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April 16, 2010 7:50 AM   Subscribe

NERDS! It's that time of year again. I need some replacement HD's. Let's say Western Digital versus Seagate. Let's rap anecdotal and tell each other which brand is awesome and which we should never use again.

We did this 3 years ago and I know Seagate had a shit ton of firmware issues in 2008 while Western Digital just cranked up their Caviars to 5 year warranties. So what say ye', on this Friday? 1/1.5 TB SATA's... any opinions?

Full disclosure; I was a Maxtor boy, then I was a Seagate man, and while I have a few WD externals, I'd normally buy Seagate... but the WD 5 year warranty caught my eye...
posted by cavalier to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I normally go for WD. That said, I built an unraid server last year and the prices of the seagates were so low (due probably to the blow-back from the firmware issue) that I couldn't resist. I have 5 x 1.5 Seagates in the box and it's on 24x7 no issues so far.

On the same hand I just had 2 x 400 gb Seagates (6-7 years old) fail last month within a week of each other. But they were 6-7 years old in a poorly ventilated thecus nas. My volume isn't as high as some other responses you'll get here, but I'll cast my vote for seagate, maybe they've learned from their past issues?
posted by syntheticfaith at 7:55 AM on April 16, 2010

Google's massive hard drive report confirms "Failure rates are known to be highly correlated with drive models, manufacturers and vintages. Our results do not contradict this fact." Unfortunately, they don't tell you which brands are better or worse.

Personally, I always go with Western Digital, but more out of tradition than anything. I'd follow whoever has the longest warranty.
posted by Nelson at 8:03 AM on April 16, 2010

Buy a mix of drives from different manufacturers. It's the best way to mitigate the risk of firmware issues, a bad batch, damage during shipping, etc.
posted by Max Camber at 8:11 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

WD hands-down.

In the past year, I've replaced 3 Seagate drives for various issues (as well as one WD drive that failed within 48 hours of being installed, which coincidentally caused me far more grief than the any of the Seagates).

If nothing else, WD's RMA service is much more pleasant to deal with. Seagate refused to RMA my external hard drive, because I took the drive out of its enclosure to salvage the data. Oh, and they took 3 months to refuse the RMA, charged me for return shipping (before telling me that they didn't repair the drive), and then sent the still-dead drive to the wrong address. My other Seagate RMAs have taken several weeks to process -- Seagate charge $20 for their "advance RMA" service, which WD offer for free.

To summarize:
Seagate has serious quality issues (possibly resolved by now), and continues to have abominable customer support. Go with WD.

Also, always always always keep at least 2 copies of your data at all times. Murphy's law is especially true for hard drives.
posted by schmod at 8:15 AM on April 16, 2010

All of my Seagates are still going strong, some after 5-7 years. That said, I've only bought one drive since they purchased Maxtor. The one Maxtor drive I bought died within 2 years.

Honestly, with the warranties being identical, I'm in the "buy whatever is cheaper" camp. All things being equal, I'd lean Seagate.
posted by almostmanda at 8:17 AM on April 16, 2010

Purely anecdotal:

I have five external Western Digitals, and none of them has ever had a single problem. The oldest is about three years old.

However, the newer models have a built-in virtual CD with worthless backup software (look for something about SmartWare on the box). The only way to get rid of the virtual drive is a firmware update, which isn't difficult, but is a pain.
posted by reductiondesign at 9:08 AM on April 16, 2010

Might I suggest getting a small utility which can do some "burn-in" on the drive? At the end of the week or two of testing, check your S.M.A.R.T. scores and go from there.

While I cannot fault Google for refusing to name names, they could at least provide us with the dataset.
posted by adipocere at 9:12 AM on April 16, 2010

I used to buy only seagates, but since the firmware fiasco I've been going with WD Caviar's (greens for media box storage and blacks for boot drives running the OS) and Samsung Spinpoints, which have all been awesome.

I never really particularly had any issues with seagates, but the word of mouth scared me off buying them... chances are they are fine now but you can always try and read some reviews to be sure.
posted by utsutsu at 9:17 AM on April 16, 2010

Samsung Spinpoints are quick and quiet and run cool, but I've seen their 500GB model fail to play nice with an ALi-based SATA controller: hammering a pair of drives by doing file copies from one to the other would often cause one of them to go completely offline (data cable unplugged emulation mode) until power-cycled (drive reset wasn't enough). I replaced them with a couple of 1TB Seagates and those are currently running trouble-free. I put the Spinpoints in another machine with an Intel SATA controller and they work fine in that; never did find out what the issue with the ALi controller was.
posted by flabdablet at 10:00 AM on April 16, 2010

I only buy Western Digital drives, on the advice of an ex who used to build his own computers and now works for Google.

