what do you think it the most reliable ext hard drive?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by John Di Leo, Feb 3, 2018.

  1. My main external hard drive, used for music and photos, may be acting up. I say this because Carbon Copy Cloner has started giving error messages and failing at backing up, AND when I tried to copy files from it to another external hard drive it took nearly 2 days to accomplish because of failures to transfer for various reasons, most recently input/output error. Often the transfer freezes my system (iMac 27" 2017 Sierra) and wants the whole machine to itself. The drive in question is a 2Tb GTech from late 2014. I have run it through Disk Utility, it checks out, but problems still happen. If it is failing, and I think it is at my peril that I ignore these signs, if it is, then this is the second G-Tech drive failure I've had-out of 2 G Techs. My best experience has been with LaCie--3 externals without a failure, Seagate-2 without a failure and WD (who I think makes G-Tech) 2 without a failure--excluding internal drives which have failed.
    With my good experience with LaCie I am likely to get another, but what has been your go-to reliable drive brand over the years? I realize hard drives fail, a reality of life, and as an added precaution I back up to the Google Cloud.
    Another bit of info, at some point OS X gave me a message saying that the drive was failing, but that files could still be copied--only showed me that once, and did not write down the error code. I did finally get the transfer done to a cleaned and formatted Seagate 4Tb
  2. All hard drives fail, whether in continuous use or dead storage. The magnetic tracks are continually refreshed while in service, and tend to deteriorate after 3 or more years off line. I have about 15 drives on line at any one time, and experience about one drive failure per year. Solid state drives have no moving parts, but have a finite life with regard to the number or write/erase cycles.

    The best external drive depends on the application. For a workstation at home, I recommend a RAID of some sort, level 2 or higher, with at least 4 TB if you have a lot of photos and videos. My personal preference is a Drobo drive with a Thunderbolt port for speed (typically >500 MB/s), or USB3 (300 MB/s). Drobo drives have many of advantages of a RAID2, but allows drives to be hot swapped and rebuilt automatically without interrupting service. If you share data between two or more computers, or need access away from home, then a network drive might be a good choice. The speed of a network drive is pretty good if it is directly connected to the computer (300+ MB/s), but through a broadband router can be extremely slow (<20 MB/s).

    On the road, I use a 1 TB SSD for temporary storage. It's tiny, fast and completely shockproof. I transfer images from memory cards to this drive. I also use it for live, multitrack recording.

    For long-term storage, I use Blu-Ray discs. Early backups are nearly 10 years old now, and remain readable. My backups on DVD go back nearly 20 years, and are also readable. Drives to read these discs will probably go out of print before the discs themselves fail. To counter that event, it's best to make archival prints, which are good as long as anyone who cares has eyes.
  3. My "go to" disk drives are Western Digital Black drives. For external use I put them in a Vantec enclosure, i.e.. build my own external drives. Because I am using WD's top of the line drives, they cost more than the ready made ones, but I think it's worth it.

    But as Ed noted, all drives will eventually fail. Have good backups.
  4. right as you both say, they all fail, but timing is everything. I checked out the DROBOs and they are too pricey and likely more than what I need. Looking at the WD Blacks...
    Yes, blackups are essential, and I have them.
  5. I have had the best luck with Western Digital drives, and of those, the Black are the most reliable. I think Samsung makes the best SSDs. I have mostly standardized on Sandisk CF and SD cards, but in fast cards, Sony seem to have the best performance and the lowest price.

    RAIDs give you redundancy in case one drive fails. If a drive fails, you must stripe and populate the replacement, which can take a day or more. Drobo gives you safety through redundancy, and takes a long time to install a replacement drive, but you can use it in the meantime. With a RAID, rebuilding a drive is downtime.
  6. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Reliability isn't something that is measured anecdotally. Reliability is a statistical measure and the only way to find out what drives are more reliable is to loot at testing with reasonable quantities of drives. Anything else is useless.

    The most available data is from Backblaze, most recent report is available here.
    WJT and Jochen like this.
  7. I've had the famous Seagate SATA drive not working which was fixed by a updated firmware. I then had the drive replaced for me. I also had a failed WD Black SATA. I sold my WD Black replacement and go ta WD Blue and I have my Seagate Barrucuddas. To me it's hard drives are not that reliable so I have multiple backups.

    1x SSD for boot.
    1x HDD for data.
    I then have a drive internal just for backup. Automated daily backups.
    2 in a drawer and 1 in a safe deposit box.

