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Reliable External Hard Drive?


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#1 J7.

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 02:45 AM

I've been looking into purchasing an external hard drive (1-3 tb) and want something that doesn't cost a lot of money. However, it seems that anything I can find on Amazon (western digital, seagate, etc) has a failure rate of ~15%. Can anyone recommend a reliable external hard drive?

#2 lokizz

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 02:58 AM

ive been using wd for years and ive never had an issues with them. i got a deal on a 1 or 1.5 tb one a while back and it still works perfectly.

#3 wasabi5858

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 03:03 AM

HDD will fail, that's all there is to it. Get whatever and back up your critical stuff.

There is a reason why any consumer/enterprise storage solution is based on redundancy.

That said, take the most reliable drive (non SSD) like the one that has been serving you so faitfully in your desktop , put it in an external enclosure and proceed to knock it over many times while it is reading/writing data and see how long that reliable drive last.

#4 htz

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 04:40 AM

ive been using wd for years and ive never had an issues with them. i got a deal on a 1 or 1.5 tb one a while back and it still works perfectly.

Same here, I only use western digital. Never had one die on me yet. They are quiet and efficient.

#5 Confucius

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 04:43 AM

honestly, if you read reviews on hard drives, you'll get tons of complaints about practically every brand. This is because 1) hard drives fail and 2) people are idiots.

Get any of the big brands with 3+ stars on amazon and you'll be fine. It's all a crap shoot with hard drives. A drive with 100% 5 stars (if it existed) could fail for you. I've used seagate, wd, maxell...

A cheapy seagate extension drive could last 10 years and a super expensive lacie could break in a month.

Just look for sales.

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#6 crunchb3rry

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 04:49 AM

Any major brand is fine. Western Digital, Seagate, whatever. Disregard the failure rate. If it worries you that much, get a second internal HDD, backup to that, then clone the secondary to your external. Then you have two copies of your backed-up data, one of which you can store remotely (ie: outside your home, to be covered in the case of fires and whatnot).

That or a RAID setup effectively removes any threat of drive failure in relation to data loss.

#7 mr_burnzz

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 02:43 PM

I got a 250 gig WD from 5 years ago. Still good. 1 tb toshiba from about a yr and still good. Love the toshiba one. Looks like a ps3 (piano black finish with shiny silver lining).

#8 lokizz

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 06:27 PM

staples sometimes has good deals on ext hd.amazon as well. or you could buy a cheap internal hd and get an ext enclosure for it sometimes that is the cheapest way to do it.

#9 pippin

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 07:04 PM

It has been many years since I have had a hard drive fail on me and I use 4 internal, 2 external and 1 NAS. I know that it still happens, but it seems to me like hard drives in general have become a lot more reliable over the years. Most of mine are WD, but I have one external 1.5T Seagate that I paid 60 bucks for and have read tons of horror stories about and even it has never given me any trouble. Like others have said, just go with one of the major brands and backup your files to a separate one if they're really important.

#10 BigPopov

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 07:25 PM

Where did you get a failure rate of 15%?

And the point of the backup is so that when something goes wrong with one of your drives, you have the other (one being your internal drive, the other being your external.) one will go bad, eventually. The problem with most consumers is that they never check the status of the drives, or they ignore those pesky "Windows Backup has failed" errors, and they find out the hard way that when they need something, the other has failed a long time ago.

Like someone else said though, you're fine with any major brand. I prefer Western Digital's backup software to the other brands though. Unless you are on Windows 7, then use the built in Windows Backup, it's fantastic.

#11 crunchb3rry

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 01:23 AM

There's a difference between failure rate and MTBF. MTBF basically gives you the hours (like miles on a car engine) before you can EXPECT to EVENTUALLY have the drive fail.

Most of these supposed 15% failure rates are probably because some kid bought one and sat on his carpet intalling it in the tower. Fried the board with static electricity. Or they had an aftermarket "recycle bin" app like Crap Cleaner that accidentally deletes certain log files that if Windows can't find it, it will tell you your HDD is "failing."

