hard disk life if lying in dormant state...

Silencing hard drives, optical drives and other storage devices

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mr. poopyhead
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hard disk life if lying in dormant state...

Post by mr. poopyhead » Sun Apr 15, 2007 3:26 pm

hard drives have become big and cheap enough that i've started thinking about this plan i've had for a while. i want to back up my entire CD collection by compressing to FLAC and then moving them all to a hard disk that will be put away into storage once the file transfer is done. every once in a while when i buy a dozen or so new CDs, i might rip them, take the disk out of storage and move more stuff to it. so the only times it would actually be powered and in use would be to add files occasionally, or to retrieve files in case of emergency (lost/broken CD).

how long would a hard disk last if i just moved some files onto it, put it away somehwere and never used it? would the bearing rust up? would the data become corrup t somehow? does anyone have experience with hard disks that have lay dormant for many years? thanks for your help.
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Post by Dirge » Sun Apr 15, 2007 6:18 pm

I am worried about stiction and what will happen to bearing lubricants over a long period of time. I might email Seagate and see what they have to say on the matter. If I hear a reply I will post back.

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Post by Eunos » Sun Apr 15, 2007 10:35 pm

You need to think about a good place to keep the hard drive, free of moisture and temperature controlled like a fire-proof safe. I have heard that hard drives in this state should last for hundreds of years.

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Post by jaganath » Mon Apr 16, 2007 1:43 am

I have heard that hard drives in this state should last for hundreds of years.
OK, hundreds of years is maybe an exaggeration,but certainly a HDD kept in a cool environment (ie not subjected to extremes of temperature) should last at least as long as other storage media (flash,DVD,tape drives etc). I prefer flash because I can't imagine how the data would suddenly wipe itself, whereas with HDD all you need is for the read/write arm to break and you're scr3wed. Although, HDD lifetime is rated in POH (power-on hours) which suggests most of the damage/wear occurs while the platters are spinning, and repeated on/off cycling definitely shortens HDD lifespan, so conversely if it was used very sparingly it might have a very long lifetime.

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Post by BillTodd » Mon Apr 16, 2007 1:58 am

You'd better store a PC with it, there's every chance that the interface format will become obsolete before the HDD fails. Could you lay your hands on a MFM controller today?

Did you know that the UK's main sound archive is on CD and CD-R? (It might be easier just to buy a second copy of the CD :))

http://www.bl.uk/collections/sound-archive/nsa.html
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Post by whiic » Mon Apr 16, 2007 4:36 am

"You'd better store a PC with it, there's every chance that the interface format will become obsolete before the HDD fails."

Very likely, especially with (P)ATA/(E)IDE drives. SATA may live quite a bit longer and newer controllers should be compatible with older drives. SATA 1.5 Gbit/s, SATA 3 Gbit/s... soon it'll be SATA 6 Gbit/s. I don't see SerialATA dying any time soon and certainly when it dies, it won't happen overnight or surprize anyone. (P)ATA didn't die overnight. I don't think MFM did either.

When you see a change from SATA to ultimatewhateverinterfacetechnology happening, you just buy a new drive with that ultimatewhateverinterfacetechnology. It may be 10...20 years before that happens, before there's a new interface that is not backward compatible with SATA. Even SAS (Serielly Attached SCSI) controllers are compatible with SATA drive (but not the other way around). I wouldn't be bothered about knowing that I might need to buy a new drive some time in distant future.

"Did you know that the UK's main sound archive is on CD and CD-R?"

Why back-up to CDs? They are very UV sensitive, they are low capacity... and they can become obsolete as well. Heck, CDs are already pretty much obsolete, but at least DVD drives are (at this time) backwards compatible with CDs.

