Hard Drive Problems/life of external hard drive


Too much information...I'll try this again.
What is the "life" of an external hard drive bought today?
Thank you for your time,

ANSWER: Hi Robert!

I'm sorry for putting your last question in the "pool" ... I had only my phone, and to be honest, I didn't follow the post for most of it, so I "pooled" it.

Thanks for simplifying.

Your question doesn't really have one definite answer.  One rule to remember about hard drives:  Their failure is not a question of IF, but WHEN.  Some drives die within seconds of activation, some after weeks, months, and some even keep running after years and years of activity.

Here is an article on a study Google published about hard drives.  The thing you must remember is that any drive can die at any time.  However, you will notice an abnormal amount of drives die within the first few months, then starting at 2-3 year of age, failure rates begin to rise.

I have seen drives fail across the entire spectrum, including drives that are over 10-12 years old that are still functioning (if I had my way, they would have all been decommissioned by now!).

I know you asked about "external" drives, but external drives are just internal drives inside of external cases.  The added complexity of an external drive's case circuitry (USB/eSATA, etc.) may lead to higher failure rates among external hard drives.  Of the roughly 4-5 external drives I've seen "die", the drive inside was still functional - when removed from the case and plugged directly into a computer, the data was still there, and in every case, the drive tested fine.

The thing to remember about protecting your data against drive failure is to always make sure you have two copies of your data, and ideally, one of those would be "offsite" (cloud, remote site, etc.).

USB is a standard that will not be replaced anytime in the near future, so going with a USB drive, you will be able to plug it into probably any computer for many years to come.  Thunderbolt is a promising technology to eventually replace USB (and eSATA) for storage reasons, but is overkill for devices such as mice and keyboards, so USB will likely be kept for basic I/O devices.

As for CD/DVD media ... it is a less reliable media than HD storage, and while making data disks is probably ok, I personally would not make that my only source of my data, nor would I make it my only backup of existing data.  CD/DVD, while it is starting to make its exit from the world of personal computing (with movie/music streaming, UV, MP3/4, and optical drives no longer options on many computers), that time will eventually come when devices with CD/DVD/BluRay drives won't be included with our computers, but they will most likely be obtainable somewhere (although they may eventually exist only as USB or network devices) and as long as the disc fits the player, CD/DVD formats will probably be recognized and readable.

Hopefully some of this has helped answer your questions, but if you have further questions, please let me know.

Good luck!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for the info!
Couple of follow up questions:
I suppose I could buy a hard drive that worked with my computer with a regular SATA cord or whatever it is...?  I could just plug it in ....except I would have to have two slots on the motherboard for both and transfer back and forth...?   Can you just plug it in the motherboard and go?  Then I'd store it in the closet and pull it out three times a year for more data? I'll have to take another look at the mboard...

What's a good online data storage service?


Internal drives might be less likely to experience problems, but they have their place and they are much more convenient for backups than taking internal drives in and out.  If you plan to connect this drive to another computer or move it (like to an offsite location for safety), then I would use an external drive.  If you probably are only going to leave the drive connected to that one computer, then an internal drive would perform much better.  Having a drive connected all the time would also make sure that your backups are current.

Your computer would take either an IDE (EIDE/ATA) or a SATA drive.  If it is newer than 6-8 years, it will most likely take a SATA drive, but you should confirm your system specs.  You will need a data cable, an extra drive port, and a power cable for the drive.  It will show up in Windows Explorer/My Computer simply as another drive to which you can point your backups.

Let me know if you have questions about connecting another drive internally.

Mozy, Carbonite, and iDrive are good/popular online/cloud backup services.

Hard Drive Problems

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


PowerEdge Tech


I can answer questions about server hardware RAID and general storage for servers and PC's - hard drive issues, troubleshooting, advice, specs, and information. While some apparent drive/RAID array failures can be recovered, I can only provide advice/recommendations in the event of catastrophic data loss. I don't assist in actually recovering from this type of data loss on this forum.


I worked as an analyst in Dell server support for 2 years, and have since worked with many Dell PowerEdge servers. I am currently employed as IT Manager. I am currently ranked in the top 5 All-Time in Server Hardware and Hard Drives in a very popular and large forum similar to AllExperts.

I have a BS in Computer Science and have earned the following certifications: CompTIA Security+, A+, Project+; CIW Web Design, Database Specialist; Microsoft Windows 7; Dell DCSE Server. I am also an expert in Windows 7, Servers, and Hard Drives (I don't normally do XP - not because I don't know it inside and out, but because I have "retired" personal support for XP, and I want to see it die :)).

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.