I have not exactly had great luck with hard drives lately. First, a Seagate 320GB SATA drive in my main PC started acting up - fortunately only a few files were unreadable and I managed to copy the rest of the data off without issues. Then, just days later a Seagate 120GB IDE drive in my parents' PC (of which I am the de-facto maintainer) began to bite the dust - it was pretty much unreadable and making lots of nasty noises. After trying a few other options I attempted copying the entire drive using Acronis Disk Director, and following several hours of constant grinding to my amazement it seemed to have copied all of the data successfully, this time onto an IDE RAID 1 array to avoid further faulty hard drive hassles.
You would think that the story would end there. Unfortunately not. A week later Windows XP on my parents' PC begins to report corrupt files, so it seems that one of the drives or the cheap no-brand IDE RAID controller is faulty. If it is one of the drives then it obviously isn't serious enough to make the RAID controller fail the drive out of the array, because it helpfully reports that everything is OK. Should I mention that the two drives in the array are both brand new Seagate 160GB IDE drives?
Right, that's it - no more Seagate. I used to be a loyal Seagate buyer, but two confirmed failures and one possible failure in two weeks, plus at least four previous failed drives in the last seven years is just too much to bear. To replace the failing 320GB drive in my machine I've gone for two Western Digital Caviar "RAID Edition" 320GB SATA drives in a Linux software RAID-1 array. (The RAID Edition drives have some added reliability features, but also have a 5-year warranty and aren't all that much more expensive than the standard WD drives). Since I've just moved to a new PC I've given the old one to my parents, and tonight I have rebuilt it for them using two new WD RAID Edition 160GB SATA drives in RAID-1 using the onboard Promise RAID controller. Third time's a charm...
Earlier this year I read two interesting articles on hard drive reliability (which are summaries of two research papers) on the StorageMojo site:
Google’s Disk Failure Experience
Everything You Know About Disks Is Wrong
In my case, the comments regarding how useless SMART is were definitely borne out - SMART reported no errors at all before the problems started. In fact when I was attempting to recover the 120GB drive using SpinRite it was still reporting no errors in the SMART status as it was clicking away. Brilliant.
I guess the only lucky thing to come out all of this is that no significant amount of data was lost. It has also been a bit of a wakeup call in that I realised I hadn't done a backup in ages. Needless to say I have since rectified that oversight :)