#12 J7.

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 03:15 AM

HDD will fail, that's all there is to it. Get whatever and back up your critical stuff.

There is a reason why any consumer/enterprise storage solution is based on redundancy.

That said, take the most reliable drive (non SSD) like the one that has been serving you so faitfully in your desktop , put it in an external enclosure and proceed to knock it over many times while it is reading/writing data and see how long that reliable drive last.


Are you saying external HDD's fail because owners move them around while they're in use? Not sure what you're implying.

Where did you get a failure rate of 15%?

And the point of the backup is so that when something goes wrong with one of your drives, you have the other (one being your internal drive, the other being your external.) one will go bad, eventually. The problem with most consumers is that they never check the status of the drives, or they ignore those pesky "Windows Backup has failed" errors, and they find out the hard way that when they need something, the other has failed a long time ago.

Like someone else said though, you're fine with any major brand. I prefer Western Digital's backup software to the other brands though. Unless you are on Windows 7, then use the built in Windows Backup, it's fantastic.


Most of the 1 stars on Amazon, maybe all of them, for external HDD's are due to the drive failing. Some of the 2 stars may be too. I calculated the % of 1 stars and for any drive I looked at it was at least 14% and as high as 18% if my memory serves me correctly. How do you check the status of a drive? When do you get Windows Backup has failed errors? I ran backup once but it did not work.

Any major brand is fine. Western Digital, Seagate, whatever. Disregard the failure rate. If it worries you that much, get a second internal HDD, backup to that, then clone the secondary to your external. Then you have two copies of your backed-up data, one of which you can store remotely (ie: outside your home, to be covered in the case of fires and whatnot).

That or a RAID setup effectively removes any threat of drive failure in relation to data loss.


How do you clone a hard drive?

There's a difference between failure rate and MTBF. MTBF basically gives you the hours (like miles on a car engine) before you can EXPECT to EVENTUALLY have the drive fail.

Most of these supposed 15% failure rates are probably because some kid bought one and sat on his carpet intalling it in the tower. Fried the board with static electricity. Or they had an aftermarket "recycle bin" app like Crap Cleaner that accidentally deletes certain log files that if Windows can't find it, it will tell you your HDD is "failing."


Do you mean CCleaner? Should I not use CCleaner if I get a external HDD?

#13 crunchb3rry

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 03:56 AM

Not technically clone a hard drive. But you can use software that would periodically sync up the data. Basically backing up just the stuff you changed. What I do is just take my entire My Documents folder and put it on a secondary drive. Then copy that an external once in a while, but I'm not worried enough to do that religiously.

CCleaner is fine. You wouldn't really need it for an external HDD unless you had an operating system on it. If it's just backed up files, there's nothing to clean. CCleaner is more to just delete temp files, like internet history, etc. It's just that for me I had Windows telling me my HDD was failing but it wasn't. The problem was CCleaner by default was deleting a folder that Windows suddenly decided it wanted to put files in that it needed.

#14 Confucius

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 04:00 AM

is there Carbon Copy Cloner for PC? Cause that app is fantastic.

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#15 BigPopov

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 04:14 AM

Most of the 1 stars on Amazon, maybe all of them, for external HDD's are due to the drive failing. Some of the 2 stars may be too. I calculated the % of 1 stars and for any drive I looked at it was at least 14% and as high as 18% if my memory serves me correctly. How do you check the status of a drive? When do you get Windows Backup has failed errors? I ran backup once but it did not work.


In Windows 7, "Backup and Restore" is under the control panel and it will give you the date and result of the last backup. If the last backup fails I'm pretty sure there's a red or yellow flag under "Solve PC Issues" in the taskbar.

The easiest way to look for failing hard drives is;

Control Panel - Administrative Tools - Event Viewer

Expand the "Windows Logs" tab, and go to "System." If a drive starts developing bad blocks, it will be yellow flag and the source will say "disk." You'll start seeing something to the effect of windows had detected a bad block on disk0. Even if it's just one error replace it. Bad blocks cause the PC to runs really slow when they hit.

