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meerkt
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2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Sun Jul 16, 2017 6:50 pm

I'm about to get 2 external 2.5" HDDs. One for occasional portable use, the other as nearline/offline backup.

I thought of getting models from both WDC (Elements Portable) and Seagate (Expansion Portable) in case one happens to be unreliable, but the Seagate gets more 1-star votes:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TKFEEAS/#customerReviews
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CRZ2PRM/#customerReviews

Anyone have non-anecdotal stats of either?
Should I just get two WDCs?
Other ideas?

(PS: Not for me. I buy my HDDs and enclosures separate.)
 
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Sun Jul 16, 2017 7:11 pm

I've got a Toshiba Canvio. Hard drives are cheap enough that you should be keeping a good backup.
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Sun Jul 16, 2017 7:19 pm

I'm pro-Toshiba in general, but it's not available where I'm going to buy.
 
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:21 pm

I have two WD extremal drives, one's almost 7 years old and the other is, I think, about 2 years old. Both work fine although I seldom plug them in and I keep them safely tucked in their respective boxes in the closet most of the time. Like, 362 days a year, which is how lazy I am to back up (well I back up on a flash drive then when that fills up they spill over to the extremal drives). As for Hitachi/Toshiba, I can vouch for them. My good ol' 1TB Hitachi internal drive is still going strong since May 2011. I tested it about 2 weeks ago and it's still ok. I'll make sure to get a Toshiba again next time I buy another internal drive. I'd love to think Seagate has gotten over their issues though and I'd like to get Seagate again. I remember when I ran 2 Seagate Barracudas back in 2000. Those were the ones that had those (I think) SeaShell™ plates that covered the drive components underneath. Very nice drives. I went Maxtor in 2004 and never had a Seagate since then, although a 500GB Seagate died on us here at home in around 2012, I think.
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:46 pm

A WD Elements 1 TB for 3 years and a Seagate Backup Plus 1 TB for 4 years here. These HDDs are still reliable, data integrity wise, but the Seagate does occasionally disconnect if I'm using it with my laptop for extended periods of time.

I've even managed to drop the Elements onto hard floor once and the casing became loose, but the drice survived intact. It does help that the drive wasn't running, though.

I guess WD might have a slight leg up in terms of reliablity, though with a sample size of 1 per manufacturer, best not to take too much stock.
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meerkt
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 8:09 am

So no specific experience with the OP models, but more negative Seagate anecdotes... The problem is knowing if there's any correlation between different models. Or when it comes to external drives, even the same model.

BTW, Seagate's "Backup Plus" (at least STBU1000100), gets worse votes than "Expansion Portable" (STEA1000400).

Another anecdote: Just tried a friend's Seagate 1TB 3.5" external (9SF2A4-500). It enters a clicking loop after spinup. But I don't know its history, it may have been mistreated. I also can't rule out it being unhappy with the power adapters I tried it with (both 12V 2A).

ronch: Is "extremal" an auto-correct word? :)
 
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 8:59 am

You can generally tell how much faith a manufacturer puts in the quality of their own units by the warranty length.

Western Digital
Toshiba
Most Seagate units are 1 or 2 years
 
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:13 am

meerkt wrote:
So no specific experience with the OP models, but more negative Seagate anecdotes... The problem is knowing if there's any correlation between different models. Or when it comes to external drives, even the same model.

BTW, Seagate's "Backup Plus" (at least STBU1000100), gets worse votes than "Expansion Portable" (STEA1000400).

Another anecdote: Just tried a friend's Seagate 1TB 3.5" external (9SF2A4-500). It enters a clicking loop after spinup. But I don't know its history, it may have been mistreated. I also can't rule out it being unhappy with the power adapters I tried it with (both 12V 2A).

ronch: Is "extremal" an auto-correct word? :)

Clicking loop? On portables that means not enough power. But if you're feeding it a 12V 24W PSU that means it's external, so not sure what's wrong. Could be that a head is stuck and you could try cavemanning it: use swift percussive maintenance and hit the drive against something hard along the shortest dimension (height?) so the force is parallel to the head motion. I've rescued several smaller drives this way with only a few damaged sectors.

