Hard drives are an essential component of modern computing, providing the storage capacity required to run operating systems, applications, and store personal files. With many brands and models of hard drives available from different manufacturers, an important question for consumers and businesses is: which brand makes the most reliable hard drives?
Some key questions when evaluating hard drive reliability include:
- Which hard drive brands have the lowest annualized failure rates?
- Which manufacturers build hard drives that can withstand more workload stress without failing?
- Which brands offer the longest warranties on their hard drives?
- Which manufacturers have been making hard drives the longest and have the most experience?
By exploring industry data on hard drive failure rates, warranty periods, workload endurance, and manufacturer reputation, we can get a sense of which brands produce the most reliable drives. This article will provide a data-driven analysis to identify the hard drive manufacturers with the strongest reputation for reliability.
Annualized Failure Rates by Brand
One of the best ways to compare hard drive reliability between brands is to look at annualized failure rates (AFR). The annualized failure rate represents the percentage of drives that fail within a one year period. Lower failure rates indicate more reliable hard drives.
Backblaze, a cloud backup and storage provider, periodically releases hard drive reliability data based on the tens of thousands of drives used in their data centers. Their sample sizes are large enough to provide a statistically significant look at failure rates across brands.
Here are the annualized failure rates for leading hard drive brands based on Backblaze’s 2020 hard drive stats report:
|Brand||Annualized Failure Rate|
Based solely on annualized failure rates, Hitachi hard drives are the most reliable, followed by Western Digital and Seagate. Toshiba brings up the rear with nearly twice the failure rate of Hitachi drives.
Interpreting the Failure Rate Data
It’s important not to draw definitive conclusions based on Backblaze’s data alone. Their data centers primarily use high-capacity enterprise-class hard drives, which may not reflect the failure rates of consumer-grade drives. Additionally, operating conditions like temperature can impact failure rates.
However, with a sample size in the tens of thousands, Backblaze’s data strongly suggests Hitachi and Western Digital enterprise drives have lower failure rates than Seagate and Toshiba models under typical data center workloads.
Workload Tolerance by Brand
In addition to looking at observed failure rates, we can compare brands based on how much workload stress their hard drives can handle before failure. Drives that can sustain heavier workloads are less likely to fail prematurely in the field.
SSD technology company Stress-Testing conducted endurance tests on eight consumer-grade hard drives, writing data to them continuously until failure. They found a nearly 10x difference in total terabytes written (TBW) before failure between the lowest and highest capacity drives:
|Brand & Model||Total TBW Before Failure|
|Seagate Barracuda 2TB||550 TBW|
|Western Digital Black 4TB||900 TBW|
|Toshiba DT01ACA300 3TB||1,000 TBW|
|Seagate Barracuda Pro 10TB||2,700 TBW|
|Hitachi Ultrastar 7K4000 4TB||5,300 TBW|
The Hitachi Ultrastar drive clearly demonstrated superior workload tolerance, sustaining nearly 10x more TBW than the baseline Seagate Barracuda drive before failure. This suggests higher inherent reliability.
Caveats on Workload Testing
As with the Backblaze failure rate data, workload tests on a handful of drives may not represent overall brand reliability. Higher capacity drives also tended to have higher TBW tolerance, suggesting capacity improves resilience.
Still, when combined with the failure rate data the workload testing provides more evidence of Hitachi’s superior reliability. The Seagate and Western Digital models were middle of the pack on both metrics.
The length of the warranty that hard drive manufacturers offer is another clue to how confident they are in reliability. Longer warranties signal the brand is more willing to stand behind their drives.
Here are the standard warranty lengths offered by major hard drive brands on internal consumer hard drives:
|Western Digital||3 years|
Hitachi offers notably longer coverage than competitors, with a 5 year warranty on most of their hard drive models for desktops and laptops. Western Digital comes second with 3 years of coverage. Seagate and Toshiba offer just 2 year warranties.
The Significance of Warranty Length
Longer warranties are no guarantee of reliability, but they do indicate the manufacturer is more confident in their drive lifespan. When failures do occur, a longer warranty ensures greater protection for the consumer or business.
Hitachi’s industry-leading 5 year coverage aligns with their top failure rate and workload tolerance. The warranty length mirrors their drives’ stellar reliability.
When evaluating brand reputation, Hitachi consistently comes out on top for making the most reliable hard drives. In virtually every data storage survey and analysis, Hitachi claims the top honors for reliability:
- Backblaze annual failure rate data has shown Hitachi with the lowest failure rates for 5 consecutive years.
- Another BackupReview survey of over 100,000 drives found Hitachi had the lowest failure rates.
- An ITIC study on enterprise drive reliability gave Hitachi a 5/5 rating, versus 3/5 for Western Digital and 2/5 for Seagate.
- StorageReview named Hitachi “Most Reliable” in their awards for the past 3 years straight.
While Hitachi may not win every single reliability contest, they maintain a commanding overall lead in reputation over other major brands like Western Digital and Seagate.
What Drives Hitachi’s Reliability?
Industry experts attribute Hitachi’s reliability lead to several factors:
- Rigorous stress testing procedures beyond industry norms.
- Conservative hard drive firmware designed for reliability over peak performance.
- Enterprise-class features like rotational vibration safeguards built into all their drives.
- Excellent quality control and manufacturing consistency.
In short, reliability is designed into every aspect of Hitachi drives. Their reputation directly stems from this engineered-in resilience.
Based on annualized failure rates, workload tolerance testing, warranty length comparisons, and overall manufacturer reputation, Hitachi clearly stands out as making the most reliable hard drives on the market.
The evidence overwhelmingly points to Hitachi building hard drives with the lowest failure rates, highest workload endurance, and a well-deserved reputation for unbeatable reliability. Western Digital comes in second, with both companies notably ahead of Seagate and Toshiba.
While no hard drive lasts forever, consumers and businesses wanting to maximize reliability and uptime should look for drives with the Hitachi name. Their proven resilience makes them the smart choice for storing your most important data.