You just have to be aware that if the disk referenced is the CD ROM drive, that's only saying the CD has a small unreadable section and not a failing drive.

Control Panel - Administrative Tools - Computer Management

Click on "Storage" and then "Disk Management" this will tell you what disk0, disk1, etc is.

Seatools for Windows is another good way to test a drive if you have suspicions.

#16 Clak

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 01:56 PM

This is getting harder to do, but simply find a drive with the best warranty you can. It's not if a drive is going to die, but when. A lot of HDD manufacturers have been lowering their warranty period, used to be able to expect at least 3 years, not any more. So just check the warranty length for whatever drive you're looking at it. Personally I like Western Digital drives, Seagate used to be regarded as the best , but that opinion seems to have changed in the last few years.

Assuming this article is still valid

http://www.geek.com/...nties-20111219/

I'd get the WD Black brand as it still has a five year warranty accordion to that article.
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#17 BigPopov

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 05:11 PM

About 3 or 4 years ago Seagate had a bad run of HDs that has serious firmware issues. They've long since fixed those problems but their reputation took a huge hit.

You're right though, WD Black are still 5 years. But if it's a prepackaged external, it's still up to the manuf. (if the enclosure has a Black in it, it's not given the 5 year, just what is described on the box of the external. similar to how HDs in PCs are given the warranty based on what you purchase, if not, 1 year)

#18 shrike4242

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 07:06 PM

I've been using WD Scorpio Black drives in my HTPC (2.5" version of the WD Caviar Black) for multiple years and they've worked extremely well. Fast, too.

Picking up your own external enclosure with a fan plus a WD Caviar Black may be a better way to go, as the enclosure is cheap to replace and the Caviar would have a 5 year warranty on it.

#19 Javery

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 07:18 PM

I have one of THESE and I can't say enough good things about it. No external power required and it works great. I can also easily stream content to my iPhone from it using audiogalaxy and it is practically seamless.

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#20 Clak

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 08:34 PM

I've been using WD Scorpio Black drives in my HTPC (2.5" version of the WD Caviar Black) for multiple years and they've worked extremely well. Fast, too.

Picking up your own external enclosure with a fan plus a WD Caviar Black may be a better way to go, as the enclosure is cheap to replace and the Caviar would have a 5 year warranty on it.

That's what I would do. I have an external WD I got a few years back from Target's black Friday deal, but I don't completely trust it to last much longer. Nothing important is on it at least. But yeah, get the black drive and a decent box for it, they're pretty cheap.
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“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” -Mark Twain

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#21 crunchb3rry

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 11:35 PM

I'd love to be able to afford a Buffalo TeraStation. It's basically an external RAID setup designed just for backups. One drive fails and you just pop in another and the working drive clones itself to the new one. The idea being that theoretically two drives will never fail at once. So you're protected from all but natural disasters.

#22 Clak

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 02:06 PM

You could set up a mirror RAID for less. There are also lots of other types of "RAID in a box" type setups out there.
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#23 shrike4242

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 08:21 PM

I'd love to be able to afford a Buffalo TeraStation. It's basically an external RAID setup designed just for backups. One drive fails and you just pop in another and the working drive clones itself to the new one. The idea being that theoretically two drives will never fail at once. So you're protected from all but natural disasters.

Or both drives crapping out at the same time, or the enclosure.

#24 BigPopov

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 09:55 PM

The point of a mirror raid is that it's very unlikely that both drives go bad at the same time. If the enclosure dies, no big deal as the HDs individually can be read/recovered on a standard PC (a little more work if they're not using standard FAT/NTFS file systems)

Though I have had instances where RAID controllers go haywire and completely screw things up, or the controllers power supply blowing up and frying both HDs in the process. Both are rare. So RAID isn't infallable.

Truth be told, nowadays your best foolproof option is just a regular external for the local backup (which is good for a speedy recovery + lots of older versions of files) as well as an online service like Carbonite. Depends how much your data is worth to you though.