I've had great results with them. In fact—knock on wood—every WD drive I've ever owned is still going strong, even the 60 GB one from a PC I bought in 2002 that now lives in a friend's PowerMac G4.
posted by limeonaire at 10:02 AM on April 16, 2010

I bought a WD caviar black 1TB drive recently. Can't say anything about long-term reliability, but man is that thing QUIET.
posted by dabug at 10:21 AM on April 16, 2010

WD's 600 GB VelociRaptor is on sale at NewEgg for $280 with free shipping. :-)
posted by kindall at 10:30 AM on April 16, 2010

Response by poster: Quiet?? dabug, all the reviewws say it's loud!

I think I'm gonna buy one WD, and maybe one Seagate, but at least start witth a WD. I've got a set of Seagates that are approaching 2 years runtime and one of them has started (randomly?) dropping out of the bios -- a full power cycle (not restart) brings it back. SeaTools said this and another drive sucked, though, sooo.. I smell the winds of suckage coming...
posted by cavalier at 10:36 AM on April 16, 2010

What purposes are you getting these drives for? While I'll nth the WD suggestion for bulk storage, if you don't need large drives or are looking for great performance, are you considering any SSDs? They're pricey and small, but the performance boost is awesome. If you're looking for brand recommendations there, Intel's X-25 drives are top of the line, OCZ's more recent drives are pretty good, and Crucial just put out a drive that hits a sweet spot of size, performance, and price.
posted by Lifeson at 11:33 AM on April 16, 2010

This is based solely on personal experience, but I'd get a Seagate. I can't get technical, but I've used several Western Digitals and Seagates over the past decade, and the only drives that ever died on me were the Western Digitals. The Seagates, on the other hand, are still working fine.
posted by Dreamcast at 11:45 AM on April 16, 2010

It seems like in situations like this, among good brands, you will always find people split pretty evenly across the board. I was recently researching whether to buy an ATI Radeon by either XFX or Sapphire and there were pretty even splits between "this one's great" and "I'll never buy this one again because of (one isolated failure)." Seagate and WD both seem like good choices and if I were choosing, I'd either go for the one with the better warranty or the one on sale, depending on how much money mattered in the choice. When you get past the official benchmarking and down to anecdotal data, it seems like you're mostly relying on chance anyways... by who happens to answer.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:14 PM on April 16, 2010

Over the course of 15 ish years fixing computers, retail bought Seagates have had the lowest failure rate. And except for one particular 4gb model, have always been quieter than Western Digital.
posted by gjc at 5:22 PM on April 16, 2010

My basic impression based on personal experience and reading reviews on places like Newegg over the past decade is that Seagate had a good run in the middle of the 2000s, but then started suffering a lot of quality and firmware issues. I personally suspect that this had something to do with their merger with Maxtor and the move of some (all?) factories to China. Lately, I've been only buying the WD Black (for primary storage) and Green (for RAID storage).

If you really need speed, forget about the Raptors, SSD is the way to go. Intel X-25 have the best reputation, and OCZ Vertex series are a close second.
posted by kenliu at 5:44 PM on April 16, 2010

My company has purchased hundreds of WD drives over the last five years. They're reliable and the RMAs are fast and painless when they do fail. This has been my experience with both enterprise and consumer drives from WD. Highly recommended.
posted by L. Ron McKenzie at 10:24 PM on April 16, 2010

Small hijack, but are the WD green drives adequate for media? I've been in the market as well but I haven't seen a clear answer. I was looking for a 1.5 our 2 TB drive that would be used for playback of audio and large video files.
posted by HSWilson at 8:07 AM on April 17, 2010

Obviously that wad supposed to be or not our. Damn predictive text combined with a small screen.
posted by HSWilson at 8:10 AM on April 17, 2010

I've got a 2TB green with all my media on it and it works fine. I can stream video to my PS3 while watching other videos or listening to music on the PC, no problems. I think it's ideal for consuming media.
posted by L. Ron McKenzie at 8:47 AM on April 17, 2010

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