Which hard drives are most reliable?

When it comes to storing important data, reliability is key. With hard drives, some are certainly more dependable than others. In this article, we’ll look at which brands and models are considered the most reliable options for hard drives.

What factors determine hard drive reliability?

There are a few key factors that affect how reliable a hard drive is:

  • Brand reputation – Some brands, like Western Digital and Seagate, have a long-standing reputation for producing quality, reliable drives.
  • Model – Specific models within a brand often have different reliability rates based on factors like intended usage and components.
  • Age – The older a hard drive gets, the more likely it is to fail. Newer models tend to be more reliable.
  • Usage – How the drive is used (desktop vs server vs NAS) and how often it’s turned on/off impacts reliability.
  • Rated lifespan – Each drive model is rated for a certain number of working hours before failure is more likely.
  • Warranty – Longer warranties can indicate the manufacturer has more confidence in the drive’s reliability.

Most reliable hard drive brands

While there are no absolute guarantees when it comes to hard drive reliability, some brands stand out above others for producing drives that withstand the test of time. Here are the most reliable hard drive brands:

Western Digital

Western Digital (WD) is widely regarded as one of the most reliable hard drive brands. They produce a range of models for different use cases. According to various studies, WD has among the lowest annualized failure rates of leading hard drive companies.


Along with Western Digital, Seagate is another highly reputable brand known for reliable drives. They produce a diverse lineup of hard drive models and have an average annual failure rate comparable to WD drives.


Hitachi hard drives are another reliable option, although the company was purchased by Western Digital in 2012. Hitachi drives boast a strong track record and low failure rates.


While not always considered top-tier, Toshiba still produces quality reliable hard drives. Their drives are widely used by major computer manufacturers. Overall Toshiba drives have competitive failure rates.

Most reliable hard drive models

Beyond just brands, there are specific hard drive models that rise above the rest in terms of dependability and longevity. Here are some of the most reliable hard drive models:

Western Digital RE4

The WD RE4, part of WD’s enterprise-class lineup, boasts an incredibly low annualized failure rate of just 1.4%. It’s built for the rigors of 24/7 server environments. The 2TB model offers the best GB/dollar value.

Western Digital Black

For desktop users, the WD Black line is a top choice, with these drives designed for power users and gaming. Models like the WD1003FZEX 1TB have an annualized failure rate of only 2.8%.

Seagate Barracuda Pro

The Seagate Barracuda Pro models are favorites as reliable drives for everyday desktop usage. The 2TB Barracuda Pro drives have an impressively low 1.82% failure rate according to Backblaze stats.

Seagate IronWolf NAS

Specifically made for always-on NAS environments, the Seagate IronWolf models offer excellent reliability. For example, the 10TB Seagate ST10000VNZ has an annual failure rate as low as 2.6% according to statistics.

Toshiba MG Series

Toshiba drives like the MG Series are budget-friendly yet still offer respectable reliability. Recent models like the MG07ACA14TE 14TB have an annualized failure rate of just 2.1%.

Reliability by usage – desktop vs server vs NAS

Reliability requirements can vary quite a bit depending on the intended usage of the hard drive. Disk drives made for “always-on” server and NAS environments are built to more rigorous standards than drives meant for desktop usage.

For desktop usage, drives aren’t accessed as constantly as say a 24/7 server. As a result, drives made for desktops can get away with lower annualized failure rates around 2-3%, like the Western Digital Black.

For servers and mission-critical applications, very low 1-2% (or even sub-1%) failure rates are expected. Models like the Western Digital RE4 are purpose-built for this use case.

NAS-specific drives offer a balance of performance and reliability. The Seagate IronWolf models have proven themselves as great options for home and small business NAS units.

Lifespan ratings

In general, modern hard drives are rated to have a lifespan somewhere between 2-5 years before failure is more likely. However, actual lifespan varies based on factors like usage and environment.

Most consumer hard drives designed for desktop use are rated for up to around 300,000 hours, or 3-5 years of active use. Some may last beyond their rating.

Drives built for enterprise use often carry ratings of 1 million hours or more. For example, the Western Digital RE4 is rated for 1.2 million hours MTBF (mean time between failures).