UK sound archive may have money to burn. I wouldn't recommend backing up like they do. Governmental organizations have no clue how to use money accordingly. For example certain armies use radio designs that are 50 years old, usually rely on shock-sensitive electron tubes instead of transistors and microprocessors, require constant maintenance and repair and cost several thousand euros a piece. That's completely rediculous as current technology could offer 10 eur consumer grade radios with almost the same functionality and with 100 eur you could probably make military grade variants with necessary EMI shielding, etc. and offer encryption and other features that those old vacuum tube radios cannot offer.

"It might be easier just to buy a second copy of the CD"

Or why to buy second copies of the original? Isn't that compelte waste of money? If a new CD cost 10 eur, and a 500-gigger costs 130 eur, and you can back up 700 CDs on a HDD. With that 130 eur, you could only obtain copies of 13... If you wanted, you could make 54 copies to HDD at the same price as buying another copy from a record shop... and this assumes 10 eur per CD. In reality, average copyrighted CD cost more. And HDD prices come down ... CD prices (both blanks and original music CDs) remain the same.

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Post by jojo4u » Mon Apr 16, 2007 2:30 pm

I'd recommend adding par2 data using QuickPar and at least one backup on another disk (preferrably a different manufacturer).

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Post by mr. poopyhead » Mon Apr 16, 2007 2:33 pm

thanks for the info guys....

i don't think obsolescence is going to be a problem... i still have 20 year old computers lying around my house, :lol:
besides, i can always move the archive to whatever newer interface is being used in 10 years.

i don't exactly have a fireproof safe or and kind of humidity controlled storage.... how would a foam lined cardboard box fare? i could throw those silca gel packs in every few years, :lol:
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Post by oso » Mon Apr 16, 2007 3:37 pm

This seems a lot more risky than just burning a copy of the CD and storing the original in a safe place.

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Post by mr. poopyhead » Mon Apr 16, 2007 5:08 pm

oso wrote:This seems a lot more risky than just burning a copy of the CD and storing the original in a safe place.
even original CDs and DVDs start to degrade over time. i've read that early adopters of CDs are reporting that their disks (over 20 years old now...) are starting to degrade. the silver layer starts getting eaten away by mould or something...

a lot of my CDs are fairly hard to find indie stuff. so a little trouble is worth it to preserve them...
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Post by Operandi » Mon Apr 16, 2007 8:05 pm

mr. poopyhead wrote:
oso wrote:This seems a lot more risky than just burning a copy of the CD and storing the original in a safe place.
even original CDs and DVDs start to degrade over time. i've read that early adopters of CDs are reporting that their disks (over 20 years old now...) are starting to degrade. the silver layer starts getting eaten away by mould or something...

a lot of my CDs are fairly hard to find indie stuff. so a little trouble is worth it to preserve them...
I've ripped many of my dad's first CDs from the mid to early 80's and they are all fine. As a matter of fact most of them ripped at higher speeds than many of brand new CDs I purchase (using EAC in secure mode).

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Post by Eunos » Mon Apr 16, 2007 10:57 pm

Nonetheless, 'disk rot' doesn't apply to platter hard drives. Flash only claims a data life of 12 years.

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Post by Dirge » Thu Apr 19, 2007 1:16 pm

This is what I heard back from Seagate and its a little scary. I am totally surprised by this answer.

Code: Select all

 Hello Mr. XXXXXX,

 If the drive just sits dormant, it should not be expected to function. It
 could be as little as a 2 or 3 month period of time that it will no longer
 function correctly.

 Regards,

 Rudy R.
 Seagate Technical Support

 ========== Customer's original message ==========


 ========================================================
 How long would a hard disk last if i kept it in storage for long periods
 of time. Would the bearing lubricant dry up? Would the data become corrupt
 over time? Do you have experience with hard disks that have lay dormant
 for many years? Thanks for your help.

 XXXXXX
 ========================================================
Last edited by Dirge on Thu Apr 19, 2007 2:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

jaganath
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Post by jaganath » Thu Apr 19, 2007 2:02 pm

If the drive just sits dormant, it should not be expected to function. It
could be as little as a 2 or 3 month period of time that it will no longer
function correctly.
Well, I've been using the Maxtor drive from my old PC as a storage HDD, and it's sat dormant for at least 6 months (probably more like a year), still works great. Dunno whether this is just a Seagate thing.

