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Are Hard Disk Warranties Worthless?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the better-QA-on-refurbished-hardware dept.


1984 asks: "Earlier this year I returned a Hitachi 2.5" drive under warranty, and got back a replacement which died after a week or so of light use. More recently a Seagate 200GB desktop IDE disk flaked after a few months use, so I sent it off and received a replacement under warranty. The replacement wouldn't even format. So I RMAed that and got another dead replacement. All the replacement disks were 'refurbished', and I see many instances of similar problems with refurbished replacements when Googling. So I'm asking, what experience are people having with getting replacement disks that work, and continue to do so for something approaching the expected lifetime of the original drive? Are current warranties just a sham?"

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Wow (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257691)

You sure have bad luck with drives. Even in the late 80's, when capacity was measured in the tens of megs, I didn't have this kind of problem. Sure, drives died after a year or three, but that was when this was a frontier technology.

But as for warantees - they are a joke unless you are a mass buyer.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16257787)

But as for warantees - they are a joke unless you are a mass buyer.

Yep. And if you're a mass buyer, chances are very good that you have a shelf with a dozen or so spares ready to be swapped out. When your warranty replacement drive shows up, it just goes back up onto that shelf.

Re:Wow (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257941)

When your warranty replacement drive shows up, it just goes back up onto that shelf.

Actually, back in the win9x days, that is what I did in the company I work for. 15 computers, when one died, replaced with another off the shelf, sent it back, put the replacement back on the shelf for the next failure. Just rotating them. Unfortunately, Windows XP has succesfully made it very difficult to do this.

Now we do the same with computers from Dell. Keep one back, if one dies, take the computer off the shelf to replace, put the replacement on the shelf for the next failure. Replace every computer when it dies out of warranty. Fortunately, we have good luck with the inexpensive Dell boxes, and the 3 year warranty is about right for upgrading. It costs more money for me to work on one that to buy another cheapo from Dell. Mainly from the time to reinstall XP, patch/reboot/patch/reboot.........

If I could get us to move to Linux on the desktop and not just the servers, it would be a lot easier, however, and recycling would be possible again.

Re:Wow (2, Informative)

Forge (2456) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258969)

You don't know how true that cost is. Even with my chosen methodology of keeping a disk image of each unique system installation.

Physically replace the hard drive -: 5 to 10 minutes.
Restore disk image -: 3 to 90 minutes (depending on NIC speed and configuration size)
Patch and reboot -: 30 minutes.

Too bad the Dell techs only replace the hardware and enough software to make sure it work. Which means that if your hard disk dies, they would just format and load on io.sys and the other core DOS files.

Re:Wow (1)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259199)

Too bad the Dell techs only replace the hardware and enough software to make sure it work. Which means that if your hard disk dies, they would just format and load on io.sys and the other core DOS files. Company policy, in many cases. When I was a contractor tech, I would spend more time helping a customer since it was the right thing to do. After I was hired as an employee tech, though, my time was no longer my own and bare-minimum service was de rigeur if I wanted to stay employed. Sad.

Well, of course. (1)

Max Threshold (540114) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258041)

That's because drives were a lot more reliable when data densities were lower. I still have the old 40MB drive from my second computer, and it still works perfectly. Every other IDE drive I've had since then, with the exception of the two in my desktop right now, either developed bad sectors or failed catastrophically.

Re:Well, of course. (2, Insightful)

alienw (585907) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258405)

It's just a good drive. I've had plenty of 40 meg drives fail and I had plenty of bigger disks that didn't develop issues. It really mainly depends on how many hours you put on the drive -- if you don't use the computer very often, the hard drive will last a long time.

Re:Well, of course. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16258505)

I thought spinup and spindown caused the most wear on a drive. If you have it running and constantly spinning (a la servers), it'll last far longer than if you powerup and powerdown the drive all the time.

Re:Well, of course. (2, Informative)

alienw (585907) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259309)

Spinup/spindown are actually not significant as far as wear is concerned. An otherwise worn-out drive is more likely to fail during a spin-up or spin-down, but those actions don't actually cause any wear. My understanding is that most failures are caused by spindle bearings wearing out, which is directly proportional to how long the drive has been powered on.

Re:Well, of course. (1)

acidrain69 (632468) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259057)

I seem to remember a lot of probelms with early drives (not early as in when they started, but when they kind of took off for home use). Especially with Seagate drives. After they started getting into the several hundred meg range, up into the less than 100 gig range, I think those drives are more reliable than the 100+ gig drives.

Maybe not 100. Maybe 80, may 120, but somewhere right around there, I think desnity just got too high, and I'm afraid to replace my 80 gig drive before I get some kind of full backup system in place (aside from just backing up the irreplaceable stuff on CD/DVD)

Re:Well, of course. (1)

alienw (585907) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259339)

Nah, there's no trend there. I've actually had far fewer problems with my 100 and 160 gig drives than I had with the ~10-20 gig stuff. I had only one 100 gig drive fail, and according to SMART it had about a hundred thousand hours on the clock, which was way past its expected lifetime. Even then, it didn't fail completely, just got extremely slow. I was able to copy all the data off of it, although that took about 15 hours. Western Digital seems to make pretty damn good drive controllers.

Re:Well, of course. (1)

eric76 (679787) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259369)

All the ones I've had trouble with were 200 GB and larger.

I've had several 120 and 160 GB drives without a problem.

I've noticed that the reviews on disk drives on NewEgg list increasingly more problems with drives that are DOA or that fail in relatively short times when the drives are bigger than 160 GB.

Of the four SATA drives I've bought, all 200 GB or larger, two have failed. I've already replaced one of them, but not the other.