I have an array of WD/Toshiba portable drives because I like low power devices. The biggest problem with them is power: if a drive requires more power than the cable + port can yield there is a higher chance of a write failure or corrupted part of the disk (ie: use thick short cables whenever possible). This alone makes it difficult to diagnose a drive's reliability from reviews: who knows what the user's setup was or how high-quality the port+cable+connection was?

Fwiw of all 2.5" drives I've owned, portable or internal, have functioned fine except for cases of power shortage or loss. Even then, the drive read a few unrecoverable sectors that are fixed upon format (ie: junk data was written, but physical sectors were all OK). None have died.

I'm convinced that 2.5" drives tend to last longer than their 3.5" counterparts. Less heat, less power, built for laptops/portability/vibration, etc. Also I do not think you will find any non-anecdotal drive reliability from anyone here on TR unfortunately. you might try going to Best Buy or Staples or something and asking customer service which brands have the most returned drives. When I worked at Staples years ago we saw more Seagate returns than anything else, but as you probably know, drive reliability varies by model, batch, and year.
 
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:15 am

Zero evidence outside of my own anecdotal experience, but I've had universally-bad luck with Seagate. WD, Toshiba, and HGST (which is also now WD) are all preferable.

I have several USB 3.0 drives, all WD. All do great. Backups on two PCs, an external storage drive for my PS4, and an external storage drive for my daughter's Wii U. Four drives all between one and five years old (the Wii U one is especially elderly for a hard drive).
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:44 am

The Egg wrote:
how much faith a manufacturer puts in the quality of their own units by the warranty length.
2 years for both models, at least where I'm going to buy. I'm not happy that it's not 3, but that's what's avilable considering other purchase constraints.

Duct Tape Dude wrote:
Clicking loop? On portables that means not enough power. But if you're feeding it a 12V 24W PSU that means it's external, so not sure what's wrong. Could be that a head is stuck and you could try cavemanning it
It's 3.5". Too bad the friend lost the original power adapter. The only thing I can say is that spinup was cut short when I tried a 1.25A power adapter, but not with the two 2A adapters, with which it finished spinup and proceeded to clicking loops. I don't have that drive here to do more testing.

all 2.5" drives I've owned, portable or internal, have functioned fine except for cases of power shortage or loss.
How do you decide if it's shortage?

you might try going to Best Buy or Staples or something and asking customer service
Yeah, I plan on asking. Hopefully the sales guys know enough, and are free to give out unbiased info.

derFunkenstein wrote:
Zero evidence outside of my own anecdotal experience, but I've had universally-bad luck with Seagate.
Seems like a common theme. Though Backblaze's more recent stats show their newer Seagates are doing fine, and WDC slipping sometimes.
Averaged over a few years Seagate might be worse, but when looking at specific models it's not impossible that a Seagate could be better than a WDC.

But there's also the question of what's statistically better when getting two drives, one for backup: two of the same model risking going with the less reliable one, or two of different models, knowing one manufacturer tends to be less reliable. :)
 
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:55 am

meerkt wrote:
all 2.5" drives I've owned, portable or internal, have functioned fine except for cases of power shortage or loss.

How do you decide if it's shortage?

If it won't spin up when port powered, but spins up fine with an external power adapter, then it is getting insufficient power from the port. Sometimes a USB cable that draws power from two ports at once will get around the requirement for an external power brick.
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:30 am

just brew it! wrote:
meerkt wrote:
all 2.5" drives I've owned, portable or internal, have functioned fine except for cases of power shortage or loss.

How do you decide if it's shortage?

If it won't spin up when port powered, but spins up fine with an external power adapter, then it is getting insufficient power from the port. Sometimes a USB cable that draws power from two ports at once will get around the requirement for an external power brick.

If the drive drops only for a second and comes back--particularly during transfers-- or constantly disconnects/reconnects, that means the drive has power cycled due to a power shortage. A higher power port or those Y cables that draw power from two ports (data only from one) or a shorter/thicker cable usually remedy this. Beware of thin long USB 3.0 cables paired with thicker portable drives (ie: the 12mm and 15mm ones that have more platters typically need more power).

Also I haven't seen any recent portable drives that have an external power connector. They're all just USB unless you buy one of them fancy enclosures yourself.
 