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Post by Dirge » Thu Apr 19, 2007 3:47 pm

I am interested to see what other manufacturers have to say. I have emailed Western Digital and Samsung with the same question. I will post their responses if and when I get them.

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Post by mr. poopyhead » Thu Apr 19, 2007 9:25 pm

seagate's answer seems to make no sense...

i bought a new hard disk drive for my brother 2 months ago and the manufacture date was labeled as september 2006. so basically, it had been sitting in some distribution warehouse, and then the store shelf for about 6 months in total....

most hard drives you buy are at least 2 or 3 months old. it's not like they're flying off the store shelves...

i'm thinking that your email was probably not escalated to anyone knowledgeable at seagate... you know how tech support works.
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Post by Dirge » Thu Apr 19, 2007 11:28 pm

I was thinking the same thing, they must have tons of stock that sits there waiting to be shipped and sold. I will be really shocked if the other two manufacturers give a similar reply. But I cant understand why Segate's tech support would give me a dud answer.

I could believe it if he had said years and not months.

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Post by BillTodd » Fri Apr 20, 2007 2:13 am

2-3 months is clearly non-sense, but there are several degradation mechanisms I can think of that could cause the disk to fail if left unused.

There's tha afore mentions stiction - where the heads 'weld' to the plater.

There's a possibility that the bearing lubrication will migrate - FDB s rely on spining to redistrubute the oil.

I also wonder if long periods in a static magnetic field (either externally or internally from the motors ) could cause problems in the long term


BTW I read somewhere that the failure of some of the earliest pressed CDs was a result of poor sputtering (the aluminium coating process) and the use of the wrong 'glue' in the first cardboard cd sleeves.

The classical record company where I was working at the time was an early adopter of CD. The ealiest CD I have in my collection is dated 1980 and it still plays fine, so a CD life of 30+ years is clearly possible even without special achiving.
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Post by jhhoffma » Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:40 am

I have a toolbox full of old hard drives, Seagates, WDs, Maxtors (lots of these), IBMs, Fujitsus, even a couple 2.5" IBMs and Fujitsus.

I could pull out any of them, especially the newer ones and expect them to work flawlessly. The only problem I've ever had with storing hard drives are drives that failed while in use and I removed them and kept them for testing purposes.

I can't believe that a support tech would write that, why would a company sell a drive with a 1 year warranty when it won't work if it sits for more than 2-3 months. Does that include the time it sits on a shelf waiting to be sold or is does the clock only start ticking once it's installed in a PC?? Doesn't matter, it's bullcrap. Maybe they meant 2-3 years?
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Post by J. Sparrow » Fri Apr 20, 2007 8:05 am

mr. poopyhead wrote:i don't think obsolescence is going to be a problem... i still have 20 year old computers lying around my house, :lol:
I'm not the only one then ;) obsolescence is a problem when things break, though. The industry is based on a replace-rather-repair model which makes economic sense, but what if you can't replace ?

Regarding stability of optical supports, I have pressed CDs manufactured in ~1985 and they can still be ripped/played correctly. OTOH, some CD-Rs from 1997/1998 are fading away.

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Post by Eunos » Sat Apr 21, 2007 6:57 pm

jhhoffma wrote:Doesn't matter, it's bullcrap. Maybe they meant 2-3 years?
Think about how the corporate world works. If they say in writing that the drive should last 3 years in storage and for any reason it fails to, they are at risk of a lawsuit. It is in their interests to say the drive won't last even a week in storage...

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Post by sun.moon » Sat Apr 21, 2007 10:53 pm

It may be that for the most part, the corporate world backs up on disk, but I believe they archive on tape.
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Post by Le_Gritche » Sun Apr 22, 2007 1:17 am

This 2-3 month makes no sense indeed.

