Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Can anyone tell me about the lifetime of drives (floppy, hard disk, CD, DVD, flash...)?

share|improve this question
Just to clarify - when you mention floppy, CD, and DVD, are you referring to the media, or the drives? – sblair Apr 12 '10 at 22:53
Until 30 seconds before your thesis is due. – mctylr Apr 13 '10 at 3:22
Do you mean in an archival sense (long term storage, light usage), daily or harsh usage? MTBF? – mctylr Apr 13 '10 at 3:23
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Lifespans of the media's aren't exactly alike.

Floppies/Zip drives and other floppy type media have lifespans defined either by how abrasive the read/write head is (keep your drive clean) and also by storage. They are especially susceptible to magnetism and mold/mildew issues.

CD/DVD and probably Blueray and other dye type media are susceptible to fading and exposure to bright light (say putting them on your dashboard) will cause them to erase. Some other types are also susceptible to rotting where the metallic layer oxidizes. They were originally said to have 100 year lifespans, then later 30 year, but it has been noticed that some rot after only a couple of years.

Flash drives are limited by writes - most say that they can stand about 100,000 cycles, but this is harder to quantify due to tricks like wear leveling that the manufacturers build in.

Hard drives are more limited by obsolecence (MFM or RLL controllers anyone?) and by physical dropping. They are very resistant to time, relatively to heat/cold...

share|improve this answer
Um, I think you need to seperate CD-ROM / DVD / Blueray from CD-R/RW DVD-R/RW & BR-R which use different methods. I believe early CD-R have failed in less than 10 years, while a "mastered" CD-ROM does not use a dye process for its one-time recording and people have nearly 30 year old discs that are fine (i.e. early audio Compact Discs). – mctylr Apr 13 '10 at 19:08
It's Blu-ray, not Blueray. – Hello71 Jun 13 '10 at 18:23

Google labs did a study on Hard Drive failures found here. It goes in dept on rates and indicators. It seems SMART detection isn't as good as one would think.

share|improve this answer

They depend on many things, like the quality of the media themselves. CD and DVD lifetime also depend on the speed of the writing (they don't like being written very fast). CDs usually last longer than DVDs. I heard somewhere that modern flash drives last for about 1 million writes.

Oh, and floppies suck. They get killed from the slightest impact.

share|improve this answer
Impact? They fail walking pass linear accelerators and super colliders. I suspect cold winds and sick people also damage floppies. – mctylr Apr 13 '10 at 3:20

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.