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Seagate Hard Drives Are Cheaper But Less Reliable Than Hitachi & WD Storage

A study reveals the average failure rates of three major hard drive manufacturers. Of the lot Seagate storage failed 25% of the time.
Published

We've all been there. The blue (or black) screen of death followed by that sinking feeling knowing we haven't turned Time Machine on in weeks. And then there's the inevitable dread of having to replace an internal hard drive, and/or actually start using that old external setup (for real this time).

But before you go buying a new hard drive, you should know that not all storage is created equal — and we don't just mean disk space. Backblaze, a cloud storage company, pitted three major hard drive manufacturers against each other and found that Hitachi and Western Digital hard drives failed less often than Seagate's, which were fallible up to 25% of the time. What's more, our own research suggests that you're actually more likely to find a deal on a Seagate hard drive. Read on for our take on the study's results, and what effect they should have on your hard drive buying habits.

Hitachi Hard Drives Are Consistently Reliable

Backblaze tested more than 26,000 hard drives of varying capacities from each of the three manufacturers, calculating the annual failure rates for each drive. The company defined this rate as "the average number of failures you can expect running one drive for a year," with a "failure" occurring anytime a drive had to be replaced.

In the end, Hitachi came out on top, with each of its tested drives maintaining an annual failure rate of under 2%. Western Digital also performed admirably, with its drives coming in at under 4%. Seagate, however, proved to be shockingly inconsistent: Seagate drives saw annual failure rates ranging from under 4% to just over 25% for its Barracuda 7200 1.5TB model.

You're More Likely to Get a Deal on a Seagate Hard Drive

In the past 12 months, 28% of the Hitachi hard drive deals we listed were hot enough to be marked Editors' Choice, as opposed to 25% of Seagate drives and 21% of Western Digital drives. That percentage is slightly misleading, though; we saw nearly eight times as many Seagate deals as we did Hitachi deals. We also saw seven times more Western Digital deals than Hitachi deals. Therefore, if you're in the market for a cheap hard drive, you're a lot more likely to stumble across a deal for one made by Seagate or Western Digital.

Applying this data to the info from the study above, the best reliable, affordable hard drive is probably a Western Digital 1TB or 3TB drive. Although WD enjoys the lowest percentage of Editors' Choice deals among the three companies, you're a lot more likely to see a deal for one of these drives than one made by Hitachi. Also, these drives have an annual failure rate of about 3% to 4%, a far cry from the 25% failure rate of Seagate's 1.5TB drives. That said, if the results of the Backblaze study have you convinced that Hitachi is the only way to go, then you should definitely set up an email alert so you don't miss a deal on one of those drives.

Readers, do you agree with the results of this study? Do you swear by your Seagate? Have you only bought Hitachi? Stand up for your HDD brand of choice in the comments below!


Features Writer

Marcy pens consumer news stories of all sorts, in addition to adding pithy prose to many of the roundups you see every day. Her work for DealNews has appeared on sites like Lifehacker, the Huffington Post, and MSN Money. She is by far the most metal member of the DealNews staff, and you can see why by following her on Twitter @ThatBonebright.
Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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35 comments
Shark7
i decided long ago (after several data losses), that i'm never buying another Seagate drive.. was happy to see and read this article.. it confirms what i'd learned already the hard way and try to tell my techie friends whenever i can not to buy SG. WD is my choice forever. (except some of the usb portable drives). Thanks for sharing.
silex
Western Digital Is by far my solid friend. Too many seagate, and toshiba drive failures to want to deal with them anymore. Hitachi however I have had in my servers, but when I buy I always go WD
rapples
Honestly, I've been in the computer biz for 30 years.. I use Seagate drives whenever possible. I have never had any problem.. I suspect that the drives you tested were damaged in shipment and also that your test is flawed since you didn't test enough drives. I've had problems with WD and Hitachi drives however.. plenty of them.. Apple uses them.. after a year or two.. click click.. whirrr... and they're trash.
jamesjmoore999
The only HD's that have failed on me in the last 30 years are all three Seagate's in the last two years. I had a 750GB fail 18 months ago. I had a another 750GB fail approx. a year ago. I had a 1TB fail three months ago. They all magically failed just after the warranty period expired. I had backups so I was not burned.

