How long does hard drive last?
April 20, 2010 9:29 PM   Subscribe

How long does hard drive last?

I am planning to move somewhere and I will leave my desktop computer behind for 2-3 years. It has a 2 year old hard drive. Will it be okay to leave my computer like this for 2-3 years without turning on at all? I hope there won't be any fault on it.
posted by sanskrtam to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
Typical hard drive failure involves tiny moving parts that stop moving properly. All hard drives will fail eventually with use. A stationary drive in acceptable conditions (room temperature, humidity, etc) should be just fine. But it would be imprudent not to make a full backup before you go. Can you buy an external drive and transfer all your files over, then store the external drive in a different location?
posted by reeddavid at 9:35 PM on April 20, 2010

It's the luck of the draw sometimes. I've had two desktop computers that lasted 8 years and 9 years, respectively, with constant use. In all likelihood your computer will be fine, but definitely back up your important data before you leave.
posted by amyms at 9:46 PM on April 20, 2010

this has been asked other places. Go here, here and here to see what others have said.
posted by chinabound at 9:48 PM on April 20, 2010

There's no way of telling. Make a backup and see how you go.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:14 PM on April 20, 2010

Digital data doesn't really exist until there are at least two copies of it.
posted by flabdablet at 10:15 PM on April 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

In my experience, hard drives last until I drop the laptop. :-)
posted by northernlightgardener at 10:17 PM on April 20, 2010

An idle hard drive sitting on a shelf will probably retain its data for many years.

Two hard drives sitting on two shelves are much more likely to retain your data until you need it again.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 10:49 PM on April 20, 2010

It will probably be fine, but as others have said: if the data on the drive is important enough to you that you asked this question, you should probably make a backup.

But if what you're really asking about is whether you should do something to the drive before leaving it alone for a couple of years: no, not really. It's no more likely to fail sitting on a shelf than it would be if you were using it for those two years. Just put it in a dry place with no extremes of temperature or vibration.
posted by hattifattener at 12:09 AM on April 21, 2010

It sounds like he's worried about demagnetization, not failure. It should be fine. According to this article it takes 30 years or so for a VHS tape to demagnetize to the point of unwatchability. And hard drives have a lot of error correction in case a few bits go bad.
posted by delmoi at 3:38 AM on April 21, 2010

One day less than the interval between your backups.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:16 AM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I still have an original, working 20 Megabyte Seagate ST-225. I think I got it at a computer show back around 1990.

Hard Drives that are treated properly will last longer than VHS tapes, easily, since the heads never physically touch the platters. Of course, you have to remember to park your drive before you shut down or you'll kill it on startup.

That last sentence probably means nothing to you.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:12 AM on April 21, 2010

Make a backup of anything important on archival CD/DVD as well to make sure. (You should do this anyway) I would take the drive out of the computer, put it in an anti-static bag and pack it in a cozy foam container, just to be sure it doesn't get knocked about, but it'll probably be just fine sitting there.
posted by defcom1 at 5:34 AM on April 21, 2010

It's no more likely to fail sitting on a shelf than it would be if you were using it for those two years. Just put it in a dry place with no extremes of temperature or vibration.

That's difficult to say with any certainty. In my career, I've dealt with drives in systems that have been on for 10 years without a reboot, and I've also seen disks that were stored on shelves for years. After a certain point in storage (3 or so years of no running), drives tend to begin dying. Drives past the infant-mortality timeframe, but kept running in optimal conditions usually ran until we retired the drive. This is all in a datacenter, controlled environmental conditions. Figure out what's important on that computer, and back it up where ever you can. It's safe to assume that the data will be OK. Really, it's more likely that the power supply, motherboard, etc will crap out in storage than the disk, though. Capacitors tend to dry out, for example.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 7:57 AM on April 21, 2010

Backup before letting it sit, but my home desktop is 10+ years old and (knock on wood) hasn't shown any problems.
posted by aught at 8:33 AM on April 21, 2010

Take the irreplacable data with you on one medium or another - in the laptop I assume you'll be replacing the desktop machine with, in some USB keys, whatever. Hell, take the drive in an external USB/firewire case.

Nothing you can buy is irreplacable data. Take the data unique to your life - your own personal creative work, your correspondence, your own history. When I had my possessions destroyed by moving into the teeth of Katrina, I was glad to have pulled the hard drive out of my tower. Having the majority of my music collection still around in the form of CD-ripped MP3s helped dampen the blow of losing that library, but when I was really glad to have was the past decade's worth of Illustrator source files and a library of scans out of the sketchbooks that were now gone to mold and rot.

If you have enough room to take all the data with you, then sure, do it - but if you can only take part of it, take what you can never find a new rip of on the Pirate Bay.

And yeah, get an external drive for a hundred or so, back that sucker up.
posted by egypturnash at 12:10 PM on April 21, 2010

« Older How to work for evil corporations?   |   How to de-moisturize some clothing ? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.