Sorry Seagate, but your hard drives suck

dead drive

The online backup provider Backblaze came up with some interesting statistics about the mortality rates of its hard drives last November, based on the 25,000 units it has in service. It’s study at the time found that hard drive failures were most common in the first 18 months, and after three years of use, but rather frustratingly the company refused to name names about which hard drives it was using.

Well, if you’re interested in how some of the most popular hard drives stack up against one another, fear not, for Backblaze has finally decided to name and shame the worst performers. In a blog post today, the company published details of the failure rates for 15 different consumer hard drives, and it paints a rather bleak picture for Seagate:

It’s fair to say that Seagate’s hard drives are horribly unreliable compared to those of rivals Hitachi and Western Digital, but that graphic only tells part of the story. Regarding some of its specific models, Backblaze found that Seagate’s Barracuda 1.5TB drives have an astonishing annual failure rate of more than 25 percent. The Barracuda’s 5,400-RPM cousin fares a little better with a failure rate of ‘just’ 10 percent, but it’s still pretty dismal when compared to the rest. Similar Hitachi drives average a failure rate of less than two percent in comparison.

The numbers could be slightly skewed, as only 10 percent of the company’s hard drives are WD models, but these performed pretty well with annual failure rates of between three and four percent. Backblaze notes that price is often the chief factor in its purchasing decisions, hence the low number of WD drives which usually cost a bit more than the others.

Also of note is that two particular hard drives were found to be so unreliable that Backblaze just ditched them altogether, without even measuring their failure rates. WD’s Green 3TB and Seagate’s Barracuda LP 2TB began “accumulating errors as soon as they are put into production”, said Backblaze, adding that vibration might be the cause of the problem.

The survival rate for the three brands in months offers a clearer picture of how they stack up:

Disappointingly, just under three quarters of Seagates drives remain operational after three years use. Surprisingly, a large portion of those failure occur after 18 to 24 months, a contradiction of the overall trend in Backblaze’s study. WD drives seem to have a bigger problem with infant mortality, while Hitachi drives die off at a very slow but steady pace.

It gets worse for Seagate too, as Backblaze says that it’s drives drop out of RAID arrays more frequently than the others. Admittedly, the consumer-grade drives it buys aren’t the most suitable for RAID environments, but that didn’t seem to impact the performance of Hitachi’s drives, which fell into “trouble” states just 0.01 percent of the time, compared to 0.17 percent for WD hard drives and 0.28 percent for Seagate’s.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from Backblaze’s data is that Seagate’s hard drives are far less reliable than those of Hitcahi and WD – we can only hope that the company takes note and does something to improve this rather disappointing performance.