Re:Wow (1)

Mistshadow2k4 (748958) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258753)

Agreed -- you're having a terrible run of bad luck with drives. But I wouldn't say the warranties are worthless. I once got a DeskStar drive with bad sectors. I returned it, got a replacement in three weeks and the replacement is still working fine. This was in 2003 and DeskStars are supposed to suck. I have a 20 gig Seagate from 2001 that is also still working fine. My neighbhor has me beat on that; she has an OLD 7 gig Seagate that still works perfectly. These days, I mostly get Western Digital drives and I've yet to have a problem with any of them (knocks on wooden desk).

Considering the bad luck you're having, I recommend you buy from and avoid any drives marked with a 30-day warranty only. You might even consider getting the service plan with it ($14.99 for 1 year & $19.99 for 2 years). I'm not a schill for Newegg though, so if anyone knows of a place that beats them, please post it. I'd really love to know.

Re:Wow (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258937)

So we used about a hundred deskstars in a simutanious install. I noticed that all the units from Turkey were great, while the asian country of origin drives (don't remember which one) sucked ass. When it came time for RMA's I requested that all the replacement drives be turkish. Also, (I think being a large company helped) we only had to send in the serial number sticker from the top of the drive (We drilled holes in the drives themselves).

Lemon Law (4, Informative)

joshetc (955226) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257697)

In some areas (of the USA) the "Lemon Law" applies to more than just automobiles. One thing it may apply to is computers and computer components. I'd check your local law and see if it applies, if it does then ask the company for a NEW replacement otherwise you'd like a full refund. If they don't oblige you can simply mention that law. (generally 3 faults requires them to give you a full refund or a completely new replacement)

Re:Lemon Law (4, Informative)

joshetc (955226) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257725)

Extremely sorry, I forgot to include a link [] .

Re:Lemon Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16258595)

Yeah -- what I want is a DOA or a "dies within 2 (or 3) weeks law". The Lemon Law didn't help me a bit. It only helps you after they've made 3 attempts to fix your product. But, if doesn't say anything about how long a single attempt can last.

A couple years ago, I bought a new car. I had it for 3 weeks before it started blowing smoke/steam/etc, the check engine light comes on, it barely stays running. They end up towing it to the dealer. The dealer apparently didn't have anyone who knew how to fix it. They told me it was a bad thermostat. Uh huh. So they replace that and when they crank it, the engine seizes. They end up flying someone in to work on it. Weeks go by. During all this time, I get no loaner or free rental. In the end, they have my car over a month, and I find out they lied to me (and probably other related people/organizations) a bunch. My car may or may not have a new engine at this point. I asked to see old & new serial numbers. They claim they don't track serial numbers of replacement engines. Uh huh. It was the biggest bunch of bullshit I've ever experienced. :(

Re:Lemon Law (1)

LiquidRaptor (125282) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259165)

Actually most Lemon Laws also contain exceptions for x number of days in y period of time. For example, in AZ if a car is in the shop for more than 30 days in the first 2 years it qualifies under the lemon law.

Re:Lemon Law (1)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259873)

About 3 years ago, I replaced a Maxtor under warranty. The replacement died after four months. When I RMA'ed that one, the Maxtor customer service rep asked if I wanted him to specify new rather than refurb. Needless to say, my answer was yes.

Seagates and WDs RMA'd: results fine (0, Redundant)

Onymous Coward (97719) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257715)

I've RMA'd about three drives over the past six years and the replacements have been fine.

Buy it retail (0, Redundant)

ryan89 (586976) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257727)

I bought a WD drive a few years ago at Best Buy. It had a three year warranty and died at about 18 months. I brought it back to the store with the receipt and they still carried the same size of drive so they just swapped it out for a brand new drive.

Re:Buy it retail (1)

Psychofreak (17440) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257909)

That's called "good customer sevice" It's becomming rare.

My last hard drive experience was several years ago. It was a nightmare. The M-board in the computer I had was only capable of 4.2GB, I bought a 4GB drive which shortly failed. I sent it in for a replacement and recieved a 13.6GB drive in exchange! I then learned about the Promise UDMA33 controller, and still use the drive and computer today. It is an effective Linux box.

Re:Buy it retail (1)

Sandman1971 (516283) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258127)

I always buy my computer parts from local mom & pop computer stores. Most of the local stores carry a 1 year store warranty on all parts. The few times I've had failures in that time period, all it took was a quick drive to the store, and 20 minutes later I had a brand new replacement in my hands. Heck, I had some RAM blow 18 months after I bought it and they still replaced it free of charge, without my receipt (hooray for customer databases). Their prices are usually equal to or just a tiny bit more expensive than what you could get for buying online, at least in this area.

Most hard drives work fine for me (3, Insightful)

nxtw (866177) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257761)

I've had 4 failures out of approx 20-25 purchased or obtained new drives since 2000.

One 30 GB drive crashed within 10 days of purchase, a 160 GB died 10 months after purchase (possibly because of power loss/surge), a 20GB iPod drive damaged by contact with a large magnet (because iPod integration and subwoofers were being installed at the same time). Someone I know had a 40GB that randomly returned corrupt data without any obvious signs of disk failure -- just Windows bluescreens that would normally indicate corrupt RAM.

Of those drives, the first three were repaired via warranty. The 30GB was replaced with a new drive, and guessing by its capacity, is not still in use. The refurbished 160 GB drive is still working today, about 22 months later. The replaced iPod is also still working today.

The 40 GB drive was out of warranty and was replaced with the same model and is still working one and a half years later. My oldest drives were probably made in 2002 and have been working fine. They've been running constantly for the past few years.

I have had a laptop hard drive fail gradually -- it came from a phyiscally abused laptop. The drive worked (slowly) at first, long enough for me to copy the data off of it. Within a few more hours of use, it died.