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:00 pm

Right. Well, so far so good with a laptop's USB3 port.

Anyway, I ended up getting two WDCs of the same model. The store guy couldn't tell me anything about reliability differences. While we spoke, though, he mentioned that the WDC drives use a standard SATA drive inside. Reading online before, I think the Seagate might be embedding the USB bridge chip directly on the drives, with no native SATA interface. If both things are true, that's one reason to prefer the WDC.

There's a positive unexpected surprise, which could've been even better if I'd known in advance...

The store advertises 2 year warranty. Back home I noticed that the two retail boxes, while similar, aren't exactly the same. Both have a sticker advertising the capacity, but also in small print the warranty period. One says 2 years, the other 3 years. Feeding in the S/Ns, WDC's site concurs.

Both drives have the same base model code: WDBUZG0010BBK, but there's a different extra part: -WESN for the 2 years, -EESN for the 3 years (interestingly, WDC's warranty period page says also EESN should be 2 years). I thought these different sub-models would depend on region or manufacture date? But apparently some stores let you choose the warranty period, so pay attention. :)

Another surprise is that if you register the drives on WDC's site the warranty period expands "officially" (initiailly it shows the manufacture/ship date, I assume) based on the purchase date you choose. Maybe they check receipts when RMAing? And a bonus: the warranty period is actually X years + 1 month.

An oddity: There's a difference of 1 warranty day between the drives I registered on the same purchase date.

A niggle: USB cable is only ~45cm.

A tip: format from diskmgmt.msc and not the Explorer context menu if you want a window that can be minimized, and progress indication in numbers rather than a bar.
Last edited by meerkt on Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.
 
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:03 pm

Does the one with the longer warranty have an earlier manufacture date? Maybe they recently dropped the warranty length from 3 to 2.
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:09 pm

There was a difference of a few months in the warranty check page, but I don't remember which drive was earlier. Now it shows dates based on the purchase date I chose.

Going by the retail boxes, both are (c) 2016, but the 3 year drive claims compatibilty with Win7 - 10. The 2 year drive says Windows 8.1 - 10.

PS: I'm not in the US.
 
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:16 pm

The only external purchases I've ever regretted where upright standing ones or a Maxtor.

They say up above 3TB is where you're more likely to have problems, but I wouldn't know as I've never gone above 2.
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:33 pm

meerkt wrote:
There was a difference of a few months in the warranty check page, but I don't remember which drive was earlier. Now it shows dates based on the purchase date I chose.

Going by the retail boxes, both are (c) 2016, but the 3 year drive claims compatibilty with Win7 - 10. The 2 year drive says Windows 8.1 - 10.

PS: I'm not in the US.

There should be a manufacturing date on the drive somewhere. Unfortunately, for an external it is probably on the bare drive inside (not on the external casing), so you may not be able to see it without voiding the warranty.
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:58 pm

meerkt wrote:
Reading online before, I think the Seagate might be embedding the USB bridge chip directly on the drives, with no native SATA interface. If both things are true, that's one reason to prefer the WDC.

There's a positive unexpected surprise, which could've been even better if I'd known in advance...

It's actually the exact opposite typically: WD/Toshiba are known for having a direct USB connector and Seagate is the only one that still has USB=>SATA boards separate. Source: about a dozen recent portable drives I own or have looked into.

You can sometimes tell which ones have a separate USB to SATA board these days based on the length. If you compare a WD/Toshiba drive with a Seagate, usually the Seagate is slightly longer (about 1/4" to 1/2") because of the additional board.

In fact I am looking into buying another Seagate portable just to shuck and use in a server.
 
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 4:14 pm

These WDCs are exactly 11cm long.

Early 2016, an Amazon reviewer posted this about the Seagate Expansion Portable 1TB (STEA1000400):
Image

Some observations on the WDC:
Comes partitioned to GPT for some reason.
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:09 pm

meerkt wrote:
Comes partitioned to GPT for some reason.

Well, GPT *is* the way the whole industry is heading. I agree it seems odd to do it for an external drive (which people may want to mount on older systems) though.

