If you’ve ever had a hard drive fail on you, you’ll know it’s not a good feeling. We trust our drives with our most precious data and files, so it’s in our best interest to keep them running well and make them last as long as possible.


Sometimes, there’s no way to prevent hard drives from failing, but you can do a few things to lengthen the life of your hard drive, prolonging the inevitable.

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What Is the Typical Lifespan of an External HDD?

It’s difficult to determine how long a hard disk drive will last. Some last for a very long time indeed; others can stop working within a few years. Cloud storage company Backblaze found out just how difficult this is when they conducted a study on the lifespan of disk drives.

Their initial 2013 study, encompassing 25,000 disk drives, was massively updated in 2021 to include data from over 200,000 drives. But, even after all that research, the folks at Backblaze still find it tough to definitively give a timeframe on how long a hard drive will run.

backblaze Graph showing hard drive survival rate june 2023
Image Credit: Backblaze

That said, judging by the data, it may be that four to six years is the lower end of a hard drive’s lifespan. However, the drives included in the study are mounted in a storage server, which means they are used very differently from how you or I may use an external hard drive. It seems unfair to use the results of the Backblaze study to draw conclusions on the lifespans of everyday end-user drives.

7 Ways to Increase the Lifespan of Your External HDD

There are several ways you can handle and use your external hard drive to make it last longer. However, none are a substitute for backing up your important data on an external drive, as any hard disk can fail. Furthermore, if you’re in the market for an external hard drive, there are a few things you should know when buying a backup drive.

1. Don’t Keep It Constantly Plugged In

The best thing you can do to extend the life of your external hard drive is to use it infrequently. Disconnect and unplug your external hard drive when not in use. One way to achieve this is to use your external HDD as a backup drive.

Minimize the time an external HDD is plugged in

Whenever you need to access files, plug in the drive and copy the files to your PC’s main hard drive. (This works best for media files and may be impractical for work files.) Doing this means your external hard drive has electricity running through it less often, which will make it last longer.

You do have other options to back up your data if you’re not too keen on using your external HDD this way. And, if you want to copy your entire hard drive, you’ll need disk cloning software.

2. Don’t Let It Get Too Hot

When a disk drive is spinning, it generates heat. Heat damages electronic components. Running at high temperatures for long periods can severely reduce your drive’s lifespan by causing permanent damage to drive elements. If you notice your drive getting too hot while in operation, disconnect it and allow it to cool down before using it again.

3. Store Your External HDD Properly

Moisture and electronics don’t mix. It’s not easy to recover data from a drive that has failed. A mistake many people make relates to where and how they store their hard drives when not using them. Moisture can affect the operation of your drives, so it’s best to store your external drives in a cool, well-aired spot.

4. Don’t Run It in Extreme Conditions

We’ve already touched on how heat and humidity can damage a running disk. It’s best not to use your external HDD in extremely hot and humid conditions. If the air is thick with moisture or the weather is pushing the thermometer up, run your external hard drive a little or not at all.

Keep hard disks away from moisture

5. Keep It Free From Dust

Dust can be a killer for hard disk drives because it can get into the disk mechanism, cause damage, and lead to errors and disk skipping. Make sure the room you use your external HDD is free from dust, or at least has as little dust as possible.

6. Handle It With Care

When you are using your external hard drive, make sure you aren’t treating it roughly. Dropping a hard drive can damage the internal mechanisms and render it inoperable. Be gentle when handling your external HDD to get the most out of it as long as possible.

7. Don’t Carry It Around

It’s best to store your external hard drive on a shelf, not in your backpack. Tumbling around in a bag as you walk or drive can cause damage to the moving parts of your drive. This equates to a shorter lifespan.

Extend Your External Hard Drive’s Life

Considering that disk drives that are always connected, as in the Backblaze study, last four to six-plus years, if you follow these tips on handling and operating your external HDD, it should last you much longer.

How long exactly will depend on how often you power up your hard drive, how your treat it, and a random failure chance, but you could expect to get more than ten years, possibly even greater than 15 years, of service from a faithful external hard drive.

#Simple #Ways #External #Hard #Drive #Longer

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