Hard drive failure is a serious thing. You stand to lose all internal data and if you haven’t backed up, that could be a small disaster unto itself.
The truth of the matter is, hard drives do two things: 1. They store data; and 2. They fail. In the case of the latter, it’s not a question of “if” it will happen – it’s more a case of “when”.
The average life of a hard drive is about six years, give or take. Fortunately, there are ways to prolong the life of your drive, but first, it’s important to understand why they fail.
Solid state (SSD) vs. hard disk drives (HDD)
You could say that a solid-state drive (SSD) is a super-sized, more sophisticated version of a memory stick. As its description states, it has no moving parts. In this type of drive, information is stored in microchips. In the case of hard disk drives (HDD), a mechanical arm with a read/write head moves over a spinning disk to locate and deposit information.
As with anything that has moving parts, the HDD is more prone to failure. The more the disk spins, the harder it works, the greater the potential for failure.
Though SSDs generally deliver better performance, they are far from being immune to failure. The most common reason for SSD failure comes down to simple wear and tear: the process of writing over and erasing data on the drive (program/erase, or P/E) exerts wear on the drive. SSDs have a finite P/E cycle, meaning that after X number of cycles it will fail. As time goes by and the drive fills with data, it will become slower and slower until it starts to become unreliable.
Modern technologies have wear-leveling algorithms that do prolong the life of an SSD, but the endurance rating tells the whole story. Endurance ratings are defined in TBW (terabytes written) or DWPD (drive writes per day). If your endurance rating is 220TBW, it means that after 220 terabytes have been written to the drive, it has reached the end of its intended lifecycle.
Consumer vs. enterprise-grade drives
Enterprise-grade drives are built for more intensive use. The primary difference is that their endurance ratings are much higher, but you will pay for it. If your business uses software with high write loads, a more durable drive is highly desirable.
Enterprise-grade drives generally can withstand higher heat and are designed to be on 24 hours a day. Their components are of higher quality and will be more durable. Each unit will have been tested thoroughly prior to being deployed and will come with better warranties and support packages than their consumer counterparts.
Extending the life of your hard drives
So, now that we know why hard drives fail, let’s look at some ways you can extend that life and get the most out of your investment.
1. Avoid physical damage and vibration
Vibration, impact, or any disturbance, especially when the disk is spinning, can cause a malfunction, damage, or a complete failure. Avoid any unnecessary movement wh
en the computer is powered up and functioning.
2. Avoid exposure to high heat
Overheating is one of the most common issues that contribute to drive failure. This can arise from extreme weather, inadequate ventilation, or it can result from dust buildup in the computer’s vents. Always ensure your computer rooms are properly ventilated and that you make a habit of removing all dust buildup to keep the fans working as they should.
3. Defragment your drives
Not in itself a cause of disk failure, fragmentation will cause your drives to work harder, suffer wear and tear, and will eventually become damaged. Occasional defragmentation of your drives will prolong their life but resist the urge to do it too often. For best results, defrag only when your drive is between 5-10% fragmented.
4. Don’t power on and off too frequently
Booting up and shutting down is the single biggest wear and tear on your hard drive. To avoid the excessive stress, put your computers in sleep mode if you’re away from it overnight or for part of the day. Save your power-down for times when you will not be using it for a few days.
If you have any lingering questions about what you can do to extend the life of your hard drives, speak to one of the IT experts at Greenlight. We are always happy to talk tech and would love to know how we can help.