Ongoing hard drive test shows HGST is the most reliable brand

One billion hours and counting.

If you want to strike up a debate among techies, talk about hard drives. You'll hear anecdotal evidence of why one brand is the greatest ever and why another brand flat out sucks, but buying (or not buying) a hard drive based on one person's experience isn't the greatest way to go about things.

That brings us to BackBlaze, a cloud backup and storage provider that routinely reports on HDD failure rates. BackBlaze just recently released stats for the first quarter of 2016, and once again it found that HGST is less likely to fail than any other brand.

BackBlaze's latest review analyzed 61,590 HDDs used to store encrypted customer data in its data center. That's 9.5 percent more HDDs than its last review, which looked at 56,224 drives. Drive capacities ranged from 1.5TB to 6TB from HGST, Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital.

Based on the number of failures that occured from January 1 to March 31, HGST's annual failure rate calculated anywhere from 0 percent to a high of 1.74 percent, with most drives sitting below 1 percent.

The others didn't fare as well. Segate's highest failure rate was 9.63 percent, slightly worse than Toshiba's high of 8.63 percent but not as bad as Western Digital's 12.57 percent. It's a little surprsing that WD and HGST are so far apart, considering that the former owns the latter.

What's more interesting is the cumulative data. After three years of service, HGST's older 3TB drives had an annualized failure rate of just 0.81 percent while its 4TB drives were a touch higher at 1.03 percent.

"The early HGST drives, especially the 2- and 3TB drives, have lasted a long time and have provided excellent service over the past several years. This 'time-in-service' currently outweighs the sheer quantity of Seagate 4 TB drives we have purchased and placed into service the last year or so," BlackBlaze notes.

If looking at all hard drives regardless of size, HGST is far and away the most reliable brand, according to BackBlaze's data. Check it out:

You'll notice the sample size is relatively small for WD and Toshiba compared to HGST and Seagate. The reason comes down to logistics.

"These days we need to purchase drives in reasonably large quantities, 5,000 to 10,000 at a time. We do this to keep the unit cost down and so we can reliably forecast our drive cost into the future. For Toshiba we have not been able to find their drives in sufficient quantities at a reasonable price. For WDC, we sometimes get offered a good price for the quantities we need, but before the deal gets done something goes sideways and the deal doesn’t happen. This has happened to us multiple times, as recently as last month," BackBlaze explains.

Since there are different drives, capacities, and models used, BackBlaze's results are open to scrutiny. However, it's also one of the biggest resources on the subject.

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