It turns out that manufacturersâ€™ estimates of the life of hard drives are way off the mark. As a matter of fact, vendor Mean Time To Failure (MTTF) ratings for hard drives are quite misleading.
This is according to a study by Carnegie Mellon whose researchers conducted tests in several locations and found typical failure rates of 2 to 4 percent (with a high of 13%). This is in contrast to vendor claims of 0.88 percent (PC World Chart).
The CM study also confirms earlier Google findings of 3 percent annual rate failure for hard drives of different manufacturers.
The two studies were based on observations of approximately 100,000 drives, with Google looking at its own farm of consumer-grade disks and Carnegie Mellon examining both consumer-grade drives and the ostensibly more reliable enterprise variety.
Bottom line: hard drives do fail and the old adage still holds true: backup your data, so that when that 3 percent chance of failure happens on you, it will just be a hard drive failure and not a personal or professional disaster.
Hard drive illustration: Bob Rankin