Are external storage drives finally safe to use?

Discussion in 'backup, imaging & disk mgmt' started by acr1965, Jun 16, 2015.

  1. acr1965

    acr1965 Registered Member

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    I used a Western Digital external storage drive a few years back and it crashed on me. Everything was lost with no way of recovery. I still have the disk just in case a way to recover comes around some day. But anyway, are these external drives safe to use now? I don't want another crash like before. What's the best brand to use for these types of drives? I want a drive instead of (maybe in addition to) saving online or on dvd's because I want quick access to the stored data and info.

    Thanks for any suggestions.
     
  2. Minimalist

    Minimalist Registered Member

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    I'm using ten WD external disks and only had problem with one 2,5" that was carried around a lot and used extensively. Now I use thumb drive for that purpose.
    I store important data on at least two different HDDs. So in case one fails I still have one copy on another.
    I also use HDD docking station to quickly attach drives without enclosures.
     
  3. Robin A.

    Robin A. Registered Member

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    A regular 2.5 or 3.5 in. drive installed in a good enclosure.
     
  4. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

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    Well I have a shelf full of WD and Lacie drives that are dead. I've then switched to ruggedized IOmega's and haven't lost one yet. But since they went out of business I've switched to Transcend ruggedized drives and they are all going strong.

    Pete
     
  5. HAN

    HAN Registered Member

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  6. Kobayashi maru

    Kobayashi maru Registered Member

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    External drives have always been safe to use. The problem with external drives is usually heat. Any HDD in a closed case will heat up, but there were WD Black Edition in an external case with no provision for heat removal, and they expired in short order. Even in free air they'll overheat. It gave them a bad rep.

    Excusing usual failures, any HDD should last it's projected lifetime as long as it's cooled appropriately. Works for me.
     
  7. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    I too use multiple external drives to protect my data. Any drive, external or internal can fail and the only way to protect against this is to use multiples. That being said I have never had an external drive fail on me but in my PC using life have had 2 internal drives fail.
     
  8. Keatah

    Keatah Registered Member

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    It is important to have some kind of ventilation on an external 3.5 drive. Less so on a 2.5. Early Western (Dirt Clogger) Digital 1394 drives has no ventilation whatsoever. None. And the drives would cook themselves after about 1/2 hour of continued operation.

    If the case is oriented vertically like the MyBook stuff with passive cooling, you're ok. If it is a horizontally oriented design, then you'll need some sort of forced air flow from a fan.

    I consider all drives, internal and external, safe to use. As long as they are backed up.
     
  9. wtsinnc

    wtsinnc Registered Member

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    In my experience, external drives have always been safe to use provided;
    * the hard drive itself is of good quality
    * the enclosure is properly designed
    As has already been stated in this thread, heat is the big enemy.
    Since moving my external HDDs to good quality enclosures which provide fan cooling and good isolation from dust, zero failures, and I use 7200 rpm drives exclusively.
     
  10. Bryan J

    Bryan J Registered Member

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    I've had a Seagate 500GB that I bought in 2008 and haven't had a lick of issues with it. But I'm in need of more space and recently saw a WD Essentials 1TB for $56 on Amazon that I've been considering buying, except the fact I keep seeing so many people with stories like acr1965's keeps me from pulling the trigger.

    As of now, I've been relying on my cloud storage accounts and several flash drives. (1 Mushkin Ventura 64GB for my personal data and media, and a five pack of 8GB's I found for $12 that I use for client purposes)

    But I'm still looking at a couple of 1 and 2TBs that have been getting good reviews. Like wtsinnc, 7200rpm is a must have for me. One that I've been eyeing and hearing really good things about is the line of HGST Touro S drives. (all 7200's and very inexpensive, but my one hesitation is that they're a WD company ) :rolleyes:

    EDIT: I meant to add this in my post, I may just have to go with the Seagate 2TB Backup Plus Slim for less than $90. (especially with the free 200GB for OneDrive) Which would push my account over the 400GB mark....woot!!
    Source: http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-portable-hard-drive/
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 28, 2015
  11. Kobayashi maru

    Kobayashi maru Registered Member

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    All the system disks in this house are WD, with my own, a Raptor. My server are WD and Seagate. All my data backups are on 2 WD and one Seagate drive. My system backups are on a WD green. I'm not worried by the stories, because my own experience tells me otherwise.

    Now Samsung.....

    How the drive is treated is critical.
     
  12. Reality

    Reality Registered Member

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    I too like to only use 7200rpms. I'm finding with externals, Seagate and WD don't seem to be forthcoming on this spec. unless they're high end models. If it really doesn't matter, (as I've heard) then why list the speed for some models and not others?

    Having at least 2 backups is the way to go. The chances of 2 failing simultaneously would be extremely minimal I would think.
     
  13. roger_m

    roger_m Registered Member

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    Quite often when an external drive appears to be dead, the actual hard drive is still fine - it's just circuity inside the extranal case that has died and will be usable again if you remove it from its case and put it in a caddy.
     
