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Hard Drive Makers Slash Warranties 445

Lucas123 writes "Both Seagate and Western Digital have reduced their hard drive warranties, in some cases from five years to one year. While Western Digital wouldn't explain why, it did say it has nothing to do with the flooding of its manufacturing plants in Thailand, which has dramatically impacted its ability to turn out drives. For its part, Seagate is saying it cut back its warranties to be more closely aligned with other drive manufacturers."
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Hard Drive Makers Slash Warranties

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  • by gellenburg ( 61212 ) <> on Monday December 19, 2011 @01:07PM (#38424082) Homepage Journal

    I rarely have ever run into a hard drive go bad within a year (24" iMac though was a very expensive and notable exception).

    I HAVE however run into my fair share of HDDs go bad within 3 years and definitely 5 years.

    So -

    Does anybody know which manufacturers offer the BEST warranties? Here I was just getting ready to order some 3TB SATA 7200RPM drives for my Drobos.

  • by VEGETA_GT ( 255721 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @01:19PM (#38424138)

    honestly the 5 year warranty of some drives greatly affects which drive I buy. I am usually segate fan but if a Samsung has better warranty I will buy that instead. I remember when I found one time the drives form Segate I wanted where only 3 year so I bought WD and Samsung at the time. So if WD and Segate drop there warranty period and other makers keep higher warranty then my cash goes to the bigger warranty. If you don't stand buy your product then I have no reason to either.

  • Re:um, er, what? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2011 @01:20PM (#38424160)

    Therefore, what they're saying essentially amounts to: "We will no longer be able/willing to sell you a product which is superior to our competitors'."

  • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @01:29PM (#38424290) Homepage Journal

    I've bought several dozen hard drives personally over the years, starting with scsi, and I work in a computer repair shop where I've replaced hundreds of failing and dead drives over my time, so I've got a pretty good sample size to work with.

    Long ago I used to buy quantum and seagate because I didn't have the money for backups and so I needed to rely on quality and warranty. Quantum was one of the best quality going, and seagate ruled the roost with its 5 year warranties.

    But as the years passed, lots of HDD manufacturers got bought out. Quantum went with IBM and quality absolutely flushed down the toilet about the time of the "IBM Deskstar/Deathstar debacle. Seagate also got bought out, and their quality went south as expected, but their warranties remained at 5 yr for most models.

    I continued to buy seagates, until I got so sick of dealing with failing drives and RMA hassles. I bought my last seagate about 2 years ago. (a pair of them) Two weeks after purchase, one of them suffered one of the loudest catastrophic head crashes I have ever heard - the drive sounded like an operating circular handsaw. (best buy was even surprised by the sound when I returned it) They offered me an immediate new replacement, and I instead got my money and bought a different brand. Now I see they're finally dropping their warranties, probably after an extended period of losing their shirts due to a never-ending flood of RMAs.

    So at this point I'm down to looking for quality, and only expecting a 1 or 2 yr warranty. Western Digital used to be crap, but while other brands went down in quality, WD seems to have come up. I'm still seeing a lot of samsung drives failing but they've improved. Haven't seen enough toshibas to really have an opinion on them, but I generally haven't had good experiences, especially with their externals. Right now I'm buying WD greens, they're cheap and fairly reliable. I try to avoid buying drives already in enclosures, because it's been my experience that they put the cheapest thing they can find in them, especially the USB-only enclosures, those are generally junk and slow to boot.

    May as well throw in my 2c on enclosures also. You get what you pay for when buying a single drive enclosure. A cheap usb-only case is going to be slow and I would be very surprised if the AC adapter lasts more than 2 yrs. My personal favorite at this time is made by OWC, their Mercury Elite Pro [], it's got esata, dual fw800, fw400, and usb. USB speed can get up near 38mb/sec, fw400 and 800 top at theoretical maxes of 39 and 79, and esata I have yet to discover the speed limit on, it maxes the drives I have attached. $80 seems like a lot for an empty case, but it's worth it. Two at home and two at work, here I use them for data recovery because they're also tolerant of failing drives.

    If you need more storage, go with a Drobo. One at home and one here at work, I know a dozen people that have them and nobody has any complaints, they work as advertised, are easy for even a newbie to maintain, and so far have proven very safe. Stuff a drobo full of WD greens for cheap, reliable, large storage.

  • by ausoleil ( 322752 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @01:29PM (#38424292) Homepage

    The failure rate for hard drives has been quite well known for some time now: it is precisely 100% +/- 0.0%.

    Truly, it is not a matter of IF a given hard drive will fail, it is a matter of WHEN.

    That means that having a mirrored pair as a minimum -- even on a home machine -- is not an optional frill, it is a necessity. Even better, offsite cloud storage offer replication globally of vital data that are irreplaceable.

    If warranties are dropping, so is reliability, and that means it is more vital than ever to CYA and have solid redundancies all the way from the data center to the family laptop.

