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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Buying a new hard drive? Expect it to die

When building a PC, people often ask me which brand of mechanical hard drive they should buy.
I tend to keep things pretty simple:
  1. It doesn't matter what brand
  2. Stay away from "green" drives, as the speed deficit isn't worth the energy saving at consumer scale
  3. Get the one with the largest warranty
  4. Expect it to fail.
The last point usually shocks. Am I recommending something that will die?
Well, yes. It's not that I want to; it's just that the odds are good that at some time in your tech life, you're going to suffer from a failed hard drive, more so than anything else in your system. It also has the biggest ramifications of any failure in your system. Documents gone. Photos lost forever. That epic video library, wasted away.

Saving yourself time and pain

Thinking about storage as something that's built to fail helps to reframe people's ideas about backup. Whether they get a NAS and some sync software, or even use something like Time Machine on OS X, if people expect their hard drive to fail at any time, they tend to be more careful with their data.
Heck, as much as it isn't backup, I'd settle for people thinking about RAID, if only for that tiny bit of extra data security.