  14. Keatah

    Keatah Registered Member

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    Don't make the same mistake Acr1965 did and you'll be ok.
     
  15. Raza0007

    Raza0007 Registered Member

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    I wanted to add my 2 cents to this discussion.

    The most common reason that I have noticed as to why some people have problems with their external drives failing on them is due to improper use by the user.

    When these external drives are in use i.e. actively reading and writing data, they are not supposed to be moved at that moment. Hard drives usually have, at the minimum, two platters spinning at over 5200 rpm when they are active. Not to mention two heads that are moving over the platters at this moment. If the users picks up the drive, moves it somehow, elbows it, drops it while the drive is busy, there is a great likelihood of the platters that are spinning at such high speeds to either rub against each other or hit the heads. This will surly ruin a drive.

    My advice is to make sure that when any external drive is busy or connected to a PC, it should not be moved at all. If there is an unavoidable reason to move it, either disconnect it and allow it to power down or move it gently and carefully from one location to the other. If you follow these steps, your external drive will likely last a long time.
     
  16. ArchiveX

    ArchiveX Registered Member

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    I also have had problems with External Drives.
    It is hardware after all...

    Therefore, I keep multiple copies of my files. ;)
     
  17. quietman

    quietman Registered Member

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    I've got to agree with all of that , Raza0007 ... basic physics tells all ... any kid who has played with a gyroscope could confirm the truth of it.

    On a slightly different note ...

    I always reckoned that the cloud storage companies could potentially provide us with some very good stats and benchmark numbers for long term HD use .

    But it's not always as clear as I imagined ...

    Backblaze and other players in the cloud storage business run ten thousand or more spinners , 24/7 , all year round, and they purchase in bulk ,
    and from many different drive makers .

    They publish some of their data online in the form of various graphs , but it's hard to find any reference to specific manufacturers vs. average device lifetimes.

    Anyway , I thought both of these articles were worth reading on this subject :-

    https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-long-do-disk-drives-last/

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/02/17/backblaze_how_not_to_evaluate_disk_reliability/
     
  18. Rolo42

    Rolo42 Registered Member

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    Platter are not going to rub against each other...unless one persuades them to with a hammer or some such. Additionally, the heads won't crash at a bump because the cushion of air caused by turbulence is stronger. IIRC, HDDs can sustain a 40G shock whilst running and 1000G when off (look at the spec sheet).

    I'll add to the aforementioned issue of heat, greater power cycles (harshest thing normally done), and cheap flunkie (green) drives. Your 5200/5900 drive is pretty much a 7200 RPM drive that didn't' make the cut ("binning"). Green drives tend to have a higher failure rate and it isn't because of greater friction, it's because of build quality.

    In spite of that, I have 5900 RPM drives only serving as backup drives for image and redundant for my irreplaceable files (cloud is for that). For the drive I really don't want to fail, I have a WD Black (My experience with Blues is a high failure rate relatively quickly).
     
  19. Raza0007

    Raza0007 Registered Member

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    I have to disagree on some of your statements.

    I recommend you open a hard drive and see for yourself how they are constructed. In most modern hard drives there are at least two platters stacked on on top of each other. See this pic here and here. For multi heads here and here

    These platters move at a minimum of 5200 RPM i.e 86.6 revolutions in one second!

    Think of them like a CD spinning inside a CD ROM. These platters are suspended in air from the center in order for them to spin, this makes them wobble, especially around the edges. In between the plates there are heads that move back and forth from the edge towards the center and then back. Visualize this entire assembly and see the above linked pictures and tell me how can these platters not hit one another? Of course they are designed not to up till a certain degree, but beyond that nothing can stop them from either hitting one another or the head.

    Modern hard drives have a sensor built in, that parks the heads and locks the platters if the drive detects a free fall or abrupt movement. My WD portable drive stops data transfers if I move the drive gently up and down while it is transferring data, until I put it back down. My WD portable desktop drive disconnects from PC, when it is disturbed by even a slightest movement. The sensor can help up till a certain level but beyond that damage is done and if the damage reaches a certain level, the drive will no longer function.

    Your comments about heat and built quality being the main reasons may be true for business users, who seldom have a need to move a drive, as the drives are usually stacked in a rack. I was of course talking about the home users who only connect their portable drives for short periods, so heat and build quality are not an issue here. These drives also tend to be more mobile then their business counterparts so tend to fail more often by improper use by the user than anything wrong with the drive itself.

    By the way, I have had a WD Blue 500 GB 5400 rpm drive in my laptop since 2008, it has been used almost 10-14 hrs daily since then. It has yet to fail on me. The reason probably being that I take very good care of it. So, what you are saying that all drives that are meant to be green, or 5200 rpm tend to have a high failure rate is not true. Please keep in mind that all such drives are marketed to the home users, a business user who puts these drives in 24/7 environment has no one to blame but themselves.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2015
  20. Raza0007

    Raza0007 Registered Member

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    It is probably because these cloud companies are not in a business to increase sales of a drive manufacturer by putting out glowing reviews. They have their own businesses to manage and run.

