I am completely out of hard drive space. I refuse to buy new because the prices are outrageous and I'm not exactly Bill Gates. They haven't budged since I purchased my last set of drives three years ago.
The problem is Chia coin. The cryptocurrency has crashed. Which long term, should be a good thing for consumers of hard drives. But short term, has lead a lot of people to sell the hard drives that they used for mining. And a lot of these people are scumbags. Because they are flooding sites like eBay with these useless, abused drives with severely shortened lifespans without disclosing the fact that they were abused mining Chia.
So my question is how do I navigate this minefield without getting a Chia drive.? Obviously there are some red flags to look out for. Like someone selling multiple drives at once.
I guess my real question would be how do I test a drive after I buy it. I ran WD Diagnostics tools on my latest eBay purchase- a 5TB portable and the SMART data was gibberish to me. For example: the only stat that seemed to make sense was powered on hours. So I closed the app, let the hard drive run for several hours and reopened the app. When I reopened the app the "powered on hours" were exactly the same- 97. So I am lost.
I would like to find an 8-14TB external or higher depending on price What tools can I use to test it and what can I look for to tell if was abused and is nearing the end of it's life?
Any advice would be appreciated
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The Chia spike ended late last year and we're back to normal with drives in the ~$15/TB range. BestBuy has been selling the 14TB EasyStore for $200 every few months since late last year. 4th of July should see some sales and Amazon Prime Day is July 12-13. WD has their 16TB Red Pro and Gold drives for $300. You'll have to get your own external case, but Gold has a 5 year warranty, so may be worth the extra cost. A third party case will be worlds beyond the super cheap case, interface and power supply manufacturer externals use, especially in regards to heat.*
*This is why others and I shuck the drives from externals and use them as internal, since externals are cheaper.
Buy used only if you get a really good price, <$10/TB because as you said, it's a minefield of bad drives that you never know how they were used and abused. If you buy from a reseller like GoHardDrive or Water Panther, these are usually pulls from datacenters with high hours or minor errors that their high standards flagged for the pull. They may offer a warranty, but it's only as good as the reseller is will to honor or as along as the reseller is still in business.
SMART (use CrystalDiskInfo if you're on a PC) can be reset, so may be meaningless on used drives. If anything shows up as yellow or red**, toss the drive or use it for absolutely non-important data. SMART, which is what WD Diagnostics is reporting, isn't an indicator of drive lifespan. Any storage device can fail at any time, for any reason, with or without notice. The only reliable way to maintain your data is backups. Ideally at least two, with one kept offsite, physically or cloud.
**Some stats are more critical than others, but if you don't fully understand what they mean, best to consider the drive NG.
There's no odometer on a hard drive that will reliably predict end of life. All electronics follow a Bathtub Curve with failure most likely early or very late in life. As a rough guide, the longest warranty is 5 years, ~44K hours, so anything beyond that may be considered extended life.
Any drive new to you should be stress tested. This will take days or even weeks (for large drives) to complete, but well worth the time as you hope to get years of use.
Do a full read/write/verify
FYI, WD and Toshiba portables have the USB interface integrated in the mainboard of the drive requiring costly, $$$ modification to change to SATA in case of the need for data recovery. Which should never be an option or necessity with proper backups. Seagate portables are regular SATA drives with a detachable USB interface. All 3'5" externals use regular SATA drives with a detachable interface.
SMR may or may not be an issue for you. SMR is slower on writes, especially rewrites than CMR/PMR drives. Read speed on both is the same. Currently, all 3.5" <8TB WD and <10TB Seagate externals are SMR. All 2.5" drives >750GB are SMR. The sole exception being the 1TB WD Red NAS, which is only available as internal.
SMR isn't the absolute evil some make it out to be. It's fine for write few, read many use, such as backup. Or when you're primarily just adding new files versus overwriting existing files.
In general, SMR drives aren't any cheaper than non-SMR drives and a stated above, once you're above 8 or 10TB, they're not available in that size.
If we're talking about HDDs as opposed to SSDs, I'm not sure how you'd abuse one by using it as such. I have read that Chia mining could wear out a SSD fairly quickly due to the constant writing, but I'm not so sure it'd apply to HDDs.
I'm also not sure there's much point to a full format these days as hard drives do their own swapping out of bad sectors etc, although I guess you could see if the uncorrectable sector count has increased afterwards, but I imagine filling up the drive with files would achieve the same thing. I don't really know though....
I still don't own a HDD larger than 3TB, but my experience with HDDs is that it's mostly luck, even when you take usage into account. Take this PC for example. I bought 4 WD 1TB black drives years ago to replace the 350GB drives, but due to laziness I didn't install them for over a year., so the one that died young was just out of warranty. My bad, but the three remaining drives still haven't missed a beat and according to Speccy, they've been spinning for close to 9 years now.
The drive below is the one I have a soft spot for though. I refer to it as "old clunker" as it can be a bit noisy, but it's been spinning for a total of 11.4 years now. I haven't given it a good home as it's spent most of it's life on the floor under my desk, but it's the drive I use for uploading/downloading so it's constantly working even if it's not being overly taxed all the time. I'm pretty sure the errors Speccy shows are partly due to a crappy SATA PCIe card the drive was connected to for a while, but mostly due to the cat messing around behind my desk. Internal SATA cables aren't very reliable for external use.
I've had a few hard drives die with very little usage (only used for storage) but because they'd had so little usage they were out of warranty when they died. In a working PC they'd have probably only lasted a month. Luck of the draw.....
A full format will write to each block and sector and block bad ones.
Abuse of a hard drive could be due to heat, humidity and vibration. Unlike pulls from datacenters, where these are supposedly controlled, it's unknown what conditions Chia drives may have been under. And yes, Chia is bad for SSDs, because unlike hard drives, they have a limited number of write cycles that Chia use would use up, possibly exceeding the manufacturer's specification for warranty replacement.
Good or bad drives are a bit of luck of the draw, but use conditions play a big part in that. As stated above, high heat, humidity and vibration will potentially shorten their life. Any individual's experience with drives is not even a drop in the ocean of the billions of drives in use today.
Ultimately it doesn't matter what and how many drives you have as long as you have backups for the inevitable failures.
I actively use new drives until their warranty expires, then buy new ones as replacements and move the expired warranty drives to backups.