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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives | Hard Disk Performance, Quality and Reliability | Hard Disk Quality and Reliability | Hard Disk Quality and Reliability Issues ]

Hard Disk Quality: Luck Of The Draw?

If you read the technical groups on USEnet or spend time on technically-oriented Web discussion groups for any reasonable length of time, you will see people post asking "what is a good brand of X?" all the time, where X is any type of component. When "X" is "hard drive", the results are usually pretty easy to predict: virtually every major manufacturer will be mentioned by at least one person as being "great" and by another as being "horrible". The end result is that you have no idea what to do. Why does this happen?

The simple fact of the matter is that most major hard drive manufacturers make very high quality products, and most hard disks provide their owners with years of very reliable service. However, all manufacturers make the occasional bad drive, and sometimes, manufacturers will have a problem with a particular product. If you happen to buy one of these, you will experience a failure, and in all likelihood you will hate that company and avoid their products from then on, perhaps with good reason. The problem is that many people will generalize this very small sample size into "Brand X sucks", when this very well may not be the case. They just may have been unlucky with what might in actuality be one of the best drives on the market. Meanwhile, they will post a frustrated-sounding message telling everyone "DON'T BUY X!" Human nature is such that there could be thousands of people using that particular model with no problems, but almost none will bother to post saying "I bought a new PC with an X hard drive in it and every day I use it, it doesn't fail!" :^)

There are occasions where manufacturers will go into "slumps" and have time where their products fall in quality compare to those of other companies. And of course, if there is a known issue with a specific model, you should avoid it. The key when doing your research is to look for trends. Don't over-value a single sample regardless of what it says.

There are many ways that a hard disk can fail. The one that usually comes to mind first, the infamous "head crash" is not the only way or even necessarily the most common any more. There can also be problems with bad sectors showing up on the drive, for example. Many people don't think of this, but the integrated controller can also sometimes be the culprit for a bad drive. See this discussion of failure modes, and this section in the Troubleshooter for specifics on drive failures and possible solutions.

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