How Often Do External Hard Drives Fail? Expert Guide

Post Disclaimer

We independently review everything we recommend. The information is provided by How Often Do External Hard Drives Fail? Expert Guide and while we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, we may earn a commission if you buy something through links on our post. Learn more

Customers frequently question me How Long Will My External Hard Drive Last? As a Customer Support Technician for hard disc tool technologies. The next logical question is How Often Do External Hard Drives Fail? or When Should I Expect My Hard Drive To Fail?

How long can you expect a standard hard disc to last, whether it’s external or internal? The answers aren’t entirely obvious, but there is a consensus.

Often Do External Hard Drives Fail

How Often Do External Hard Drives Fail?

According to their research, hard drives fail at a rate of 5.1% annually in the first year and a half. The failure rate drops to 1.4% in the subsequent year and a half. However, the failure rate increases to 11.8 percent annually after three years.

Due to a manufacturing error, it could fail significantly earlier than expected. Maybe even a decade or two. Between the two extremes, nothing is impossible.

HDDs have a typical lifespan of three to five years with normal use. At least one manufacturer thinks so based on the guarantee terms they provide. However, it doesn’t imply that an HDD will expire at the end of that length of time.

A few real-world tests (particularly from storage provider servers like cloud storage providers) have some statistical data available. Within the first month of use, drives with manufacturing flaws are more likely to fail (between 10 percent to 20 percent of drives tend to fail at this point).

Until it reaches three years old, the failure rate lowers to near zero percent, at which point roughly 10% of the remaining drives begin to fail. A quarter of the original drives appear to have failed within the first five years, and the percentage is continuously increasing.

So long as the drives aren’t continually being used for external and internal storage. As a result, answering questions like this one becomes much more challenging. The first thing to remember while using a personal hard drive is that it is rarely used constantly, even if it is plugged in and powered.

For the most part, it’s housed in the computer’s housing, rarely moving (and more importantly, bumped). Lastly, an internal drive is more likely to be effectively ventilated than an external one, which means that it will not overheat during normal operation.

For externals, transportation is the most common cause of failure. It is extremely vulnerable to mechanical failure when a hard drive is hit hard. If you drop one while walking, there’s a good probability it’s broken. Inadvertent knocks have a far greater statistical probability of triggering failure than overheating and wear and tear from normal operation.

Although some externals (e.g., the rugged range of a LaCie product) are designed to withstand drops and vibrations, these tend to have even worse ventilation, which results in even higher heat gains.

In other words, it makes sense if the drive is going to be in continual motion and only be plugged in for brief periods. If you use it occasionally but leave it plugged in nearly all the time, heat may be an issue.

This indicates that an external’s predicted lifespan varies considerably more than an internal’s. That is to say; the failure rate is more or less consistent. Over the years, the rate has been steadily increasing. Of course, when you have a large number of drives, such statistical expectations are relevant. If you only have one (or a few) drive, you’re out of luck if the one you have fails.

Unfortunately, the dropping scenario offers no warning – if you drop it, it’s almost certain to fail without notice. There’s a significant probability that evidence will be available within a short period if you continue to use it in this manner.

When you run the SMART tests and observe how many sectors have turned “poor” and where the data has been transferred, you’ll have proof. You’ve got anything from a day to a month before the drive is utterly untrustworthy if it begins to indicate problems.

Your best bet is to regularly verify the SMART test results (as Nigel Arnot suggests). As a result, you’d at least have a sense of what was to come. You’d have enough time to back up your data to another drive before the crash occurs. It won’t catch everything, but you’ll have a better chance of spotting problems before they become catastrophic.

Make sure you have several copies of any data you don’t want to lose. Make sure you have a robust backup strategy in place. Just in case something happens to one of your external hard drives, you should always keep at least two current copies available.

I aim to maintain at least three copies running, none more than two days old at all times. It may not always be possible, but this should be your minimum goal. It’s preferable to use both the SMART checks and your backups to defend against data loss, even if your backups are adequate.

My own experience can only provide anecdotal evidence of the types of life expectancies that can be expected based on the amount of time I’ve spent using the product. When I first started using a drive, I had it fail the day after I purchased it, and I dropped it six months after I started using it.

There was almost no warning whatsoever that they would fail in all cases. I’ve had two instances when I saw proof in advance, and they both failed a week and a half later. Even though I’ve had three 1TB drives for seven years, I’m still using an old 80GB one. Another four years, another 2TB of data. Then I have a one-year-old 4TB hard drive.

There have been no problems with those. Even though I use them for a few hours a day to perform backups, they’re always plugged in. I back up anything from documents and emails to 3D models and programming source code, a few kilobytes per file to several gigabytes.

