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Does a 5400rpm HDD have a longer life than 7200rpm?

I know that more RPMs means more heat but is there a significant difference between their lifetime?

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5 Answers 5

no there isn't.

hard drive manufacturers usually offer the same warranty for all their drives, they wouldn't do that if faster drives would be more likely to fail.

having that said, the usefulness of platter hard disks as long term storage media is rather questinable, and they'll be replaced for performance reasons long before the end of their expected lifespan anyway.

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+1 good point about the warranties. –  hyperslug Oct 3 '09 at 22:09
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I wouldn't have thought so...

I would have thought that the motor is simply built "faster" - thicker material / better thermal properties - bigger/more (don't know what would be better) ball bearings...

The fact is, in the days of desktop machines with 5400rpm and 7200rpm drives, I saw nothing that made me think that one was more reliable.

Of course, one way of looking at it (especially with laptops) is typically 5400RPM are standard, and everyone would buy laptops with them and use them in the evenings and then turn off - where as it takes an enthusiast / someone who knows what they are doing to want a 7200rpm drive - the sort of person who would leave their pc on at nights and/or hours at a time, and even play games for hours at a time...

In the example above and what I tend to see in real life is that all hard drives seem to have a time limit and it is the ones that are on the most / get a heavy use are the ones that usually go first.

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@Hyperslug, you are like my old English teacher! ARGH!!! But I know you are right! –  William Hilsum Oct 3 '09 at 22:07
    
Heh, sorry, that one just stuck out. –  hyperslug Oct 3 '09 at 22:12
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It all depends on the quality of the drive. There are 15K RPM server hard drives that are built to outlast 7.2k RPM drives. The spindle speed has no direct correlation to lifetime if the drive is of good quality

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It's very difficult to tell. The most important indicator in order to get to a possible answer is to get the MTBF rating (Mean Time Between Failure) from the makers. However this is a statistical average projected over time. No maker puts a drive running for 5 years in order to estimate its lifetime. It would be obsolete before they got the results.

But consider this:

  • All things being equal (meaning same type of materials, same build techniques, same everything), a 7200 RPM drive would necessarily fail sooner than a 5400 one. After all the internals would be subject to a larger amount of stress and heat. It's pure physics. But because faster drives are built from stronger materials and built using newer and better techniques, it is safe to assume they will have a similar (or better) lifetime to their slower brothers.
  • Curiously enough, a good indicator of how long you can expect a hard drive to last is given by the Warranty. That's right. Regardless of what one may think of a hard drive lifetime, extended warranties above and beyond the standard 3 year warranty of hard drives are a sign of a good and solid build. You can get 5 year warranties on many 7500 and 10000 RPM hard drives. You just don't see much of that on 4500 RPM ones. I guess it doesn't take a mathematician to reach a possible conclusion ;)
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It's a complex answer - but No, in general.

Heat is not the issue that people make it out to be. Google did their own study that came to the conclusion that HDDs are far more resilient to heat than people first thought. Most decent brands will handle 50+ C for the lifetime of the drive.

Also you need to consider which 5400rpm drives you are talking about... If you are on about olde IDE/SAT drives, then they are almost certainly inferior to modern 7200rpm drives, given the year-on-year improvements that are made.

If you are consider the new 'green' 5400rpm drives like the Samsung EcoGreen series, they are lowered powered - hence they are considered 'green' - but they are no more reliable. Same MTBF, same warranty.

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I don't understand the whole ‘green’ labelling thing. They're quieter and less hot which is a good thing, but trying to sell them as ‘green’ just because of the marginally lower power consumption (irrelevant compared to the power draw of the rest of the system) is absurd! –  bobince Oct 4 '09 at 0:55
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@bobince Yeah, but "green" is the in thing, and it sells. –  Jared Harley Oct 4 '09 at 0:58
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