    I didn't use RAID. Good for downtime. But it doesn't help if the motherboard for eg .. breaks. I have my boot on one and a data on a 2nd drive. So the data drive can be read in my laptop or another computer. Sure, I could of had, 1x boot, 1x data and maybe I need 2 more for the RAID and perhaps a RAID card. Too complicated. Then, if the RAID controller breaks I am out of luck. So I prefer software synching so I can just drag my drive out and read it in another computer, or just drag one of the drives out of my drawer.
  8. While drives today are more reliable that they were 30 years ago, they are still a mechanical device.
    There is an old saying "it is not IF your drive will fail, it is WHEN your drive will fail."
    • If you are lucky, you will miss the bullet
    • If you are not lucky, you may get hit more than once. I've been hit with two serious drive failures, so far. And I learned the value of having a current backup.
    If you start having issues with a drive, you should make sure you have a GOOD backup and start plans to replace the drive ASAP. Because you don't know when the drive will hard fail, tomorrow or next week or next month. Even worse is if the drives starts to have soft failures, where files become corrupted.

    Knowing that there is a disk rotating at 7,000 rpm with a head floating a VERY SMALL distance above it, scares me, when watching people walk about with a running laptop, or moving a running external drive. That there are not more drive failures given how bad people treat the drives, is a "thumbs up" to the drive engineers.

    If you use RAID, you really need to know and understand what it is and what it isn't. The pros/cons of the different RAID levels. And the specifics of YOUR RAID setup.
    • I ran into one person that complained that his RAID did not protect him, when he accidentally deleted a file. He did not understand that when he hit [delete], the file was deleted from BOTH drives in the mirrored RAID. He confused RAID with backup, and thought the deleted file was still available on the other drive.
    • Which RAID level you choose to implement (0,1,5,10), requires serious thought of the trade-off/pro/con of each RAID level.
    • If you have a RAID-0, striped no parity drive (to save the cost of the parity drive or to have the greatest capacity of the array), if you loose a drive, you have to restore the array from your backup. Do you have a current backup? And you cannot use the array until it has been restored. BTW, a RAID-5 array (striped with parity) that has lost one drive is in this condition, RAID-0.
    • Some systems will begin and do the RAID rebuild, while the system is running and on-line. Granted slower than if it was off-line.
    • Some controllers and RAID enclosures will allow hot swapping, to remove the bad drive and install a new drive. Others require a power down to swap drives. Do you have a replacement drive, or do you have to go out and buy one? Then we get into what specific drive do you need?
    • Do you have a mechanism to monitor the controller/OS to know if a drive in the array has failed?
      • In one of my prior companies, my servers would send me a pager message if there was a drive failure of one of the RAID drives. But that paging mechanism had to be designed, software purchased and configured.
    • Some controllers and OS won't tell you that a drive has failed. You only find out when you boot the computer, during the boot process and the RAID controller find and reports one of the drives down. How long has that drive been down? And you have to pay attention to the boot process for those messages, not start the boot and walk away, like some people that I've seen do, never looking at the boot messages.
      • I discovered a drive failure in one of the finance servers, because I was watching the boot messages. The IT guy had turned on the server then walked away to turn on the other servers, the same way; never watching/reading the boot messages. How long had that drive been dead; days, weeks, months ???? So instead of RAID-5 (striped with parity) it was in RAID-0 mode (striped with NO parity). My boss was NOT happy when I told her that. One nail in the IT coffin.
    • etc. etc.
    BTW, The IT director at a company that I worked for, laid-off/fired the guy doing the server backups. But he did not replace him, nor did he have any of the other IT guys do the backups. So for one month, there were NO BACKUPS being taken of ANY of the company's servers. And this situation was only discovered by accident. Man, talk about loosing respect for the IT department. This was the third, most serious and last nail in the IT coffin. After that incident, we in Finance did not give IT control over our new servers, which until then we had planned to hand over to IT. I became the Finance server admin, and I owned the servers; doing the daily on-line and monthly off-line backups, until I left the company.
  9. Backblaze, my Cloud storage provider, with many petabytes of storage, publishes their reliability experience. Apparently, no drive is totally reliable.

    I believe in a simple backup strategy. On the road, I back-up to a 2-TB SSD Samsung drive and the HD on my laptop. At home, put all work on a 16-TB WD external HD.

    BB covers unlimited backup of any drive connected to one computer, excluding NAS drives.

    Hmm, thought that I posted this yesterday. Oh well...
  10. Several cloud servers have shut down unexpectedly, often with little time to retrieve your files. Even for temporary storage on the road, they are too slow to be of much use. How long would it take to upload the contents of a single 64 GB card at hotel speeds?
  11. Cloud backup is only good for cold storage. If you have another convenient way to back-up offsite, for $50 or less annually, then go for it.

    With Backblaze I backed up 3-TB in about 3-weeks.

