Cheap hard drives are attractive because of their very low cost, but often these discount hard drives are of substandard quality and will likely fail earlier than better quality or brand name hard disk drives.
Hard disk drives are no different than any other product when it comes to quality – you basically get what you pay for. This rule does not always apply as some expensive products can underperform and some cheaper products can perform quite well. However, on average cheaper products do not last as long or perform as well as more expensive products. With hard drives, the rule may be more relevant because of the precise nature of the technology that goes into producing a hard drive and the amount of work that a hard drive performs on a daily basis. Cutting corners to reduce costs or using inferior materials will cause significant problems or complete failure to occur when a discount hard drive is used.
Failure Pattern of Hard Drives
Hard drives fail according to a specific pattern which is called the bathtub curve. Of all the hard drive failures that occur, a significant number of them fail early in their life. This early period of use is generally the first year and is a result of poor manufacturing or use of inferior materials. Next, comes a period where the hard disk drives perform as expected with no problems and failure rates are low. This useful life period of the hard drive is from 2 to 5 years on average. Following this period, the number of failures starts to rise as the mechanical components reach the end of their service life. When hard drives are approaching the 5 year mark or are older than five years, replacement should be considered as even the once very reliable hard drives may fail suddenly. Note that it is also not that unusual that a small number of hard drives will function well beyond five years of age.
The problem with using cheap hard drives is that the risk of losing information stored on the hard drive is quite high from the onset. Cheap hard drives will fail in very large numbers in the initial period of the hard drive lifetime curve and few will make it beyond this phase. The end result is that replacement will be required in a short amount of time, making the initial savings irrelevant. With the current cost of high capacity brand name hard drives being low, there is no reason to buy inferior quality discount hard drives and putting your stored information at risk. When looking at cost per GB, even the purchase of more expensive good quality hard drives is still better than other types of storage media and thus, there is no reason to buy cheap.
Hard Drive Warranties
The quality of hard drives can be reflected by the length of warranty offered by the manufacturer. Cheap hard drives usually have short warranties and are generally in the 6 month to 1 year range. Better quality hard disk drives have warranties of 3 to 5 years. Manufacturers do not want products returned and therefore, the long warranty length is a fairly reliable sign that the quality of the product is very good. However, the only problem with warranties is that if a problem occurs, whether with a discount hard drive or quality hard drive, the only thing that gets replaced is the hard drive. The data stored on the hard drive will not and cannot be replaced. Back-ups are critical, regardless of whether a cheap hard drive or a more expensive one is being used.
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