  • Anyone else... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki@ g m a> on Monday December 19, 2011 @02:04PM (#38424740) Homepage

    Remember back oh 12-13 years ago when drive manufactures did this? All drive warranties dropped from 5 years to 1 year. This went on for about a year, then got hit with a massive collusion suit. It drove Fujitsu right out of the market. I get the suspicion that this is the same thing, I do not think this has anything to do with debugging the lines, or anything else.

    I really expect the same thing to happen, it smells and feels exactly the same.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @02:24PM (#38425002) Journal
    Apple designs have a rather long history(Apple III-present, somewhat intermittently) of running everything right near thermal redline in order to keep it quiet. On the plus side, it is pretty impressive how quiet some of their hardware is, especially given its chassis size(quiet is easy when you can just have a row of low-speed 120mm fans blowing over everything, much harder when you have a maze of teeny little air channels and speed controlled blowers and stuff); but it gets damn toasty in there...
  • Re:LOL (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Colonel Korn ( 1258968 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @03:03PM (#38425494)

    Yep. The Great Google Hard Disk Study revealed that no brand was "more reliable" than any other.

    Every single manufacturer had troublesome batches and/or models. No brand was immune to this.

    FWIW the single biggest factor they found which correlated to failure was heat. If your drive runs hot then expect trouble.

    Wait, where in the Rather Poorly Written Google Hard Disk Study, linked by EdZ a few replies away from this one, does it say that reliability didn't vary with brand? All I see related to that is "Failure rates are known to be highly correlated with drive models, manufacturers and vintages [18]. Our results do not contradict this fact," specifically stating that reliability does indeed vary by manufacturer. Given the rather sloppy organization in the paper, however, I wouldn't be surprised if they contradict themselves elsewhere and make the claim that you've cited. Can you show us the quotation that gave you the impression that brand doesn't matter? []

  • by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @03:50PM (#38426026)

    > How we doing on warranties and longevity of SSD?

    The electronics themselves, or the data on them? Big, huge difference. Sandforce2 (1200 series) drives in particular are going through a data holocaust at the moment. The problem isn't the electronics failing, the problem is that Sandforce's braindamaged firmware gets the drive into a state that causes the firmware itself to crash after a few minutes, or causes the drive to go into "panic" mode and intentionally brick itself (taking your data with it) for your "protection" (nobody at OCZ has ever been able to give a good explanation about how, exactly, having your drive brick itself into "panic" mode as a "precautionary" measure so you have to send it in and get a replacement with your data gone forever is somehow a desirable feature).

    Don't believe me? Go to's support forum, find the one for Vertex2/Agility2 drives, and read the daily tales of woe with no solution besides "wipe the drive and try again" (assuming it's not in Panic Mode & has to be returned for official reflashing). Apparently, other brands using the same controller (Patriot, etc) are no better. Sandforce makes vendors treat their chipset like a black box, they dropped the ball, and just kind of left everyone unfortunate enough to own a drive based on one of their controller chips hanging like a corpse from the gallows of a wild-west town.

  • Re:LOL (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:14PM (#38426296)

    Sandforce2 (1200) failures have nothing to do with MLC-vs-SLC, and everything to do with buggy firmware that can corrupt its config data and crash a few minutes after startup if it gets powered down (or put into sleep mode) "wrongly" with the scratch data in a partially-updated or corrupt state. Everyone was so obsessed with long-term data retention life and rewrite cycles that even WORSE failure modes ended up falling through the cracks and becoming the real problem, instead.

    Does it really matter whether the flash on a drive can survive 1000, 10000, or a million rewrite cycles if it keeps corrupting itself and has to be reformatted every few weeks or months due to a firmware bug Sandforce can't/won't fix?

  • by epine ( 68316 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @07:45PM (#38428358)

    Does the $120 necessarily mean that it's more likely to make it to 5 years before failing?

    That's a bit of a haughty Socratic tone to explain basic cost/benefit bereft of leverage. As soon as you add volatility to production quality, the warranty liability creates a huge incentive to shift the dubious batch into USB drive appliances at Walmart or Costco.

    Without the warranty liability, there's little incentive for the drive manufacturer to bother with the complex logistics of sorting the better grades into the usage patterns less tolerant of failure.

    And you're also forgetting how good Detroit became at building cars able to last until the day the warranty expired with hardly any buffer. I know someone who did electronics design work at a major auto components company in the Great Lakes area and was given a stiff rebuke for choosing a part that cost pennies more (our of several dollars) with double the life expectancy. If the cheaper component is already rated to the warranty period, not one penny more. It turns out this is stupid economics. Eventually the consuming public figures it out. Many fat executive bonuses were paid before America nationalized the auto industry.

    Here's what enlightenment looks like: In recent design iterations, Intel has a rule that if a feature increases the power budget by 1%, it has to increase performance by 2%.

    I think the shorter warranties are a vote by the Seagate executive team to have a business model more like Detroit, and to collect as many performance bonuses as possible, before exiting their careers as the disk industry declines to Kodak levels of relevance.

    In iterated Prisoner's Dilemma, exp(caveat_emptor) as the number of iterations remaining declines.

A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours. -- Milton Berle