Is it the drives? (5, Insightful)

archer, the (887288) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257765)

I know of several folks who've recently replaced drives under warranty. The replacements have worked well. Is there any chance something other than the drives is causing the failures? Bad power? Too little cooling?

Cooling! (4, Informative)

Psychofreak (17440) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258023)

You have a good point about cooling. I had terrible luck with a removeable disk drive. I had it replaced at least 3x. The company folded so I had no recourse. I concluded that the drive was overheating as the ejected cartridge would be untouchably hot. People now call me a little crazy about cooling. I atribute the very long life of my curent computer to it sounding like a vaccume cleaner with it's 7 fans. That's 2 regular case fans, two midgit fans in a HDD cooler, one slot fan against the video card, and two processor fansin a dual p-pro system(overclocked of course).

As a side note the dorm I lived in would top 100F regularly. I saw this alone kill many classmates machines.

Re:Cooling! (3, Interesting)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258825)

You are correct. Almost no modern hard drive should be warmer than luke-warm while running (or immediately after being turned off). If it is, your case has inadequate cooling and your drive will die soon. Not might; will.

Re:Cooling! (1)

kevlarcowboy (996973) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260157)

At first I read that: ...and many classmates.

Will someone PLEASE think of the children???

Re:Is it the drives? (2, Informative)

portmapper (991533) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258263)

> Is there any chance something other than the drives is causing the failures? Bad power? Too little cooling?

Inadequate cooling will really shorten the lifetime of the harddisk. Using a modern power hungry graphics card(s), an Intel CPU , a power
hungry motherboard along with an inefficient and overdimmensioned PSU will generate a lot of heat. Without an extra fan for the hard disk
it may be too hot.

Re:Is it the drives? (2, Informative)

legoburner (702695) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258341)

As I understand it, heat is very bad for the lubricant in the drive, so when HDDs get too hot, the lubricant (eventually) dries out and vastly shortens the life of the drive. I might be mistaken, so does anybody have real experience with this?

Re:Is it the drives? (1)

portmapper (991533) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258461)

The electronics needs to be cooled as well, and are prone to failure if it is too hot.

Re:Is it the drives? (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258423)

Bingo. I deal with warranty issues (not for hard drives but other sensitive electronics) every day. Its rare for a defective unit to make it to the field. Its even rarer for a defective unit to be sent out to replace a defective unit. If you get a third such defective unit... stop what you're doing and go to 'Vegas. The fact is, defects are very rare and if you keep seeing failures, ITS YOU!!!

Re:Is it the drives? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16258427)

The "Easy Bake Oven" case mod may be the problem with your frequent hard drive problems.

Re:Is it the drives? (1)

Mistshadow2k4 (748958) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258829)

The "Easy Bake Oven" case mod may be the problem with your frequent hard drive problems.

Amusingly phrased, but possibly true. I got a huge case running with 5 fans in it right now and have no overheating problems. As the posters above me, said, cooling is very important. But some cases are bad when it comes to coolig; you don't just need more fans, you need something roomy enough for the air to circulate. As another said though, getting a good PSU is also important. A bad PSU can fuck your hard drive, motherboard, you name it. If it's bad enough to be screwing parts up like that it could also catch fire -- Sony batteries aren't the only dangerous power supplies.

I've never had a problem (1)

Coopjust (872796) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257767)

As far as RMA'ing drives goes, I've never had a problem with Seagate. The drives have all carried the warranty of the original and none of the refurb replacements have problems.

Now, WD drives...I don't want to rant, but 6 drives in 18 months (2 new, 4 RMA'd replacements) is too much for me.

I don't think drive warranties are worthless; they protect the buyer and give peace of mind. Seems like bad luck on your side to me.

Re:I've never had a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16258563)

The first hard disk drives I worked with were 30 MB Seagates (yes, I said 30 MB - and they were 5.25"s, too). Four out of four failed the first two years, while other brands (20 MB) seemed to be running very well (the 30 MB drives used pretty new tech back then; they were mechanically the same as the 20 MB drives, but the controller formatted them differently, and I think it was too much stress on those drives). That soured me on Seagates for years, and I used all WDs. Nowadays, though, the WDs seem to have a much higher failure rate than I remember, so it's back to Seagates, which seem more reliable. (Don't get me started on DeathStars).

Personal data is more important (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16257789)

They are indeed worthless but for another reason, I had two hard disks that died under warranty before, but I didn't send them back for replacement because I wasn't sure what would happen to them next [] , sure, there are tools for wiping hard disks, and it's extremely unlikely that someone would go through all the trouble of restoring data from a wiped hdd, but I prefer to destroy the hard disk physically myself, and sleep well at night, rather than risk exposing my personal data.

PS: First reply with "paranoid" in it gets a free hat.

Re:Personal data is more important (3, Funny)

Pulse_Instance (698417) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257929)

Your paranoid, and I'd like my hat in a fancy silver color.

Re:Personal data is more important (0, Troll)

alienw (585907) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258431)

Let me guess: you're a child pornographer.

Re:Personal data is more important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16259903)

You should look into using Darik's Boot and Nuke [] . It is very easy to use and works great - just boot up off the disc, select which drive/partition you want to wipe out, select the method, and it does everything else. Takes awhile to completely wipe out the drive, but the time it takes is worth it. At the place I work, when we occasionally have to deal with problem laptops, even if it has nothing to do with the hard drive, I still send it back with everything (minus the battery). HP suggests taking the hard drive out, but I would rather just leave everything there incase there is a problem when shipping it back to them. Even if there might not be sensitive data on the drive, I still completely wipe it out with Darik's.