I have an old computer (10 years old), it has been sitting in a country house for 4 years now. It get used only during summer, and then sit there dormant during 9 month, waiting for the next summer in a cold and wet (humid?) house.

The computer boots fine and allows for great Starcraft playing, so even if I don't run scandisk on it, I have every reason to believe the data are safe and the mechanical pieces didn't rust nor stuck together.

This is only anedoctical evidence and I have no data that I can't risk losing on it though.

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Post by MoJo » Sun Apr 22, 2007 12:49 pm

I too have HDDs that are over a decade old and still work. An old 2.5" 80MB (yes, megabyte) drive from an Amiga 1200 I bought in 1992 still works fine, despite not being touched for at least 8 years.

More recently, I have 80GB Seagate Baraccudas which still work OK. Some have not been touched for a couple of years.
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Post by highlandsun » Tue Apr 24, 2007 3:48 am

I have an 80GB Western Digital drive that was sitting dormant for about a year, and it no longer spins up. Rather annoying.

As far as I recall, a Maxtor representative over on StorageReview.net said that the magnetic media is targeted to retain its data for at least 5 years before the unrecoverable error rate increases noticeably.

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Post by Steve_Y » Tue Apr 24, 2007 6:02 am

Quite recently I went through a collection of older hard drives, mainly pulled from computers, or used to backup information that's also on CD/DVD.

Some were faulty drives, pulled from PCs after they started to develop problems, but most drives had been tested previously and marked as working. The drives were stored in a cupboard for 1-3 years, there shouldn't have been any extremes of temperature or unusually high levels of moisture.

Out of 11 drives that were labeled as working, 3 had completely failed after being left dormant, while another drive had serious problems (strange noises, only being detected intermittently) and quickly failed. Out of those 2 are 200Gb Seagate 7200.7 (out of 4 in storage), one 120Gb 7200.7 (out of 3), and one 80Gb WD800.

Maybe something in the environment where they were stored could have caused an abnormally high rate of failure, but it makes me a lot less inclined to trust hard drives for long term storage. I haven't seen the same failure rate with CDs and DVDs that I burned years ago.

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Post by Tzupy » Tue Apr 24, 2007 6:28 am

I have and old (2001) Seagate ATA IV 40 GB drive that's been dormant for about a year. I remembered that I had some old dox somewhere on it that I didn't transfer when I moved to the WD 3200 JD, so I plugged it and it still worked, but had a certain whining, which may indicate the bearings weren't doing so well.

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Post by mr. poopyhead » Tue Apr 24, 2007 7:01 am

thanks for the replies...

so from all the anecdotal evidence posted here, dormant HDDs are not really a good option for storage over 3+ years. which really isn't much better than leaving them powered and spinning for 3 years. that seems counter-intuitive to me, that a disk would have the same service life when it's spinning for years, as when it is powered off. i can understand the bearing issue, but a complete breakdown after 3 years? seems weird...

so now the question becomes, what are my options for long term archiving?

a) hard disks - 3 years?
cheap and big.
b) DVD-R - 0-5 years (based on my own experience)
really cheap, but the dyes are kind of flaky. too unreliable and inconsistent lifetimes.
c) flash - ??? years
not enough capacity for cheap.
d) tape - ??? years
sounds really expensive.
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Post by jaganath » Tue Apr 24, 2007 7:28 am

c) flash - ??? years
AFAIAA most flash will last 10 years if minimal write/erase cycles:

see:
http://www.spansion.com/application_not ... _AN_A0.pdf
http://tsc.jeita.or.jp/tsc/standard/pdf/EDR-4706.pdf

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Post by CoolGav » Tue Apr 24, 2007 7:49 am

mr. poopyhead wrote:d) tape[/b] - ??? years
sounds really expensive.
Not if you get a decent drive second hand. They're usually built to last since it's companies who buy almost all of them new.
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