    I would also be very careful when reading such reviews because you may never know if the review was completely honest or paid for by the drive manufacturer.

    When I am trying to evaluate a drive, I usually go by the opinions of those I trust and who have previously used this drive themselves or by my own personal experience and research.

    I would recommend that you get in touch with the IT personal of these cloud storage companies and ask them of their opinions about the drives they have worked with. I am sure they will respond.
     
  21. Rolo42

    Rolo42 Registered Member

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  22. Raza0007

    Raza0007 Registered Member

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    Perhaps you have worked so long in professional environment that you have forgotten what actually matters to most home users. Tell a home user that your hard drive failed due to heat and mechanical defect due to prolonged use and he or she will say, "how come, as I only use this drive for 5-10 minutes a day". Most portable drives for most people fail due to mishandling of the drive when it was busy transferring data...whether you agree with it or not. My job is not to convince you, but put this information here, so that others may heed it and save their drives.
     
  23. Rolo42

    Rolo42 Registered Member

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    Which is it, heat, prolonged use, or mechanical defect?

    Here's a link to the WD Blue spec sheet: http://www.wdc.com/wdproducts/library/SpecSheet/ENG/2879-771437.pdf
    350G shock during operation, 1000G shock non-operating
    For a 1/2-lb drive, that'd be a 175-lb hit plus whatever would be absorbed by gaskets/washers/mounting hardware...enough to crack the plastic case I would think. Are most of your users orcs? How often has this happened to you anyway?

    Heat is MORE relevant to the home user as they are far less likely to have proper cooling; enterprises have racks with blowers and directed HVAC.

    I don't have to 'visualise', I've worked in those environments (to include physically smashing hard drives) until I retired. Some of these environments were tactical.
     
  24. Keatah

    Keatah Registered Member

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    Nonsense. It will take much more than a fall off a desk for the platters to even come close to touching each other. The momentum affects all the platters at the same time. And they would wobble slightly in parallel together. It would take forceful slamming on concrete to bend the platters out of shape. Of course if they are glass then they will shatter.

    Again, you are incorrect. There are no modern drives that lock the platters, not mechanically, not electronically, not by sensor.. Please research your facts before posting.

    Yes, they do retract heads. But think! If the platters were locked 7,200 RPM to 0 RPM in a fraction of a second, even a half second, where would that momentum go? To the case, and the housing would torque itself to where the drive would jump out of your hand or begin spinning at a dangerous rate. It could flip its housing, and rip cables. And if done in free-fall, theres even less "friction", just air, and it would bounce on the ground and cartwheel off in some arbitrary direction. So no.

    The normal clicking and despinning you hear upon power-down is not fast enough to stop the spinning platters before it hits the ground. As the platters despin, the motor becomes a generator, and this provides energy to allow the heads to be parked off-platter.

    Home users often use "removable" USB drives as secondary online storage and these drives are more prone to overheating because the cooling arrangement is often barely adequate by the manufacturer, and home users don't always consider heat as a factor - thus a cooling system should be robust and have reserve.

    A home bound drive may be used for backup purposes. And backup can take time, and running time = heat build up. A home drive should be built as same as an enterprise drive. It will see abuse, just of a different nature.

    In industry and professional applications, all this is thought out ahead of time. And specs can be run right up to the limit.
     
  25. Keatah

    Keatah Registered Member

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    Absolutely correct.


    A home user may not be cognizant of an overheating drive. I even got burned myself years ago, no pun intended! I had a WesternDigitial 1394 FireWire drive, 5400 RPM, 60GB. Totally sealed enclosure with no vent holes whatsoever. No cooling solution. After a couple of hours of the drive sitting in on my desk, running normally, feeding it a few files here and there, guess what? Drive died.

    I had trust and faith that WD had designed this correctly and considered basic usage. They did not. My faith in Western Digital was not to be. And there was not even a warning that the disk should be used for 10 minutes at a time without power off and cooldown. 10 minutes seemed to be a livable duty cycle.

    Another drive, after 2 replacements, was an 80GB 7200 RPM disk in a slightly larger enclosure. The enclosure had vents on the bottom. But nothing on top. And as a result there was no convective action. This disk reached 78C after 15 minutes of operation. I just gave up, I took the disk out and ran it open-air. I still have this drive today. And I still have one of the other hot running 60GB 5400 RPM disks, too. Open-air on it also.

    To add insult, the case had a provision for a fan, the cutouts, and markings, but it was not used. A cost-cutting measure to be sure. Also note that all these MyBooks rely on convection. There are vents at the top and bottom and back, but you can lower the temp a few degrees by placing rubber spacers on the bottom, thus allowing better air intake. Most consumers aren't going to bother with it.

    And some consumers are going to be backing up photo collections and mp3 collections, and conducting disk imaging. These are still demanding tasks that require good airflow.

    Had I been in a professional environment I would be looking at specs and airflow and all that. But in my role as a home user - no. It's a consumer product. You read the quickstart sheet and plug it in and use it.
     
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