Do You Know the Health of Your Hard Drives?

Posted Apr. 23rd, 2015 by Daniel J. Cox

Do You Know the Health of Your Hard Drives? Awhile back I shared some very interesting information regarding a backup service we use called Backblaze. Backblaze is an automated way to back up my many terabytes of external hard drives. The service is worth noting again by itself, but they also have some great info on their blog about hard drives, how long they last, which ones are the most dependable, etc.


My photo storage device of choice is the Drobo 5D which has a Thunderbolt 1 connection.

I wanted to visit this subject again since they recently released an updated report on Seagate hard drives that were bought during what they refer to as the Thailand drive crisis. For those who have forgotten or did not know, in 2011, Thailand had massive flooding that destroyed lots and lots of electronic products including a supplier of drives for Seagate. This not only put a blanket on supply, but it apparently affected the quality of the drives that Seagate was able to offer. In short, the drives Seagate was selling during this period and about one year thereafter had a warranty of only one year as opposed to their typical three year plan.

All of this has come home to hit Backblaze hard with the serious problem of Seagate drives failing in big numbers. I thought this information would be of interest to our readers so you can be aware of the very likely possibility that any Seagate drives you bought around the 2011 Thailand drive crisis most likely will be a problem. I know I’m checking my hard drives now to see when they were purchased.

Keep in mind this is not a critical report of Backblaze, they have not lost a single shred of anyone’s precious backups due to their amazing ability to stay on top of the problem. However, it’s not such a shining report on Seagate. Backblaze makes an effort not to blame Seagate in their blog post, but I have to say I’ve been disappointed in Seagate drives for several years now. This is just another black mark on their quality. For more information on the most stable drives you can buy, read the original blog post titled: Hard Drives and Digital Photography Workflow. This is the device of choice for our new workflow that includes Mylio and our Panasonic Lumix cameras.

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There are 14 comments on this post…
  1. DeanOn May. 20th, 2015

    I wrote too soon. Within a few days of writing about my use of the LaCie 2big 4TB backup one of the two hard drives failed (yes, it was a Seagate). With a little research, I discovered that this particular drive has a 46% one-year failure rate for 3TB drives according to BackBlaze!!!! In a recent update, BackBlaze wrote that is will no longer use Seagates because of the high failure rate of Seagate HDDs. BackBlaze explained that of its 41,000 hard drives, 80% were still working after four years . . . but only 10% of the Seagates still worked. (Backblaze runs its hard drives 24/7/365 under conditions mere “mortals” never would.) But, my story gets worse. I had to return the defective drive in its “sled” (that mounts the drive in the enclosure). I was sent a replacement ST2000DM001 HDD that was made in China (there apparently was a major problem in 2011 with Seagates made in Thailand . . . and I’m stuck with the remaining and for now still functioning mirrored drive in the 2big). Here’s the killer! When I got my replacement drive, the “sled” was bent so badly that it would not fit into the enclosure! (The packaging was undamaged, so it had to go into the box in its “bent” condition.) I emailed Lacie (no phone number is provided by Tech Service); it took more than 6 hours to get a response (it was the early in the business day when I emailed LaCie). Lacie/Seagate finally informed me I would be sent a replacement drive/sled combination.

    I can no longer recommend any LaCie product because of the use of Seagate drives. I will either sell my LaCie 2big, or replace the Seagates with Western Digital Pro Red NAS drives. I suspect I’ll ditch the entire LaCie system and replace it with another IoSafe/Synology system.

    Fortunately, I have two complete backup systems, so no photos were lost in this ordeal! The lesson, you must even back up your “backup.”

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 20th, 2015

      I’ve switched all my drives over to the HGST Hitachi drives based on BackBlaze data. I also ditched Lacie long ago when I had two of their drives fail. That was probably over ten years ago when Seagate did not own them and at the time they were using Seagate, Maxtor and Western Digital drives in their enclosures. When I investigated and asked if I Bought their product if I could get a specific drive installed they told me they could not guarantee anything. I gave up on Lacie and have never gone back. Sorry to hear of your problems Dean. That sort of thing is so painful. So far I’ve been having great luck with Drobos filled with HGST drives. Just installed another Drobo 8 bay NAS. I tried an 8 bay Synology and was so put off by its prehistoric software and the fact they have NO phone support, I sent it back and bought another Drobo. Will update all on how the new setup goes in a later post. Great to hear you have numerous backups and you didn’t loose anything. Thanks for stopping by to share your insight.

  2. Chris MooreOn Apr. 27th, 2015

    Dan, Thanks for the continuing information on hard drives. While others have had bad luck with Seagate drives, I have had great luck with them and the Hitachi drives. Western Digital on the other hand has caused me heartburn. I have triple RAID backups with different drives. I think I will check out ioSafe that Dean mentioned in his post.