Re:Personal data is more important (1)

loraksus (171574) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260133)

If you call the company and make your concerns known, they usually have a program where you can send back part of the drive (usually the top cover) and get your replacement without actually sending the platters in.

Seagate RMAs work for me (5, Informative)

bullok (155096) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257791)

In the last 4 years or so, I've bought about 30 Seagate drives. Two died during the warranty period. In both cases, the RMA was quick and the replacement drives worked ok. One of the replacements was refurbished, the other was new.

One of the failed drives was shipped via UPS, and the package was pretty roughed up. The drive worked initially, but failed within a week. I suspect that many failed drives haven't failed due to manufacturing defects, but due to abuse during shipping. Of course, this means that they should be using better packaging (and more conscientious shippers). I'd gladly pay a couple of extra bucks for a better shipping container (or better shipper) to avoid the occasional beat-up drive.

1/15 does seem like a high failure rate to me, but it's a pretty small sample size, so my numbers alone don't mean much.

Maxtor Hell (2, Interesting)

mrbcs (737902) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257833)

I returned 3 Maxtor drives about two years ago within one week. All three were nfg. These were also brand new replacements for the original drive. The wholesaler told me that he thought quality control was shut down because of all the bad drives he'd seen in such a short time. This was also about the time that Maxtor dropped their warranty to 1 year. On my third trip to the wholesaler, I saw two other guys in there with boxes of the damn things. Last Maxtor drives for me. I have a Seagate now and it's been perfect for over 2 years.

Re:Seagate RMAs work for me (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258051)

We recently got an RMA back from Seagate, it was embedded in about a cubic foot of closed cell foam.

It was so well protected that we actually took the drive out, put something heavy in there and dropkicked the box around the room some to see what kind of damage the box would take... it stood up very well.

It's really amazing packaging they are using now.

(Unlike fucking newegg which ships OEM drives wrapped in bubble wrap which sucks.)

Well... (1)

DanielNS84 (847393) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257861)

I had a 60gb ATA100 5400RPM Maxtor desktop drive a while back that died after 2 years so I went through the RMA procedure. I got a package from them a few weeks later and to my surprise I discovered an 80gb ATA133 7200RPM drive which I still have to this day (2 years or so now). It still works great and it's the only drive I've gotten through RMA so my experiences have been good.

Re:Well... (1)

p!ssa (660270) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259553)

We recently purchased 50 IBM Xseries 226 servers for a pilot project that were deployed accross the states, each server had a RAID 5 array using the Maxtor drives. 36 of the 50 servers all sufferd drives failures in the first 2 months and about half had multilpe drive failures that made the arrays unrecoverable. So out of 200 Maxtor hard drives about 80 of them failed (these were all heavy use edge database servers). I will never purchase anything with Maxtor drives again, the mgt. was so pissed when we finally rolled out all 800+ servers they were replaced with SCSI HDD's about a years ago, we have had 3 drive failures since the rollout (and all arrays were recoverable). So to all those people considering using SATA/ATA HDD's in servers for the cost savings you really need to think again. IBM replaced the drives quickly but when you factor in all of the down time, tech staff etc. the few thousand you will save on drives, you will pay 100x more in support etc.

Re:Well... (1)

DanielNS84 (847393) | more than 7 years ago | (#16260117)

Aren't better drives usually chosen for that type of application? I would think a 15k RPM SCSI U320 drive would be the standard since they are rated for constant usage. I've had home use drives die before in heavy usage situations but never a server class drive.

Short warranty on Dell computer drives (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16257865)

I just had a drive die in a DELL desktop that was just over a year old. If purchased direct the disk would have had something like a 3 year warranty. When purchased as part of a Dell computer you get just 90 days warranty in this case, I think the base warranty on other Dell product lines may be longer.

Re:Short warranty on Dell computer drives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16258437)

Actually you can still try and see if you can get the RMA on the drive.
A few years ago (about 7 now IIRC) we had a drive fail in one Dells we used, we just contacted the manufacture of the drive and they confirmed that it was still under warranty, didn't get in touch with Dell at all. (Actually funny thing about the replacement: the Dell drive we sent in was a 3GB drive and we got a 4GB drive back).
Same idea: friend had a drive die in his Creative Nomad Jukebox (you know, the MP3 player with a 6GB hard drive that came out before the iPod), the device itself was out of warranty, but the drive was not, he got the hard drive sent in and got a new drive for his mp3 player.

Of course, things might have changed since Fall 1999 for the Dell drive, and 2003 for my friends Jukebox drive.

Re:Short warranty on Dell computer drives (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258949)

OEM Drives these days have different serial numbers than "retail" hard drives with Mfg. warranties.

OEM Drives are sold at a discount to the (computer/device) Mfg. and in return the Mfg. assumes responsibility for the drive warranty. The discount can be in the form of a reduced price or an increased shipment that includes extra drive to compensate for the number of drives expected to fail in the shipment (say, 100 extra drives in a shipment of 1,500 drives).

Most Mfg. have websites to check on your warranty for a given drive.

Personally, I've had great luck with RMA drives, even one I scorched - it was a Maxtor (now Seagate ;^) drive that was powered up when I moved it to a location where a protruding piece of metal shorted outthe circuit board and caused a small fire on the board. I just played dumb, wrapped the drive up well (original packaging from earlier RMA drive) and sent it in. My 200 Gig HD returned as a 300 Gig HD, apparently brand new.

Warranties are not useless, I think the answer lies outside the drives for the original poster.


Its Luck... (1)

loony (37622) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257887)

Or lack there off in your case... We have more than 800 ide disks in the systems I maintain. We have a very low failure rate - and if something fails its likely a ibm/hitachi disk.