Why Do Hard Drives Seem To Break Down So Frequently?

This question’s keyword is “seem.” Hard drives fail regularly, but how frequently depends on your point of view. One of my friends always blames hard drive failure for data loss, whereas another uses the same capacity but has never experienced a single corrupted file. There is an objective solution to this question, even though they both have opinions.

Hard drives can fail. They are electro-mechanical devices vulnerable to wear and tear, and they are used a lot. Furthermore, because of their extreme sensitivity to their surroundings, even something innocuous as a whiff of smoke might permanently harm a hard disc.

For example, if you compare the sheer number of failure points to RAM, you’re left wondering how they work at all. Taking this logic to an external hard drive, which is usually in a poorly constructed chassis with little cooling capacity and cheap USB to SATA connectors, the points of failure rise even more, when you shove it in and out of your backpack, etc.

Is it because one friend is having a difficult time, while the other is not? That friend who’s having them fail might want to take a closer look at his computer casing and cooling system. He may have a hard disc setup that dramatically reduces its lifespan.

Effective Routines To Improve The Health Of Your Hard Drive

Even though the typical lifespan of a hard disc is three to five years, the technology exists to make them survive considerably longer (or shorter, for that matter). It will survive longer and perform better if you treat your hard drive well. Some of the simplest steps you can take to prevent your hard disc from failing prematurely are listed below.

Maintain the physical health of your hard driver. Hard drive damage might cause serious issues, and your data could be destroyed instantly. While touching a hard drive, as with babies and eggs, use a gentle touch. (Not the kind you eat for breakfast, but the kind you have to maintain alive in science class.)

Control the temperature of the environment. As long as the hard drives are plugged in and running, they’re going to get hot. You can’t deny that. You should keep your hard drives away from hot or warm environments that could put additional stress on them (unless they are designed to tolerate high temperatures).

Temperatures below freezing are far more difficult to damage than those above. It would have to be quite frigid to do this. Turn the drive on only when you need it. Internal or external hard drives don’t make any difference. This covers both. The more active your hard drive is even while idle, the more it works, and the more it works, the more wear and tear it experiences.

Remove the external drive from your computer and disconnect it from the host system. Before detaching or shutting off the enclosure, perform this procedure. Data corruption can lead to a more catastrophic hard disc failure in the long term. Thus, this is a good idea.

Make sure you don’t break any of the wires. External hard drives shouldn’t be plugged in and out too frequently. A failed connection could result in data loss. If you don’t exercise proper caution, this relationship becomes even more problematic.

As a result, you may not even be aware that you’re shortening the life of your hard disc. Put it somewhere safe, tape the cable to your desk, whatever it takes to keep it from moving. You can do a lot more to protect your hard drive than just the things listed above, of course. Check out Remo Software’s more in-depth tips if you’d want additional technical assistance.

Do External Hard Drives Fail?

External hard drives are mechanical and have moving parts. This implies that they will eventually fail. Your external hard disk will eventually fail; the question is not if but when. External hard drives get more physical harm because they have moving parts.

Why Do External Hard Drives Fail?

Due to frequent incorrect use, obsolete drivers, bundling with incompatible software on various operating systems, stable connection and disconnection to multiple devices, and, in the case of portable or USB hard drives, unsafe ejection, external hard drives are particularly prone to failure.


That’s all I have on How Often Do External Hard Drives Fail? The key to extending the life of a hard drive is to take proper care of it, which should come as no surprise. Even while averages are averages, this does not always imply that failure is scalable. Hard drive failure is inevitable, and you should always have your data stored in two locations, whether on-site or in the cloud, to ensure that you’re prepared for it whenever it occurs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the failure rate of external hard drives?

Poor handling of external drives might cause them to shatter, as they offer less protection than a PC. To guard against accidental damage, invest in a hard drive case. There are fewer USB ports on newer computers, especially laptops.

Is it possible for a hard drive to last ten years?

A typical hard disc lasts between three and five years before it fails and needs to be replaced. Only a few will make it to their twelfth decade, which is an anomaly. In the event of a hard drive failure, the data saved on it is likely to be permanently destroyed.

How long are external hard drives from Seagate expected to last?

Three to five years should be enough as a general guideline. Any hard drive, whether internal or external, qualifies.

What are the signs that your hard disc is failing?

An overheating computer, unusual noises (such as clicking or whirring sounds), and data or file corruption are the most prevalent indicators of a failing hard drive. If you see any warning signs of a hard drive failure, you should promptly take action to save your information and prevent any data loss.

Similar Posts