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  1. #1
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    Duty Cycle? Will heavy use of an external USB HD kill it ?

    I was consolidating my older smaller backups onto one larger HD that I hope to back up all at once to another of the same size.

    Just after copying all the files from one of the small HDs it died. Just plain DEAD and gone.
    One day working. Next day nothing at all. Tested it on other PCs. They cant see it either.
    Looks like the power supply may have died or else something else.

    Random chance event? Or did the hours of backing up to the bigger HD wear the old one out?

    Is there a duty cycle spec for how much you should be using an external USB HD in a day ?

  2. #2
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    Power cycling (starting and stopping) a hard drive will decrease it's reliability.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator RetiredGeek's Avatar
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    Speedball,

    The reliability of an external USB HD is that same as if the unit were in your PC or Laptop. It is entirely dependent on the brand/model of drive in the USB enclosure.
    Of course there is also the added reliability factors for the USB interface electronics and the power supply but I don't think they should be much of a factor for major brands. I'd therefore suggest it is a random event. I've beat my WD external drives ( of all types and sizes ) to death and so far only had one fail and it was 8 years old! HTH
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  5. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by RetiredGeek View Post
    Speedball,

    The reliability of an external USB HD is that same as if the unit were in your PC or Laptop. It is entirely dependent on the brand/model of drive in the USB enclosure.
    Of course there is also the added reliability factors for the USB interface electronics and the power supply but I don't think they should be much of a factor for major brands. I'd therefore suggest it is a random event. I've beat my WD external drives ( of all types and sizes ) to death and so far only had one fail and it was 8 years old! HTH
    IMHO, hard drive realibality is dependent on the electronics, age, temperature, power, vibration and luck. Typically I run my computers (including USB devices) 24x7 and they are all power protected from spikes and EMI with a lot of cooling. I also use Seagate or WD higher MTBF models and monitor their SMART statistics for early warning of excessive errors, especially on the ones over 1 GB. Clearly I can recall the day I purchased an Adaptec RLL controller card and formatted my 20 MB WD drive to 30 MB in the late 80s, but I am digressing. HD reliability has improved immensely over the years as has the cost per MB.

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  7. #5
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    Ditto.. I remember the RLL as well. External drives have the additional hazard of being outside the computer case. When you get past spin times and all the other stuff, you have to remember that an external drive running on USB is not going to have even 7200 RPM speed; that the speed of the USB device is going to determine how fast your data gets written or retrieved. How long your drive will last depends on a very few factors, all of them have been notated here. Therefore, using a top-flight server quality hard drive for your home backup in an external case may not be cost-effective. A 5400 RPM drive would give you the same performance as a 7200 RPM drive because of the USB factor.

    Luck is more about how the devices handle in shipping than about the mechanics themselves. If your mail delivery was done by somebody trying out the local hockey team, don't be surprised to hear those "weird" sounds coming from your drive. If the boys and girls at the docks in Malaysia or Indonesia happen to "drop" the pallet that your drive is on, expect the unexpected.

    I have had tries that lasted 8 or more years and drive that have lasted less than 2. I also keep my rig running 24/7 and restart any number of times during the day and I don't consider a long lived hard drive a matter of luck. Correctly stated, quality has improved significantly.

    However, to be on the safe side it does not hurt to have 2 external hard drives. There is one that you use all the time and there is the other one that you have as a spare in which you connect only if you need it.

  8. #6
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    How old is the drive? Is it getting any power lights or power at all to the drive? If not it could be the enclosure. It could be a PCB board. Were you using the correct power cord? There are so many variables that go into this situation.

    Was the drive full or getting full? You should never fill a HD more than 75% full, or you are asking it to fail on you.

    Hours of backing up to a drive "shouldn't" kill it without other factors at play.

  9. #7
    Super Moderator RetiredGeek's Avatar
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    Sertdata,

    Quote Originally Posted by sertdata View Post
    Was the drive full or getting full? You should never fill a HD more than 75% full, or you are asking it to fail on you.
    This is good advice for SSD but not so much for HDD. If I have a 2Tb HDD that's leaving 500Gb of empty space! I remember when you couldn't buy a HDD that big and my laptop still only has a SSD half that size!
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  10. #8
    Super Moderator satrow's Avatar
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    I've never come across a drive that's failed from being full, had to install a few as secondary drives to give them a clean up before refitting them because Windows was unable to boot, though.

    Quote Originally Posted by RetiredGeek View Post
    Sertdata,

    This is good advice for SSD but not so much for HDD. If I have a 2Tb HDD that's leaving 500Gb of empty space! I remember when you couldn't buy a HDD that big and my laptop still only has a SSD half that size!
    From a performance standpoint, it really depends on the size of the drive and the amount of contiguous free space, also whether it is the System or only drive, or 'just' a data (secondary) drive.

    The smaller the drive (especially if it's the System drive), the larger the free space % should be. The less free space there is, the more frequently it will need defragmenting to maintain a reasonable amount of contiguous free space. Once Windows or your software needs to use data from the outer ~25% of the drive platter(s) regularly, the performance will drop.

    A 500GB System drive might need 25% free space and weekly defrags to maintain performance, whereas a 2TB data drive might only need 10% free space and a defrag 2x yearly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by satrow View Post
    I've never come across a drive that's failed from being full, had to install a few as secondary drives to give them a clean up before refitting them because Windows was unable to boot, though.
    A full drive will put extreme stress on the hard drive, the platters, the read write head assembly. Windows not being able to boot would be considered in a temporary state of failure. We get a drive a week that is full and failing physically, and have become unreliable requiring hard ware level imaging to recover the data.

    Quote Originally Posted by satrow View Post
    From a performance standpoint, it really depends on the size of the drive and the amount of contiguous free space, also whether it is the System or only drive, or 'just' a data (secondary) drive.

    The smaller the drive (especially if it's the System drive), the larger the free space % should be. The less free space there is, the more frequently it will need defragmenting to maintain a reasonable amount of contiguous free space. Once Windows or your software needs to use data from the outer ~25% of the drive platter(s) regularly, the performance will drop.
    If performance is dropping then continual use at that level will eventually cause failure. Also drives don't write data in any sequential order (ie. from left side platter to the right as if you were writing a letter, or even from one platter to the next). Data is written to sectors all over the platters, hence the result of fragmentation of data.

    Quote Originally Posted by satrow View Post
    A 500GB System drive might need 25% free space and weekly defrags to maintain performance, whereas a 2TB data drive might only need 10% free space and a defrag 2x yearly.
    This is correct, when I stated 75% I meant it as a good across the board level to start thinking: "Hey i need to think about removing or backing up some data, or even upgrading the hard drive to a larger one". Everyone knows that it can take weeks or months before people ever do what they need to with regards to maintenance on a computer. Some never at all. By no means was I intending to write law that a drive will certainly fail at 75% full. Usually people only find out about these kinds of details when it's too late. Half of our time in business is spent educating people how to avoid another bad situation.

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