Data utilization: Let’s say you have two hard drives, and both run constantly. One drive has your operating system installed on it and is frequently being read/written to, while the other drive is a spare disk that houses a few gigabytes of files but is rarely accessed. Most people are inclined to think that the disk with more utilization (the OS drive in this case) would fail sooner than the other drive. However, research by Google shows that disk utilization plays a very small factor in a drive’s lifespan over long periods of time.
If you use a hard drive a lot in the first year of its life, you’re more likely to find defects in it (and thereby have it fail on you), but it will be covered by most warranties. For this reason, don’t be afraid to install things on your hard drive that are going to be accessing it constantly. Most Linux distributions read/write data to log files quite frequently and BitTorrent applications access hard drives a lot as well.
Advertised MTBF: It’s also worth mentioning that manufacturer’s “Mean Time Between Failure” statistics were wildly debunked by Google, so pay them little mind when choosing what hard drive to invest in. Rather, spend that time monitoring your drives S.M.A.R.T. data and temperatures, which we will discuss next.
Letting hard drives run constantly vs. powering them down: There is no definitive research showing that hard drives which are powered off and on (whether it be sleep mode, turning the computer off, etc), suffer more damage than those running constantly. That said, theoretically it would seem that a hard drive being required to constantly spin up and down would not last as long as one constantly running. The reason we suggest this? Hard drives consume the most power when turning on, and damage most commonly occurs when powering up.
Still, if you don’t use your computer that often, you should use some form of sleep/hibernation to save electricity and reduce the hours your hard drive spends spinning. On the other hand, someone who uses their computer sporadically may want to set a higher amount of time before their system goes to sleep, otherwise they may be requiring their hard disks to unnecessarily power on and off frequently.
Monitoring Hard Drive Temperatures
The research produced by Google shows that hard drives hovering in the 30-40 degrees Celsius range live the longest. It’s recommended that you download a program such as SpeedFan to get a feel for what temperatures your hard drives run at, and then change your cooling setup accordingly.
The top row in this screenshot shows hard drive temperatures. The 24 degree drive is a Solid State Drive, which is capable of staying much cooler since there are no moving parts. Temperatures mean nothing for SSDs.
How Can I Tell When My Hard Drive Is Going Bad?
You should monitor your hard drive’s health using S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology). See this guide for instructions on how to monitor the S.M.A.R.T. data of your hard disks with Acronis Drive Monitor.
Solid State Drives
We wanted to mention that most of this guide becomes irrelevant if you are using a Solid State Drive. However, SSDs cost a lot more money for a lot less storage, so hard drives will be around for a long time and it will be impossible for most geeks to avoid using them for at least a few more years. SSDs can handle a lot of physical abuse and stay at room temperature because there is nothing in them that generates heat. You can still use S.M.A.R.T. and Acronis Drive Monitor to keep tabs on how your SSD is performing in other areas.
Download AOMEI Partition Assistant HERE