Report: HDDs are becoming less reliable — is this the price to pay for cheaper and higher-capacity storage?

22TB hard drive from Toshiba
(Image credit: Toshiba)

The latest findings by cloud storage company Backblaze, which analyzed the annualized failure rates of more than 270,000 hard drives in 2023, HDDs are becoming less reliable overall.

The extensive report, which covers 35 different hard drive models running for a combined total of nearly 90 million days in 2023, found that the annualized failure rate had climbed to 1.70%.

This is a noticeable jump up from the 2022 rate of 1.37%, and the 2021 rate of 1.01%, marking HDDs as less reliable counterparts to SSDs.

Hard drives are failing more frequently

The report, which is one of the biggest-scale representations of storage device performance globally, revealed widespread failures, with only one of the 35 models returning a 0% failure rate. On the other end of the scale, some of the drives watched by the company reported alarmingly high failure rates of around 10-15%.

Although the figures spell out an uncertain future for the hard disk drive, they’re testament to Backblaze’s commitment to providing a reliable cloud service – the company claims to have replaced an HDD every two hours and five minutes throughout 2023, on average.

HDD development has brought the cost down while simultaneously pushing storage capacity up, so while they have started to show their flaws, HDDs still have their place. For example, Backblaze’s largest HDDs – 22TB WDC models – offer immense storage capabilities.

While the failure rates suggest a troubling future for HDD sellers worldwide, Backblaze notes a limitation of the study – in 2023, around one-fifth of the company’s fleet was made up of aging drives (six years old, or more). 

However, there are some interesting insights to be drawn from the study; 10TB hard drives, for example, fail at least twice as much as any other capacity in the company’s fleet.

Backblaze is yet to announce its 2023 statistics for SSD models, but in 2022, the annualized failure rate stood at 0.98%, reasonably on par with the 1.05% rate recorded in 2021, however there are fewer SSDs being tracked and they’re generally slightly newer, rendering a comparison between SSD and HDD models unreliable for now.

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Craig Hale

With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!