Anyway, we used to test all drives when they came in... We quickly stopped that and didn't look back. We only have a couple of failures a week (if that) and all our RMA replacements except one came in just fine.
WD seems to be the best there - I only got one drive labeled as remanufactured, all other rma drives we got from them were brand new.


Bad Power Supply (4, Informative)

crow (16139) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257889)

From my experience, repeated drive failures are the result of a bad power supply or some other external factor. This doesn't include DOA drives, of course, but otherwise when your drives keep failing, you need to check the operating temperature and power supply.

Re:Bad Power Supply (4, Informative)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257997)

You hit the nail on the head.

In the course of past jobs, I've probably returned about 200 drives under warranty (out of probably 4000-5000 drives installed). The failure rate for the replacement drives was never above average for the replacement drives with the exception of two models. One was an old Quantum low-end 3.5" model in the 2-4GB range that I can't remember the name of, and the other was the notorious version of the IBM deskstar. However in the deskstar case, the second round of replacements were a far superior drive, many of which I still have in use today.

On the other hand, I have seen machines that seemed to eat hard drives for lunch, and in the end a few minutes with a scope always showed unstable voltage from the powersupply during bootup.

Generaly I'd say my hard drive warranty experience has been positive; especially since, more often than not, I have received either faster or higher capacity drives as replacements.

Re:Bad Power Supply (1)

WedgeTalon (823522) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258279)

Out of curiosity, is there any brand you have come to prefer and any that you steer clear from?

Re:Bad Power Supply (1)

Mr. Hankey (95668) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259359)

The drive I recall being the biggest issue in one of my past jobs was the Quantum Bigfoot. They were actually 5.25" hard drives, but they did come in those capacities.

Re:Bad Power Supply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16259393)

You forgot about the old ~6 to 8GB Fujitsu drives. There was even a class action lawsuit for those! I've seen hundreds of those gone bad. Otherwise you're mostly right.

Brand wise, I'll buy anything except Western Digital. We've got tens of thousands of desktops at work (across a few sites). We've got HDs of basically every mfg out there. The one I've seen fail the most - not only by total number but also in percentage (# gone bad/total # of said mfg in use), Western Digital leads the pack, by FAR. I'll buy Seagate, Maxtor, Samsung, IBM, Hitachi and ANYTHING else before a WD.

Heck, when we purchase new PCs (batches of several pallets), we make sure they don't use WD drives.

Refurbished hard drives? (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257907)

How do they get the hard drives to refurbish and sell to you in the first place? Someone who's had a pc for a while, beaten it around, perhaps had trouble with it, then traded it in for something else that worked, to abuse? Or someone who's had it, cared for it for a few weeks or months, then said "that's fine, but I want another drive now"?

Just buy a new drive, man. They're pretty cheap, and if there's a problem there's no need to arse around with warranties (at least, not in the UK) - just take it back and get a replacement or a refund. If you're getting more than one or two problems with consecutive drives from a respectable manufacturer such as Seagate or Quantum then you're just very unlucky.

Re:Refurbished hard drives? (1)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258499)

Quantum sold their hard drive division to Maxtor in 2000.

Re:Refurbished hard drives? (1)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258523)

And now maxtor is owned by seagate - so you've only recommended one manufacturer :)

Re:Refurbished hard drives? (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258951)

Wow - then the company I worked for until quite recently must have had quite a stock of old Quantum drives! Anyway, it goes to show how reliable modern hard drives are, compared to, say, DVD writers (and disks, come to that) - at least in my experience.

You may be just unlucky (2, Interesting)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257947)

I have drives working for years. I do mean YEARS! I have 2x 173M still running and working quite well in a firewall (486 computer at that).

I did have 2 big failure last year when I was going to 250G drives, less than 6 months old. But both were replaced with new drives and no problems since.

Now, all my equipment in on UPS amd NEVER turn off may make their operating enviromwnt very stable, except for cat hair.

Re:You may be just unlucky (1)

Terminal Saint (668751) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259041)

My experience suggests that luck is more important than stable environment: I've had a 60G Seagate for about 5 years, and a 120G Seagate for about 3, no problems with either, and that's with shutting down every night and my box on nothing but a surge protector.

Maxtor 8gb drive (1)

lothos (10657) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257949)

I had a Maxtor 8gb drive, back in 1998, when it was pretty much the largest drive you could get retail. It failed within a year, and I RMA'd it for a replacement. The replacement died within a year as well. I've stuck with purchasing WD and Seagate drives since then, and I've had no further issues.

HDD Warranties have never let me down... (4, Interesting)

HaloZero (610207) | more than 8 years ago | (#16257963)

...infact, it's a prime purchasing point for my choice of hardware.

Late last year, my RAID array failed - 2 160gb Western Digital SATA drives went. I checked the WD website, RMAed them both, and recieved two replacements. They're still functioning today, better than the first two.

We run a device at work that features six SATA2 320GB Seagate disks. The leverage for purchasing those devices was dependant on the 5-year warranty(, and the presumption that we'd never have to purchase a replacement for a bad disk).

If you're having continually bad experiences with disks, you might want to examine their environment; are you using them at relentlessly high altitude? Is the power supply you're connecting them to bad? The lead from the PSU to the disk? Does your controller need a firmware update?

No, the warranties are a Godsend (2, Informative)

maynard (3337) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258003)

Where I work we regularly ship back dead Seagate IDE and SATA drives after RAID failures. Without these long warranties we'd lose far more money than is the case. Further, since these longer warranties have become standard, the MBTF and hardiness of consumer IDE drives have increased dramatically. I used to expect consumer disk to die within a year or two of regular (personal) use. In a heavily RAID array, they would often die within six months to a year. Now, they last much longer. Often, a year or two.