  3. Hi Daniel:

    Thanks for sharing this. Add me to the list of seasick-of-seagate users. I have two and using them is like watching a ticking time bomb waiting for them to take their last gasps.

    Out of curiousity, for BackBlaze, I know it must have taken a huge amount of time to upload that much data. Do the drives need to stay plugged in and powered on at all times until everything is transferred, and in the event you do lose your system, do you know how long it will take to get that data downloaded enough so that your business would be back up and running?

    Cheers, Thanks, and Appreciate all the great info.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 27th, 2015

      Gary, it took several months to get all I needed up to BackBlaze. They have a plan whereby if you loose your data, you can have them send you a small 1TB hard drive or thumb drive for quick replacement depending on how much you lost. Have never had to test it and don’t think I will ever have to but it’s there in a serious pinch.

  4. DeanOn Apr. 25th, 2015

    Sad to see a Drobo as this post’s image. My Drobo crashed and burned and Drobo support was worthless. Never, never, never buy Drobo. When it’s working, it’s great . . . but when it dies, your stuff is lost forever and Drobo customer service will be of little help. Fortunately, my Drobo was one of two total system backups I was using so no images were lost. Just my faith in Drobo suffered. Your experience may differ, but from mine I can tell you Drobo may leave you with nothing but memories of your images! I am now using an IoSafe NS system that is bomb-proof, fire proof, and flood proof. And, because I’m a “suspenders and belt” kind of guy, I have a second complete system backup using a LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt system . . . plus a JustCloud system. Call me crazy for the redundancy of my backups (which are done automatically each day and immediately after I download new images from my cards), but I am never going to lose my image library! Plus, all my favorite shots are put on archival gold CDs stored in a fireproof, waterproof safe bolted to concrete floor. Now, if I only had images as good as Dan’s that were really worth protecting, I’d be in great shape. (My best shots come close to looking as good as Dan’s worst!)

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 27th, 2015

      Dean, some I forgot to mention that is an important consideration when I come a NAS like device (Drobo 5D) was the fact it had a Thunderbolt connection. None of the iOSafe models have Thundebolt. Additionally, I’m no more a fan of Lacie than you are of Drobo since 5-6 years ago I lost 3 different Lacie drives to failure. At this point I’m very happy it’s the Drobo 5D thunderbolt devices.

  5. Damil KalogjeraOn Apr. 25th, 2015

    Unfortunately, we have to be ready to copy & change our hard drives during time, does not matter where and by whom they were produced. I went to one data recovery service, to the guys that “heal” bad hard drives every day. Their opinion and experience is that after 4 ~ 5 years you better copy & change device. I had some really bad experience with Seagate as well, but from another side one of their fast HD I am using like a scratch disk for PS, means every day, for more than 6 years…
    At the moment I have Samsung, WD and Toshiba hard drives.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 25th, 2015

      Dean, thanks for the feedback and the kind words. I’ve been very happy with Drobo. Sorry about your difficult situation but I’ve actualy had descent help when I’ve needed it from Drobo support. If anybody had as simple of system to add drives to I might take a look at something else but I love the simplicity of Drobos. I will admit that the early days of Drobo were not what they are today but they keep making progress with regular firmware and software updates to their products. At this point Drobos are a key component to my backup system and I’ve been very pleased.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 25th, 2015

      Thanks for adding your voice Damil. Your comments are quite accurate. All drives will fail at some point but there are better ones than others and a company like BackBlaze who uses thousands of them and many different kinds is a great source for finding which ones we can trust and those we should avoid. My first blog post relating to this subject was also about BackBlaze and I highlighted a statistical report they complied on the longevity of hard drives by manufacturers. HGST or Hitachi drives were by far the most reliable, followed by Westen Digital and far out in last place was Seagate. Follow this link to see the charts showing a comparison of all three of these drives manufacturers and where their drives stackup against the others in dependability.

  6. Paul KennedyOn Apr. 24th, 2015

    Seagate has been on my “Never buy another one of those f_____g things again” list for several years. Even before the “2011 Thailand drive crisis” Seagate had about a 30% failure rate on a series of the Barracuda 7200rpm drives (also made in Thailand). Seagate was aware of the problem, but didn’t bother to share that information with their customers. I had 4 Seagate drives fail in less than 5 months. I cannot imagine a circumstance under which I would buy another Seagate product!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 24th, 2015

      Your not th only one not happy with Seagate products. The report I lined lot in this blog show the failure rates of the most common drives and unfortunately Seagate was the worst.

  7. Henry HarrisonOn Apr. 23rd, 2015

    Hi Dan, Thanks for posting this. Out of curiosity, how much data to you personally back up to Backblaze? I find it hard to believe they actually will back up all attached devices for just $50/yr but that seems to be what they are offering.


    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 23rd, 2015

      Yep, they sure do. I have over 12TB’s online. It took awhile to get it over to them but it’s there if I loose something.

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