones I mentioned, I'm talking USB powered, not portable and separately powered. I have a couple of those for backups no problems.

    Ving, I didn't bother trying to recover anything off the last one as it was all backed up anyway. Same as this one, all I've really lost is a few emails, not worth worrying about. If I cant trust it, I'll smash it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hoffy View Post
    The big issue with Solid State storage, that in applications such as this, the technology is still in its infancy when compared to mechanical hard drives. While they obviously work, I don't think there is any real data on actual life spans of data stored on such devices.
    There are a couple of problems with solid state drives...

    1. Capacity. Expensive per MB.
    2. Slow write performance.
    3. Wearing. Like other flash-based devices, they have a limited write-cycle lifetime.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Art Vandelay View Post
    If I cant trust it, I'll smash it.
    There are tools that reliably "scrub" data from a drive that will thwart all but the most determined CSI lab (and even then, I have my doubts). So it's not hard to guarantee that 99.9% of the population can't access data from your discarded drive.

    To comment on your failures... I would guess simply bad luck at this point. As others have said, you should get several years out of your drives at 24/7, at least.

    I had a couple of "failures" within a few weeks on two drives, the result of which was corrupt data. Turns out the most likely cause was a dodgy RAID BIOS on my motherboard. After the failures I gave up on RAIDing and moved the "failed" drives into external USB enclosures. Both ran fine for a couple of years, until one finally started freezing the whole computer during access for seconds at a time. I quickly bought a new drive and copied all the data across before tossing it. AFAIK the other one is still completely fine.

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    tcdev, thanks I would have thought a few years as well.


    Also, just thinking a bit more rationally now my crankiness has subsided, as the problem appears to be just the USB powered drives. Would one of my computers be causing this problem via dodgy power or something from the USB ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Art Vandelay View Post
    Also, just thinking a bit more rationally now my crankiness has subsided, as the problem appears to be just the USB powered drives. Would one of my computers be causing this problem via dodgy power or something from the USB ?
    The problem is, you can't rule out anything and your sample space of 2 is not sufficient to make a call on this.

    USB has had its share of problems in the past - dodgy software support in earlier versions of Windows, dodgy cheap-and-nasty peripheral hardware but as far as I can tell, those sorts of problems should be a thing of the past. With the amount of USB hardware available these days, you'd think that time and global competition has sorted the wheat from the chuff... but who knows?

    I've always wondered how close to the wire these portable USB drives actually run... the USB specification allows a device to draw up to 500mA...

    For backup I have a couple of mains-powered USB enclosures with 3.5" SATA drives inside. I've only used a portable (USB-powered) drive recently on my EEE-PC when traveling... and that's now sitting on the shelf now.

    Sorry I can't really offer any concrete answers.

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    I've got a couple of these I use with my laptop. One i've had for about 2 years and it's been dropped a couple of times and had no problems (probably will now ), also got the 500gb one that I have yet to use, hopefully it'll be ok.


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    Holy Moly !!

    Just checking around, a SSD portable drive with 'only' 128gb is around $400 + !

    Thanks to all.

    I guess I'll stick with a regular USB portable again.

    I'm confident they're not getting damaged in handling, but not so confident one of the computers may causing it.

    Time will tell. Surely I can't do a 3rd ?

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