Of course, commercial SCSI / fiberchannel disks still last a good five years of hard constant use. So, as is always, you get what you pay for. But, as it happens, these days you get more reliability on the consumer side than previously. I mean, who remembers the IBM disk fiasco a few years back? The warranties have helped.

Re:No, the warranties are a Godsend (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258581)

My personal and work SCSI disks gave superior service, with 3 year on-site guarantee and 5 years return-to-depot.

We used the on-site replacement just once, out of many many disks, about a week after purchase. My personal backup drive was replaced last year, at (or beyond) the end of the 5-year warranty period, which wasn't unusual. The replacements were new, not refurb, and have the same warranty starting with their "purchase" date.


Sounds like the poster had bad luck (2, Insightful)

enigma48 (143560) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258019)

I've done warranties for nearly all the major manuafacturers with no complaints. Maxtor's advanced replacement program came in handy (that replacement drive was installed 5 years ago and still works), no problems with WD's drives (again, installed years ago and still working).

Get on the phone and start complaining - ideally, write a letter first (registered ideally). So few people do this that this puts you in a very small group of customers, and these customers are often the ones that know how to cause problems for the copmany. Having a paper trail also makes it a little harder for companies to shrug you off like a random complainer that just dials in every now and then.

But before blaming the company, give them one last try. Inform them of your previous trouble with replacement drives (use dates and serial numbers). The odds of a drive dying are low, the replacement drive being DOA are low too. Then again, people win the lottery - sounds like you've just won the back luck kind. As another poster mentioned, look into the Lemon Laws in your state/province.

4 years of dealing with RMAs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16258107)

for the past 4 years I have been dealing with RMAs for a medium size institution with ~1300 workstations and two large SAN systems. One of my tasks is to maintain our replacment parts inventory, pershipped warrenty parts. Our technicians are certified from the vendors for most of our systems. Over the past 4 years probably about 30 Hard Drives have failed under warrenty when I have gotten the RMA replacment it hase been a refurbished drive, never once have I gotten a DOA Drive. the vast majority of drives are segates.

Works for me (1)

mmurphy000 (556983) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258045)

I've RMA'd a few Maxtor drives, and their replacements haven't died yet. I haven't had to RMA any from other drive manufacturers.

So, Maxtor is a mixed bag: (apparently) less-reliable drives, but with decent-quality replacements with a straightforward RMA policy.

All warranty repairs are refurbs... (3, Informative)

sarkeizen (106737) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258055)

...and this seems to extend beyond the hard drive market. Virtually every computer component I get repaired has some refurbished part. Seagate has recently started labeling their refurbed drive. The branding sticker on the one I most recently replaced had a green border and read "Seagate Reconditioned Drive" at the top. I wonder if this is to stop people from selling them outright.

My Advice:

1) If you can, buy from a store with a good return policy (best buy, etc) - although often I find those stores only carry the boxed drives which tend to have lower warranties. If it dies in a very short period - return it and get a new one. Don't let them scam you into getting a warranty exchange.

2) Before you buy check out the MTBF on the various models of drive. Some differ significantly.

3) Back up religiously and/or use a RAID. My RAID 5 is composed of seven drives and I lose a drive probably every 18 months or so but it's virtually a no-pain situation. Pull the drive - send it out for repair - take the refurbed drive and assign it to the RAID as a hot-spare. RAID rebuilds itself.

But to answer the question: "Are the warantees worthless?". My last drive I exchanged to seagate was 200G they replaced it with a 400G! Not bad IMHO.

Re:All warranty repairs are refurbs... (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258849)

Before you buy check out the MTBF on the various models of drive. Some differ significantly.

The Seagate drive the poster refers to has a published MTBF of 600,000 hours, almost 70 years. MTBF numbers are baloney.

Re:All warranty repairs are refurbs... (1)

Fweeky (41046) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259409)

Nah, MTBF's are based on the failure rate you can expect from a large chunk of drives, not the expected lifetime of a single drive. A MBTF of 600,000 hours means that if you have, say, 600,000 drives within their 5-year (generally) design life, you can expect about 1 drive to fail every hour, or a yearly failure rate of about 1.5%.

it's just you (1)

grapeape (137008) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258063)

I havent found reliability going down, actually I have found just the opposite. I have had one in the past 5-6 years. In the past my clients would have at least a couple a year.

Im rather fond of Samsung they have a longer warranty than any other drive manufacturer at the moment and its pretty much no questions asked.

Re:it's just you (1)

kinzillah (662884) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258511)

Better than the seagate 5 year warranty?

Return Under Warranty (UK) (1)

KyrBe (446520) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258065)

I'll take it, as you haven't said, that you're in the US. Here in the UK I've never had a problem with warranties. The product fails, I return it to the supplier and get a new replacement. On the few times I've had to return something to the manufacturer, it's also been replaced with new (and not refurbished). Although thankfkully I've not had to return a drive to the manufacturer yet, only the retailer. In the UK your contract is with the company you purchase from under The Sale Of Goods Act, and not who made the product (ok it's not quite that simple after a certain period of time). There are a number of excellent guides online covering the UK - I'll leave that as a googling excercise for the reader

not I (1)

MrP- (45616) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258167)

I RMA drives a lot at work and I've never got a bad drive sent back to me.. Maybe your delivery person like playing basketball with your packages?

Never send your hard drive (1)

Eric Pierce (636318) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258237)

I've always thought hard disk warranties are worthless.

I don't care if the manufacturers offer a 100 year no fault protection. No person in their right mind should ever send their hard drive off in the mail which contains their personal data on it.

Well, with that said I guess the only exception would be if you _absolutely_ need to retrieve lost data from the hard drive.