In a similar vein, memory cards 32GB and up come preformatted exFAT (which isn't recognized by many older devices). And Windows (at least as of Windows 7) had an artificial limitation where you couldn't FAT32 format anything 32GB or bigger.
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:15 pm

just brew it! wrote:
And Windows (at least as of Windows 7) had an artificial limitation where you couldn't FAT32 format anything 32GB or bigger.

Win 8.1 has the same limitation even with 3rd-party tools.
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:53 pm

I own WD 2.5 externals in 1tb, 2TB and 4TB formats (My passport Ultra) - all have been reliable - the 1 and 2 for over three years - zero problems.
 
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 8:36 pm

just brew it! wrote:
GPT *is* the way the whole industry is heading. I agree it seems odd to do it for an external drive (which people may want to mount on older systems)

External or not, I don't see any advantage to using GPT with <=2TB, and these are 1TB drives.

I wonder if that's why they claim it's only compatible with Win7+ / Win8.1+. I hope I didn't void the warranty by MBRing it and copying data on XP. :)
 
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:04 pm

meerkt wrote:
just brew it! wrote:
GPT *is* the way the whole industry is heading. I agree it seems odd to do it for an external drive (which people may want to mount on older systems)

External or not, I don't see any advantage to using GPT with <=2TB, and these are 1TB drives.

GPT allows more than 4 primary partitions, supports EFI boot, and keeps a backup copy of the partition table at the end of the disk, which can make recovery from certain types of software (or PEBCAK) screwups easier. I'll grant you that all except the backup partition table generally don't matter for an external data drive.
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:52 pm

just brew it! wrote:
meerkt wrote:
Comes partitioned to GPT for some reason.

Well, GPT *is* the way the whole industry is heading. I agree it seems odd to do it for an external drive (which people may want to mount on older systems) though.


All versions of Windows still in support understand GPT. I suspect that statement is true of Linux Distros as well.

I'd also note that Windows 1703 finally introduced a tool to convert MBR to GPT that doesn't involve backing up the data and destroying the existing partitions.

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/window ... mbr-to-gpt

In a similar vein, memory cards 32GB and up come preformatted exFAT (which isn't recognized by many older devices). And Windows (at least as of Windows 7) had an artificial limitation where you couldn't FAT32 format anything 32GB or bigger.


Windows XP introduced that artificial limitation and yes, exFAT support was spotty when it originally debuted. I'd note that all supported versions of Windows now understand it.
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:06 am

Ryu Connor wrote:
just brew it! wrote:
meerkt wrote:
Comes partitioned to GPT for some reason.

Well, GPT *is* the way the whole industry is heading. I agree it seems odd to do it for an external drive (which people may want to mount on older systems) though.

All versions of Windows still in support understand GPT. I suspect that statement is true of Linux Distros as well.

Yes, I believe it has been true on Linux for some time as well.

I imagine a somewhat common use case for external drives is to move data off of older systems running no-longer-supported OSes though. So sticking with MBR (for drives under 2TB) still makes a certain amount of sense.

Ryu Connor wrote:
In a similar vein, memory cards 32GB and up come preformatted exFAT (which isn't recognized by many older devices). And Windows (at least as of Windows 7) had an artificial limitation where you couldn't FAT32 format anything 32GB or bigger.

Windows XP introduced that artificial limitation and yes, exFAT support was spotty when it originally debuted. I'd note that all supported versions of Windows now understand it.

Yeah, desktop/laptop OS support is reasonable for currently supported versions. It's more of an issue for older portable devices like cameras and music players, which only understand FAT32.
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Re: 2.5" external HDD reliability: WDC vs Seagate?

Tue Jul 18, 2017 8:52 am

just brew it! wrote:
GPT allows more than 4 primary partitions, supports EFI boot, and keeps a backup copy of the partition table at the end of the disk
Even if these are wanted features, it's pretty safe to assume that people who needs >4 non-logical partitions or EFI boot will know how to switch to GPT. On the other hand, it's likely that many people who need WinXP or legacy CE device support haven't even heard of MBR/GPT. I can imagine situations where a potential buyer will buy another brand because these WDC drives state only Win7/8+ as supported, or because of user reviews saying it doesn't work on XP.

A backup GPT is handy, but I don't know if that's the reason they did it.

BTW, rebuilding a single-partition MBR should be easy enough, though I don't know whether it's less or more common than GPT backup recovery.

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