#25 shrike4242

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 10:21 PM

If it's really important, it's best to back the info up to external HDD, burn it to DVD and store it offsite, as well as use an online backup system like Carbonite or the like.

It just depends on how paranoid you want to be about your data and how much of an issue it would be to recreate it or recover it.

#26 J7.

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 04:53 AM

In Windows 7, "Backup and Restore" is under the control panel and it will give you the date and result of the last backup. If the last backup fails I'm pretty sure there's a red or yellow flag under "Solve PC Issues" in the taskbar.

The easiest way to look for failing hard drives is;

Control Panel - Administrative Tools - Event Viewer

Expand the "Windows Logs" tab, and go to "System." If a drive starts developing bad blocks, it will be yellow flag and the source will say "disk." You'll start seeing something to the effect of windows had detected a bad block on disk0. Even if it's just one error replace it. Bad blocks cause the PC to runs really slow when they hit.

You just have to be aware that if the disk referenced is the CD ROM drive, that's only saying the CD has a small unreadable section and not a failing drive.

Control Panel - Administrative Tools - Computer Management

Click on "Storage" and then "Disk Management" this will tell you what disk0, disk1, etc is.

Seatools for Windows is another good way to test a drive if you have suspicions.


Looks like my backup has never been set up. I usually do what crunchberry said, manual backup of my documents and some other folders. I have quite a bit of red errors in the 'windows logs tab' under 'system', the only yellow flags I see are for the "WLAN Autoconfig service has successfully stopped", a driver failed to load for usb, and some error loading a webpage. One of the red errors says "the device, \device\cdrom0, has a bad block.

'Disk management' under 'storage' shows my recovery partition as being 12 gb and having 12 gb of free space, which makes me believe my recovery drive is messed up. There's also a 'system reserved' 102 mb disk. Do you know which disk should be used by the computer for recovery? On my other computer it used to show the D drive next to my C drive under Computer, but this computer only shows a C drive.

This is getting harder to do, but simply find a drive with the best warranty you can. It's not if a drive is going to die, but when. A lot of HDD manufacturers have been lowering their warranty period, used to be able to expect at least 3 years, not any more. So just check the warranty length for whatever drive you're looking at it. Personally I like Western Digital drives, Seagate used to be regarded as the best , but that opinion seems to have changed in the last few years.

Assuming this article is still valid

http://www.geek.com/...nties-20111219/

I'd get the WD Black brand as it still has a five year warranty accordion to that article.

Do you know what you would do if the drive failed and you had personal files on it and you have to return it back to a retail store or return it directly to the manufacturer. How could you get your files off it if it dies?

#27 dohdough

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 05:10 AM

Looks like my backup has never been set up. I usually do what crunchberry said, manual backup of my documents and some other folders. I have quite a bit of red errors in the 'windows logs tab' under 'system', the only yellow flags I see are for the "WLAN Autoconfig service has successfully stopped", a driver failed to load for usb, and some error loading a webpage. One of the red errors says "the device, \device\cdrom0, has a bad block.

'Disk management' under 'storage' shows my recovery partition as being 12 gb and having 12 gb of free space, which makes me believe my recovery drive is messed up. There's also a 'system reserved' 102 mb disk. Do you know which disk should be used by the computer for recovery? On my other computer it used to show the D drive next to my C drive under Computer, but this computer only shows a C drive.

Depending on the OS, the recovery data should be at least a gig. Sounds like you're right about a borked recovery image.

Do you know what you would do if the drive failed and you had personal files on it and you have to return it back to a retail store or return it directly to the manufacturer. How could you get your files off it if it dies?

There are really only two things you can do. Throw it in the freezer and hope that it'll run long enough to pull your files after being frozen for a day or send it to a data recovery outfit.

#28 62t

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 07:22 AM

Most of the 1 stars on Amazon, maybe all of them, for external HDD's are due to the drive failing. Some of the 2 stars may be too. I calculated the % of 1 stars and for any drive I looked at it was at least 14% and as high as 18% if my memory serves me correctly. How do you check the status of a drive? When do you get Windows Backup has failed errors? I ran backup once but it did not work.