Backup... backup... backup...

Re:Never send your hard drive (1)

binaryspiral (784263) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258251)

it's a catch 22 - do you destroy the drive so your data can't be read from your defunct drive, or do you send it in and hope the facility you ship it to erases the drive well enough after they referb it to prevent your data from being shipped to someone else?

Answer - use disk encryption or at least file level encryption strong enough to make the take next to impossible to read your tax files or pr0n stash.

Re:Never send your hard drive (2, Informative)

Student_Tech (66719) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258453)

There was an Ask Slashdot on a similar [] thing a few weeks ago. The comments answer to that seemed to boil down to:
1. Contact manufacture about your policy concerning drive with data on them
2. Most seemed to accept just the face plate once contacted
3. Send in face plate
3.5(opt) Destroy rest of dead drive
4. Get replacement drive

Go to a new store (1)

Codename46 (889058) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258255)

Quit buying all your crap from Fry's Electronics. Problem solved. =)

Never had a problem with any (1)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258295)

Although, I cool the hell out of my systems. So much apparently that I've never even had trouble with WD, which had a stretch of some pretty notorious drives.

Maxtor (3, Informative)

spoonboy42 (146048) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258347)

To be honest, I've had drives from every major manufacturer die. By far the best warranty coverage came from Maxtor, however, who would send out a replacement drive before requiring the old drive back (for a drive which was starting to show bad sectors, I would take it offline, wait for the replacement, then transfer my data over directly). As long as you send the defective drive back within a month, you're golden.

In my case, the new drives were always actually new, and performed very well. Recieving them basically "reset" the warranty to day 0, as well. Finally, the RMA process is completely automated, not requiring you to wait on a phone line. Just download and run a little diagnostic tool which will give you an error code, enter it in on the website, and you can handle the whole business without having to talk to anyone at a call center.

In short, having a drive die sucks, and as I said, it's happened to me with most major manufacturers (Western Digital, Seagate, IBM, Toshiba, Hitachi all come to mind), but Maxtor had by far the best warranty coverage.

It's probably your power... (1)

elrick_the_brave (160509) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258503)

I suggest that if you do not have a proper UPS/power conditioner that you look into getting one. A lot of electronic problems come from bad power.

The Warranty Lottery (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258605)

I quite agree.

I've had to return two drives over the years; both were of course replaced by refurbished drives.

I'm assuming "refurbished" means someone else returned the drive, no fault was found, and now you've got it.

Problem is, some drives are returned because of intermittant errors, or subtler faults which may not be regarded as faults by the manufacturer, such as elevated noise.

So the warranty, really, is a risk - you may get a drive back which is okay, but you may get a bundle of trouble.

When a HD warranty *is* a sham (2, Interesting)

fastgood (714723) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258735)

Nobody knows better than the engineers what their MTTF rate is, and they should set time limits on the known data.

Western Digital put out a 12 month drive (they best know their own product quality) plus an optional $15 insurance plan.

You either build a more expensive, higher quality unit that can stand on its merits for 3 years, or you decide to build junk.
But don't let Marketing dictate quality, where 12-36 months out, you pray for less than one in six returns for a break-even.

So much BS. (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258783)

Have you read the MTBF rating on that 200 gb Seagate drive [] ? They claim 600,000 hours. That's like 70 years of continuous operation. "Mean" time between failure; that means that half of those drives should still work after 70 years.

Is there anyone out there who owns a hard drive they seriously expect to be in operational condition 70 years from now? Anyone?

Its like Tobacco's claims that their product was safe in the face of blatently obvious proof that it wasn't. Someone should file a class-action.

Re:So much BS. (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258967)

Have you read the MTBF rating on that 200 gb Seagate drive? They claim 600,000 hours. That's like 70 years of continuous operation. "Mean" time between failure; that means that half of those drives should still work after 70 years.
No. That is not what MTBF indicates. MTBF does not measure lifetime, it measures random failure rates during the expected lifetime of the drive. A good explanation can be found here []

Re:So much BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16259501)

The GP probably still has a point that it's a somewhat misleading metric, though. It's more like if you have 600,000 drives, you can expect one to fail in an hour. But that's not very useful to most people who don't have 600,000 drives.

Me, I don't pay attention to the MTTF/MTBF stat. It's completely useless, as far as I'm concerned. I simply buy drives from manufacturers I've had good experiences with in the past, and figure they'll last long enough for my personal data storage.

Re:So much BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16259585)

If you honestly believe that your hard drive will last 70 years, then you deserve your fate just as people who claim to have not known that cigarettes could be bad for you, use some reasoning skills people. Ok, rant's over.

Every hard drive has a "useful lifetime". This can be shorter than the warranty, but sometimes they do coincide. What the MTBF is talking about is that if you replace the drive with the same model of drive (new) everytime you hit the end of the "useful life" of the drive you will most likely not experience a drive failure for the duration of the MTBF.

Also, most companies only publish the MTBF on their enterprise level drives. Note that this does not necessarily imply SCSI or the like. They do make enterprise IDE and SATA drives, they just cost a little more than their regular counterparts. Their warranties are usualy longer than the standard drives as well.

In response to somebody higher up, RAID is not a replacement for backing up. What happens if something gets accidentaly deleted, or you get infected with a virus, or somebody gets pissed off at you and throws your computer into a woodchipper? RAID is for uptime only, not to replace having your data duplicated elsewhere.

Be an educated buyer... (2, Informative)

Fishbulb (32296) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258795)

Having been a SCSI-drive user since my Amiga 1000 days, you need to understand MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) and the difference between IDE/SATA drives and SCSI/FiberChannel drives. Remember that the profit margins on consumer electronics is razor thin, so any manufacturer is going to put any device it can't find a problem with back into service (eg: your RMA'd drives).

