Cloud storage and data backup company Backblaze (opens in new tab) has published its annual report of hard drive failures for 2022. Nowadays, many consumers are already likely using one of the best SSDs on the market. However, hard drives continue to remain relevant when it comes to secondary storage. Given the nature of the company’s business, the statistics indicate which hard drives are the most reliable.
Backblaze has some insight into which hard drives make the most durable storage devices. According to the company, it has 235,608 hard drives as of December 2022. Of the entire lot, 4,299 are boot drives, and the remaining 231,309 are data drives. Backblaze’s results focus on the latter. The company removed 388 drives from the report due to them being test drives or models where the sample size is less than 60 drives. That leaves Backblaze with 230,921 hard drives for analysis.
Seagate’s Exos 8TB (ST8000NM000A) was the report’s star. According to the numbers, the hard drive presented zero failures in 2022. The devil is in the details, though. Backblaze stated that it only had 79 drives on active duty, so the sample size is tiny compared to some of the other models that total up to tens of thousands. Furthermore, the Seagate 8TB drives had only been in service for 22,839 days and are primarily used as spare drives to replace 8TB drives that have died.
The annualized failure rate (AFR) for hard drives has increased over the last three years. For example, Backblaze recorded an AFR of 0.93% in 2020 and 1.10% in 2021. The AFR for 2022 was up to 1.37%. The main reason for the increase is due to the age of the drives. Like any other hardware, hard drives are more prone to failure as they age.
At first sight, the HGST Ultrastar He8 8TB (HUH728080ALE604) and Seagate Exos X14 14TB (ST14000NM0138) have the highest failure rates at 5.27% and 5.70%, respectively. Do note that the drive count and drive days for the two models are significantly lower than other models, so again the numbers can skew wildly from a few bad apples.
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Hard drives with a capacity of 10TB or lower showed an overall 0.85% increase in failures from 2021 to 2022. Notably, the 10TB drives had the highest AFR (3.73%) for 2022. The higher-density drives at 12TB or larger exhibited a 0.20% increase. The 16TB drives are the only ones that boasted a decreased AFR. According to Backblaze, the small drives (4TB, 6TB, 8TB, and 10TB) account for 44.5% of the drive failures in 2022. However, they only represent 28.7% of drive days. The smaller drives are perishing more frequently because they’ve been in operation for longer.
Backblaze’s data confirmed the correlation between drive age and drive failure. When drives get older, they are more likely to die. For example, the 4TB drives, which account for an average age of 81.1 months, have an AFR of 1.70%, whereas the 8TB, with 67.8 months, show 1.36%. In comparison, the 16TB drives, 13.3 months, total up to 0.86%. Backblaze highlighted that sample sizes for the 6TB and 10TB drives are small. Additionally, their drive days are also lower. The 6TB group has a 0.89% AFR and the 10TB group flaunts 1.68%.
Looking at the drive failures by the manufacturer, Backblaze noted that Seagate leads the pack, with Toshiba in second place. That’s not to say that Seagate hard drives are less reliable. On the contrary, the company’s Seagate drives are substantially older than the other vendors. Furthermore, Backblaze explained that Seagate drives are typically cheaper, although their failure rates are higher in the environment where they operate. Nonetheless, the failure rate isn’t significant enough to turn the drives into less cost-effective options over their lifetime.
Lastly, Backblaze looked at the lifetime AFR for the company’s drives. Presently, the lifetime AFR is 1.39%. It’s an improvement over last year’s 1.40% compared to the previous quarter, where the value was 1.41%. The most noteworthy model is Seagate’s Barracuda 4TB (ST4000DM000) drive, which has amassed over 73 million drive days with a lifetime AFR of 2.54%.