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#29 BigPopov

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 01:41 PM

Looks like my backup has never been set up. I usually do what crunchberry said, manual backup of my documents and some other folders. I have quite a bit of red errors in the 'windows logs tab' under 'system', the only yellow flags I see are for the "WLAN Autoconfig service has successfully stopped", a driver failed to load for usb, and some error loading a webpage. One of the red errors says "the device, \device\cdrom0, has a bad block.


Those are all no problem. The error on the CD ROM is what you'd see for a hard drive, except it would say disk0 or disk1, etc. It's just saying that a disc you had in the drive had a bad sector (which is common)

'Disk management' under 'storage' shows my recovery partition as being 12 gb and having 12 gb of free space, which makes me believe my recovery drive is messed up. There's also a 'system reserved' 102 mb disk. Do you know which disk should be used by the computer for recovery? On my other computer it used to show the D drive next to my C drive under Computer, but this computer only shows a C drive.


Do you know what you would do if the drive failed and you had personal files on it and you have to return it back to a retail store or return it directly to the manufacturer. How could you get your files off it if it dies?


Recovery partitions vary in size between whats on them and the creator, I've seen 12gb+ recovery partitions before. It's basically unoptimized, uncompressed files. Windows + all of the drivers and bullshit programs the company put on the PC.

Truth be told, if you need space, you can delete the recovery partition. Windows 7 installation is easy from a Microsoft DVD (which you can download from Pirate Bay,) and is generally much better than the recovery partition (there's no BS programs preinstalled.)

Of course if you're not that tech savvy don't do it. And to answer a question before it arises downloading a non cracked MS OS is perfectly legal and not frowned on by MS, since you still need a valid product key to activate it.

The recovery drive is hidden intentionally, there's no mistake with it. (some manuf forget to do this). The 102mb drive is a system boot manager, you can't/shouldn't delete it.

If your drive dies and has to go back they will not assist in data recovery. That's a whole new field of discussion. If it becomes serious you have to basically pay someone to do it.

#30 J7.

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 10:44 PM

Depending on the OS, the recovery data should be at least a gig. Sounds like you're right about a borked recovery image.


There are really only two things you can do. Throw it in the freezer and hope that it'll run long enough to pull your files after being frozen for a day or send it to a data recovery outfit.


So the only way I can recover is to use the recovery discs I made? What does a freezer do? There's lots of people on amazon who returned their broken hard drives, are they just being extremely risky?

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Good point.

Those are all no problem. The error on the CD ROM is what you'd see for a hard drive, except it would say disk0 or disk1, etc. It's just saying that a disc you had in the drive had a bad sector (which is common)



Recovery partitions vary in size between whats on them and the creator, I've seen 12gb+ recovery partitions before. It's basically unoptimized, uncompressed files. Windows + all of the drivers and bullshit programs the company put on the PC.

Truth be told, if you need space, you can delete the recovery partition. Windows 7 installation is easy from a Microsoft DVD (which you can download from Pirate Bay,) and is generally much better than the recovery partition (there's no BS programs preinstalled.)

Of course if you're not that tech savvy don't do it. And to answer a question before it arises downloading a non cracked MS OS is perfectly legal and not frowned on by MS, since you still need a valid product key to activate it.

The recovery drive is hidden intentionally, there's no mistake with it. (some manuf forget to do this). The 102mb drive is a system boot manager, you can't/shouldn't delete it.

If your drive dies and has to go back they will not assist in data recovery. That's a whole new field of discussion. If it becomes serious you have to basically pay someone to do it.

Using Windows disc to recover would be good except for missing all the drivers and any programs that came with the PC.

I chose to show hidden files and folders and the recovery drive was still not shown. Every other computer I own shows the D drive next to the C drive.

I'm not worried about recovery files from a bad hard drive but rather someone else gaining access to them if I return it to a store or the manufacturer. What's stopping them from looking at it or using a program to gain access to the files. I'm puzzled how all of these people on amazon are returning their hdds.