I switched to WD Black Widow's. They are great and have been working with no problems.
EmJayDee
In the past 20 years I've gone through a lot of hard drives and in that time I've only had 6 drives go bad, all with head crashes. 5 of those drives were Western Digital, 1 was Seagate. I'll admit that it's been some time since I purchased a WD drive, for this very reason but I just can't bring myself to go back and try them again. I did recently put 4 WD 1TB Red drives in a Drobo 5N for a customer so I'm going to see how well they last. If they do well, I may revisit WD. These days though, I tend to only use Seagate but have to say that the 1 drive that failed on me (about a month ago) was a Barracuda 7200 1.5TB. As for Hitachi, I have a 250GB drive that's still going strong after some 6 years.

I'll be avoiding the 1.5TB Seagates from now but i certainly won't be ditching them as a brand until I see numbers from multiple sources confirming this survey's findings.
zv300
To computers guys (us that build our own systems, IT etc) this is no surprise at all, Seagate have ALWAYS been perceived to have much higher failure rates. Their shenanigans in the past (high failure rates, failed firmware issues, not honoring their warranty nor admitting that they had problem) have left a bad taste in most of our mouths.

I have had Seagates, Hitachi's and WD's and the Hitachi's are absolutely bullet-proof. I've had most of my Seagates die at some point for no reason, but my Hitachi's are still humming along happily.

Seagates are on sale all the time for a reason, they are absolutely NOT good drives at all.
danielooi
I have dozen of failed Seagate HDD back at home and I have more confidence with WD HDD
ventz
Using Backblaze #'s is about the same as having someone buy 100 drives of brand A and 100 drives of brand B, and then, after let's say 10 fail from brand A, concluding that the failure rate for brand A is 10%. Also, they cram the drives where vibrations effect the drives, don't cool them properly, and run them into the ground. Also, at the last check, they don't upgrade their firmware to the recommended one.

If you want some real numbers:
http://www.hardware-revolution.com/...anuary-2014/

Top part - just SSDs
Bottom part - regular HDs

---------------------------------------
Hard Drive Failure Rates:
From Marc Prieur, of hardware.fr, here are the hard drives failures rates according to a French e-tailer as of October 2013:

Seagate 0.95%
Hitachi 1.16%
Western Digital 1.19%
---------------------------------------
weiliwang
In the last 5 years, I've had 3 Seagate & 1 WD hard drives fail on me. Just as I was reading this article, one of my Seagate HD started making a little clicking noise while it was being used. Guess it's time to buy a new hard drive!
tumharyyaaden
Alert setup link is broken (404)
cooljrok
I've had major issues with failures by 3 WD drives in the past 5 years, and not one of my Seagate drives has failed yet. I don't recall any experience with Hitachi hard drives.
emmayche
All the comments below notwithstanding, the survey matches my personal experience. I would not consider a Seagate drive for any application whatsoever, now or at any time within the next 5 years (at which point I will again look at reliability reports).
dealnews-Lindsay
@good2014 This is not sponsored. The study was written about by many media sources.
dmharris
Seems accurate to me. The last two Seagate drives I've owned have failed. The first one, a passport, which I was using for Time Machine backups, failed almost immediately. Seagate DID replace it, though, with little to no hassle, so that was nice. The second one, a 3TB external, just failed last week, one month after the warranty expired. Extremely frustrating. In contrast, my 3TB Western Digital just keeps chugging away after 3 years of constant use. I won't be buying another Seagate, no matter how good the deal.
good2014
Hate to suggest you might be biased or this is a sponsored ad or the study is not independent but the claim is bogus.
http://www.tweaktown.com/...ory-covered/index.html
frenchyaz
Seems to be BS according to this: http://tinyurl.com/kkkjy2q
portbcv
It seems, from your review, that the tables have turned. I have always used Seagate as my external storage, and have never had an issue. the last one I purchased over 3.5 years ago, and still runs like a champ. I have 4 externals, ranging from 500Gb to 750Gb at 7200rpm. Now, the issues that I have had in the past are not so much with a manufacturer, but with a brand. We used to get LaCIE's and those product were crap. Failures happening within 6-12 months of purchase. One, within the week of purchase! I believe at the time of purchase, those were either Hitachi or WD drives (5 years ago). In that case, I believe it came down to controller failure. I have avoided LaCIE ever since.
esrouter
This is actually pretty reliable research. I've written papers on this topic as well, and although platter drives are starting to become more and more obsolete, the most reliable data I've seen to date was a Carnegie Mellon study that basically said hard disks are most likely to fail within the first year (infancy) or within 5-7 years. (typical death) The study concluded that no manufacturer was singled out as the "worst". See the research here:

