Disk drives suck less than they did a couple of years ago. Which is nice

Cloud backup bod Backblaze: Failure rates fell for high-cap spinners

disk head crash
It's happening less often

Just 139 out of 10,000 12TB Seagate drives fail a year, and Western Digital's HGST brand has an even better rate of 51 in 10,000, according to cloud backup service provider Backblaze, which has 104,778 drives spinning in its data centre.

It's not an exhaustive study; the firm listed just four brands in its estate, with models ranging from older ones with 3TB of capacity to newer 12TB drives and some 14TB drives from Toshiba. However, it does provide some data points for the curious.

It has 31,146 Seagate 12TB disks and 1,278 HGST 12TB spinners. The backup firm claimed the best ever drives it purchased were 45 Toshiba 5TB units, none of which had failed. But of course the sample size of 45 is too small for a valid annualised failure rate (AFR).

Backblaze said: "None of the 45 Toshiba 5TB drives (model MD04ABA500V) have failed since Q2 2016. While the drive count is small, that's still a pretty good run."

The next best is a Seagate 10TB drive with a 0.33 per cent AFR from a population of 1,210 drives. That means 33 out of a batch of 10,000 would fail each year.

MFG Model Drive size Drive count Drive days Failures Annualised failure rate
HGST HDS5C4040ALE 4TB 50 23,069 1 1.58%
HGST HMS5C4040ALE640 4TB 4,704 1,801,804 24 0.49%
HGST HMS5C4040BLE640 4TB 14,550 5,435,466 54 0.36%
Seagate ST4000DM000 4TB 23,236 9,961,154 581 2.13%
Toshiba MD04ABA400V 4TB 145 52,850 1 0.69%
Toshiba MD04ABA500V 5TB 45 16,335 0 0%
Seagate ST4000DM00 6TB 1,524 632,412 17 0.98%
WDC WD60EFRX 6TB 383 152,703 9 2.15%
HGST HUH728080ALE600 8TB 1,045 378,238 7 0.68%
Seagate ST8000DM002 8TB 9,874 3,589,822 92 0.94%
Seagate ST8000NM0055 8TB 14,383 5,224,893 126 0.88%
Seagate ST10000NM0086 10TB 1,210 442,260 4 0.33%
HGST HUH721212ALN604 12TB 1,278 71,079 1 0.51%
Seagate ST12000NM0007 12TB 31,146 7,768,206 296 1.39%
Toshiba MG07ACA14TA 14TB 1,205 108,536 9 3.03%
    Totals 104,778 35,658,927 1,222 (average) 1.25%

Backblaze has 1,205 Toshiba MG07 14TB drives, first announced in December 2017. Their AFR calculated by Backblaze is 3.03 per cent; 303 drives out of 10,000 would fail.

It sounds bad compared to the Seagate and HGST 12TB drives, but HDDs tend to fail early in their lifecycle. Those that don't carry on running well for a long time. Backblaze said: "The initial AFR is just over 3 per cent, which is similar to the other new models and we would expect the AFR to drop over time as the drives settle in."

It added: "The AFR for 2018 for all drive models was just 1.25 per cent, well below the rates from previous years." In 2016 the average AFR was 1.95 per cent, and it was 1.77 per cent in 2017. ®

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