    In hotels, I use my SSD and my laptop's HD and accept the risk that both could be lost before I get home.
  12. And how!
    Be sure to also read the explanations and text accompanying the disk failure table in the linked to study. Sample size is critical. And if the sample size is small, little significance is represented by a given failure number.
  13. Sample size depend on parameters of the sampling; population size, how much confidence you want in the results, etc.
    This was stuff I did in college too many years ago, and forgot most of it.

    Then is the selection of the sample items (drives) a statistical sample or non-stat sample? Ideally, it should be a stat sample.
  14. In the last 10 years or so, I have had no WD Black drives fail. Failures have occurred in WD Red, Green and drives from other manufacturers, Statistical methods for establishing mean time between failures (MTBF) are well established. Interpretation of the curves is not intuitive. Some drives fail early, others late. The data is represented as a probability curve, not a certainty curve (if such a thing exists).

    I am not relying on statistics in this forum, merely anecdotal experiences. That said, if the data is distributed across two or more drives and recoverable if one fails, the odds you lose data from drive failure is vanishingly small. This says nothing about fires, accidents and natural disasters.
  15. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Anecdotal data is useless when it comes to reliability.
  16. Appreciate all the insight. I agree that anecdotal experiences do not replace hard testing in a lab, but still experience is the best teacher and bad experience is the best of all. The backblaze site is helpful, but LaCie drives are not included, unless I am missing them?
    This statement caught my attention:
    "The HGST/Hitachi 4 TB models delivered sub 1.0% failure rates for each of the three years. Amazing."
    B&H shows two of their 4tb drives, one with double the MTBF rates (at nearly twice the price). But these are from the company that makes G-Tech. My prev (anecdotal) experience with G-Tech make me not so ready to jump at the brand for a third time.
    an ancillary question. My iMac is 2017 and has Thunderbolt 3. Is there any real advantage to having a cable that is Thunderbolt 3 to thunderbolt 3, ie without any adapter along the way? Looking at enclosures, there are different plugs. Is this something to consider?
    I don't think I want to go RAID. My backup system has been working fine, until this drive suggested it was about to give up the ghost. I did after many attempts, get it copied though, and that is in addition to my current backups and much on the google cloud--IOW I am not in danger of losing anything.

    Thanks for all the responses, the choices can be a bit daunting
  17. Don't worry too much about it. There are so many drives available now - smaller, higher capacity, looking good. Currently I love those colorful mobile WD 4tbs selling for about $100 or so at Best Buy. Get a couple and backup on both. What do you think?

    That said, I have had experience with various brands of external drives in the past. The only one that conked out on me was because I dropped it - at least once or twice. Some endured dropping very well (haha). I am more troubled by the many different, confusing cables and very often it took a while to figure out which was for which, if at all. What a pain. Even Drobo, which was once highly revered, is not necessary nor is it convenient compared to my new mobiles. It's all good. No need for sleepless nights. ;)
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2018
  18. I get the same drive as Mary, from Costco, every 3 months.
    Then I take a FULL backup of my data dive, and put the drive in my safe deposit box.

    I will take another backup if I do something major
    • Like close the books and do the financials for the year
    • Or a major photo gig. I do the backup is after I upload the pix from the cards to the computer. Then I take another backup again after editing.
  19. I use externals, mostly OWC, some G-Tech. Have had failures of both brands, either the drive or the circuitry in the housing. Lately I've been buying HDDs and re-loading the housings with fresh/larger drives.
    BTW, LaCie does not make drives. Like most 3rd party external drive marketers (G-Tech, OWC, Sony, etc), they do not volunteer to tell you what drive they have selected to place in the housing. Of course, it's easy to find out once you have the unit, but some (OWC, at least) prohibit you from opening the housing w/o voiding the warranty.
    G-Tech was a arm of Hitachi when they started. I don't know if WD got the G-Tech product line when they bought Hitachi's HDD division a few years back.
  20. I keep my active projects on bare hard drives, mounted in a 5 disk box which doesn't need mounts. The disks just slide into place and are held by a latching door. My main business is audio/vidual production, and these drives serve as my working memory. I treat them as consumables rather than erase or reformat them. That saves time, minimizes fragmentation, and serves as a readily accessible archive. The average residence time is between 2 and 3 years, but they run 24/7 during that time. When I add a new drive, the oldest drive is stored in a plastic box designed to hold a hard drive safely.

    The only things I keep on Drobo drives are things like photos and business records, which require long-term storage. A Drobo notifies you if a drive fails, and you can swap it out without powering down. Recovery is fully automatic, but takes about 16 hours for a 4 TB drive. You can continue to use the Drobo during recovery operations. Drobo drives can be agonizingly slow via USB, but I get 300 MB/s via Thunderbolt and 100 MB/s via gigabit ethernet.

Share This Page