http://static.usenix.org/...chroeder/schroeder.pdf

Updated research here:

http://techreport.com/...tracks-25-000-hard-drives
Wolfman
Back in the 90's at least, my tech support buddies wouldn't touch Western Digital for their high rate of failure in OEM applications.
pottsgw
Every brand has both good and bad product lines; these results mean nothing unless you're only considering the exact lines of drive backblaze uses.
I've had no problems with Seagate's 2.5" based portable drives, whereas their 3.5" based external drive products are crap.
lward
Deal News looking at reliability? Awesome! Keep up the analysis...low price is no Deal if the product is not reliable.
frenchyaz
I am running my server with 4*2TB + 4*3TB Seagate 24/7 and no problems. My other computers had 4*1.5TB Seagate, one died after 38 months, the other ones are running fine however developing bad sectors but still have 2 years warranty (5 total). Just got 2*1TB Toshiba in RAID 1, run just fine. I also have 2*3TB RAID1 Hitachi coolspin, same thing. For backup I use 4 and 3TB Seagate, working as fine. I don't like WD drives as they really messed up with their Green drive and people had a lot of issues in RAID configuration even when certified (i.e. Qnap, ...). All in all my preference would be: Hitachi, Seagate, Toshiba and WD. Of course now that WD bought Hitachi my choice would go to Seagate then Toshiba but this is my personal experience.
LonnieMcClure
Checking the chart shows that two different 1.5TB Seagate drives really skewed the Seagate results: The ST1500DL003 with a 120% annual failure rate, and the ST31500341AS with 25.4%.

In my own life, all of my spinning drives except one are Seagates, and I have yet to have one fail.
MangoPickle
10 years (or less) from now, this discussion will be moot since we will all most likely be on SSD drives. Can't wait for the prices to come down even more.
jlanda
I'm currently using 5 different Seagate external drives for backup. Two of them are over 4 years old. I'm happy with them and no problems!
wdstancil
Please remember these are consumer-level drives placed in a high-vibration server environment.

It's unlikely the drive in your desktop or in your DVR will be subject to the same harsh conditions.
snaimpally
Seagate used to have a very generous warranty (3 or 5 years from what I recall). As the quality of their drives has declined, they have decreased the warranty to just one year.
snaimpally
There has been a lot of consolidation among the disk drive manufacturers. Seagate started going downhill after they bought Maxtor. Hitachi, storage which was once IBM's drive division before being sold to Hitachi, is now owned by Western Digital.
sneakysnake128
Makes sense to me. I was trying to reconcile why people kept holding Seagate in such high regard when in contrast I see such high failure rates among reviews.
sirmakoto
i've always been buying WD int/ext drives, my oldest one was a legacy 250gb ext that has strobe lights inside the casing, i believe it still works from my last use, over a year ago. only one of the drives is failing on me, a 750gb 2.5" portable, this drive was rarely used and it's giving me errors lately. i'll have to sit that drive in a certain way in order for it to read. last year, late 2012, i bought a 3tb int seagate, it's been running fine for now, hopefully it'll last me a few more years, fingers crossed.
ibex333
Give me a break! That is what the warranty is for! I had only ONE Seagate hard drive fail on me, and it was an external one. Seagate sent me a refurb as a replacement. I was upset at first, but really, it works. So what the hell more can you want? I still have an internal Seagate working in my old PC after 12 years! Most of my other HDs are Seagate. All work for many years.

People are not factoring in other factors, such as stupid users who don't provide enough cooling, and other such things... I rather pay $25-50 less for Seagate and take that 25% failure rate risk, than to pay more for WD. As for Hitachi, I got some amazing deals on those too. Some claim Hitachi fail all the time. Mine still works after 5 years.
tclim
@df2dot: There's a stark difference between your anecdotal experience and a study that includes 26,000 hard drives. Unless you know that the study was fixed,claiming that your personal experience is more valid than the study is, well, BS.
df2dot
sounds like BS , seagates have been the most reliable for me
kyungone
Hard Drive is the cheapest computer component but loss of it is the most critical. You can replace CPU, RAM, PSU, Monitor and others but not the HDD. Restore data and configuration to original will cost $$$$$. Wheter you are storing personal documents or corporate database make smart buying and managing on HDDs. Thank you for the article as always.
AdamW
Good article. Anyone know how Toshiba or Samsung drives compare to these three?
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