Here are some articles I dug up in a few minutes: [] [] [] (a bit old, but has useful info)

To answer your qeustion:
Caveat Emptor!

The Internet Archive does this for their disk farm (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258859)

The Internet Archive has an ongoing effort to measure disk drive reliability. [] They have several thousand disk drives for which they are collecting data, and for the year 2005, about 2% failed. This is better than previous years; a few years back they were experiencing 6%/year failure rates.

They send them back for warranty replacement, I'm told.

Warranties = Profit Margin (1)

texaport (600120) | more than 8 years ago | (#16258917)

When someone clicks a banner ad for a $349 computer from a large online retailer, does anyone really think the system builder will change parts based on the consumers' last minute decision to purchase protection?

Like swapping out the one year warranty HD for the same manufacturer's more expensive three year hard drive, because the consumer upgrades the coverage on their bare-bones lossleader whitebox to 24 months instead of the minimal 90 days?

HP "warranty" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16259061)

I have an HP Pavilion zv3160us notebook that I purchased 10 months ago. It came with an 80 GB Seagate Momentus 5400 RPM ATA100 drive. The Seagate drive has developed bad sectors on the drive (bunches) and when I called HP to see about getting a new/replacement drive, the clowns at HP told me that my drive was a 4200 RPM unit. I told them NO, it's a 5400 RPM unit. They told me that their "database" says that my model only shipped with 4200 RPM drives. I took a photo of the Hewlett Packard branded OEM drive with the stinking HP part number and HP logo plastered on the Seagate drive at their request and afterwards they told me that their magic 8-ball database still says that I got a 4200 RPM drive with my machine. So, now I'm not only looking at a bad drive, but HP is in essence calling me a liar. Newegg has the drive new for $75. I tore the HP corporate representative a new a*%^$@# on the phone just to get my money's worth and will likely end up keeping the drive as a reminder to steer all of my clients away from HP in the future.

I think I'll gut my laserjet and turn it into a litterbox.

What they're not telling you (1)

regular_gonzalez (926606) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259205)

The dirty little secret of the electronics industry is that the vast majority of "replacements" that are sent out were themselves previously RMA'd and then tested and found not to have anything wrong with them -- at least, in theory. In reality, hardware can have problems that only crop up under certain circumstances; perhaps that video card one gets as a replacement was previously returned because it locked up after an hour of intense gameplay, or only during certain types of graphical rendering.

Of further concern are hard drives. That drive you sent in for an RMA might get shipped out to someone else as a replacement. One hopes that any data left on the drive was completely obliterated, but all too often it's just a quick fdisk and then it gets shipped back out. Be sure to eliminate all traces of any sensitive data on hard drives if at all possible before RMA'ing them.

The best way to ensure you don't get someone else's return as your replacement product is to ask to speak with a manager and explain your concerns. Your first shipment, in my experience, will still probably be a previously RMA'd item, but if that one fails then supervisors tend to be rather sympathetic and I've generally gotten a pristine, factory-sealed replacement after that.

Maxtor Warantee gave me multiple bad replacements (3, Informative)

SamNmaX (613567) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259489)

I had a Maxtor drive flake out on me with the click of death. So, I sent in for another, and it worked for a little while, but then it wouldn't even spin up. My current Maxtor drive, while it sort of works, often has trouble unparking the drive head when I first boot up. I have decided to stop wasting my time trying to get replacements, and have stopped wasting my time with Maxtor altogether. Maxtor certainly isn't the only company that makes flacky harddrives. I've had Western Digitals and Quantums (now owned by Maxtor) die on me too. However, Maxtors drives seem to be consistently bad, and after getting 3 bad hard drives from them in a row, I make sure to avoid them at all cost, and let me friends know to do so as well.

From my experience (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16259507)

Dude, you must be a fucking incompetent. At least that's my experience when dealing with people who have PC problems on your level.

I have only ever had one of my drives fail... (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259607)

It was nearly 10 years ago. It was a 1.2GB WD drive. When it died, I RMA'd it. Western Digital sent me a 1.6 GB replacement. That drive worked fine for years.

It seems that you have just had a bad run of luck.


Hard Drive Warranties Have Hidden Costs (3, Insightful)

repetty (260322) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259733)

It's actually more economical to ignore hard drive warranties -- go out and purchase a new hard drive if you experience a failure.

When I joined the large engineering company that I currently work for about two years ago, they were replacing four hard drives a week under warranty. When I realized that all of the warranty replacement hard drives were refurbs, I changed that little policy: we started throwing away the bad drives and began purchasing replacements.

Failures have been reduced to fewer than one a week.

So, now we are spending about $80 to buy new hard drives when a warranty replacement would have been free.

HOWEVER, we saving a heck of a lot more than that. Now the sysadmins are fixing other things and our users' downtime has been greatly reduced. We're saving hundreds of dollars per failure by installing new hard drives instead of warranty replacements.

Money is a truthsayer.

Maxtor's RMA site "maintenance" (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16259787)

Friday morning I tried to put in an RMA for a Maxtor which is developing the Click-of-death. Their site claims to be down for "system maintenance" []

Strange how the maintenance covers the entire last 2 days of the month - also the last 2 days of many people's warrantees. Funny, huh?

No problem here. (1)

jsdcnet (724314) | more than 8 years ago | (#16259959)

I've owned a few dozen drives and RMA'd maybe 3-4. All the replacements worked fine. Recently someone on a tech mailing list offered to give away a fairly new 200GB drive because it was broken and he didn't want to deal with RMA process. I took it and got myself a nice replacement drive for free.

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