Longer warranties usually indicate the manufacturer has more confidence in the expected reliability and lifespan. Consumer hard drives often have 2-3 year warranties, while higher-end enterprise models offer up to 5 years.

Western Digital and Seagate both cover most of their drives with 2-3 year warranties. Models intended for enterprise servers and NAS may offer up to 5 year coverage, indicative of their improved reliability.

Most reliable by manufacturer stats

Looking at hard drive failure rate statistics published by manufacturers can provide further insight into reliability.

Western Digital claims an average annual failure rate of just 1.0% for some models, such as the Ultrastar DC HC530 HDD. Seagate pegs the annual failure rate of its Exos X18 drives as low as 0.61%. Meanwhile some Toshiba drives are rated for 0.35% annual failures.

However, independent research by companies like Backblaze tend to show slightly higher failure rates overall. Still, drives with manufacturer-rated failure rates under 1% represent excellent reliability.

Most reliable by Backblaze stats

Backblaze has accumulated extensive statistics on hard drive failure rates by analyzing drives used in its cloud backup servers. Their data provides unbiased, real-world numbers on drive reliability.

Here are some of the hard drives with the lowest annualized failure rates according to Backblaze’s statistics over the last few years:

Drive Size Annualized Failure Rate
HGST HMS5C4040ALE640 4TB 0.9%
Seagate ST2000NM0033 2TB 1.01%
Toshiba MG07ACA14TE 14TB 2.06%

This data shows some drives, such as the HGST 4TB model, delivering exceptional sub-1% failure rates in real-world use when used in a server setting.

SSDs vs hard drives reliability

When it comes to reliability, solid state drives (SSDs) tend to have an edge over traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). However, HDDs are still the more affordable higher capacity option.

With no moving parts, SSDs avoid the mechanical failures that HDDs are susceptible to. According to a study by CMU, SSDs had an annual failure rate of 1.5%, while HDDs failed at 4-6% per year.

However, HDD capacities are much higher (10TB+) compared to SSDs (2-4TB). The price per gigabyte is lower for HDDs. So while HDDs are less reliable, for high storage needs they offer good value.

External vs internal hard drives

Are external hard drives less reliable than internal ones? Not necessarily. External drives are simply normal hard drives housed in a portable external enclosure.

Assuming proper handling, external hard drives have similar failure rates to internal drives. However, portability can expose them to more damage so they may have slightly higher failure rates on average.

According to Backblaze, the average failure rate for external HDDs is about 3.5% per year. For internals it’s closer to 2%, but this also depends on usage and environment.

Can hard drives be repaired?

Hard drive repairs are possible in some cases and generally focus on recovering data rather than fixing the drive. Repair efforts typically involve a specialized technician in a data recovery lab.

Issues that may permit data recovery include:

  • Drive makes strange noises – The platters and head may still be intact
  • Drive not spinning up – Motor controller or PCB failure rather than internal hardware issue
  • Visible external damage – Shell can be opened to access platters

However, if there is severe internal mechanical damage or the drive platters themselves are scratched or damaged, repairs will be unsuccessful or extremely costly.

Improving hard drive lifespan

You can maximize the lifespan of your hard drives through proper handling, maintenance, and settings:

  • Handle drives gently and limit vibration/shock which can damage moving components
  • Keep drives cool and well-ventilated as excessive heat shortens lifespan
  • Perform regular backups so data can be restored if a drive fails
  • Use enterprise-class drives for mission-critical data
  • Enable drive health monitoring features like S.M.A.R.T. to get early warnings
  • Unmount drives properly before removing external storage
  • Avoid excessive drive fragmentation which causes more wear on the platters


While no hard drive lasts forever, choosing a reliable model and providing proper care can help maximize its lifespan. Certain brands like Western Digital and Seagate stand out for producing drives with impressively low failure rates even in demanding usage conditions. Newer drives also tend to be more dependable thanks to improving engineering and manufacturing quality. With smart purchase decisions and proper precautions, hard drives can reliably store precious data for years before needing replacement.