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Background:

My computer usually stays switched on. Been like that since almost over a year I guess, with only a few shutdown/hibernate/restart here and there.

I have a database (Postgres) running on it to which at peak time have over 50-60 connections and almost all of them are reading and writing to it every ~2 seconds. On top of that I have shared a whole chunks of files too. I generally don't transact with huge file i.e. if they make it into my computer then they usually don't get deleted (just that I don't care to delete them, in case ...).

The computer is old, easily over 3-4 years old, and I've been using it for around one-and-half years. I'm guessing that the hdd is a minimum 2-2.5 years old.

The question:

Does shutting-down/hibernating reduce the life of an hdd?

Observation:

Since I've oft noticed those who do so get failed drives in a pretty short spans. In fact, this guy, who once had a terrible hdd crash, told me that since I didn't switch-off my computer that's why my hdd was healthy and that he was following suit. The correlation seemed tight, but whether this correlation is because of a direct causation intrigues me.

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3 Answers 3

Hard drive spin-up/spin-down operations are times when the read/write heads are likely to get stuck:

  • When the hard drive is spinning normally, the heads are so close to the platters that they are designed to "float" on a cushion of air that occurs when the platters spin at 5400 RPM. [1]
  • When a drive is powered on, before this cushion of air is established, the heads drag along the platter, which is more likely to cause damage as the drive ages. [2]
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First of all if you run important data on a single drive without any backup you should consider that hard drives are not very safe. Dont count on you drives to last 1 or 2 years. If your data is important you should think "my drive could fail tomorrow or any moment, i should use a backup today/now".

You should read up on this topic. There was an article released by backblaze[1] on the topic of different consumer hard drives used as "server" drives. This report also mentions a report done by google in 2007 [2]. At least the google report should mention the diffenrent factors with the biggest impact on the lifetime.

[1] http://blog.backblaze.com/2014/01/21/what-hard-drive-should-i-buy/

[2] http://static.googleusercontent.com/media/research.google.com/de//archive/disk_failures.pdf

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not appreciably.

the SMART spec for hard disk health statistics defines the "Device Power Cycle Count" threshold as approximately 102,400 power cycles, so the people who designed the specification didn't feel like it was a significant source of failures.

if you are concerned about monitoring the health of your disk, I recommend you use Speedfan on windows systems, or palimsest in linux (ubuntu's disk utility is based on palimsest).

http://media.kingston.com/support/downloads/MKP_306_SMART_attribute.pdf

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They had to set it to something, so they used the BS averages from the manufacturer "accelerated aging" tests; the drive will not survive an actual 100k power cycles. The true answer is, it depends. Laptop drives tend to handle it better, desktop drives less so. All drives eventually fail. A daily power cycle isn't likely to significantly change that. (cycling a drive that's been spinning for year, is rolling the dice.) –  Ricky Beam Jan 27 at 21:36

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