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Are USB/Flash Drives more reliable than HDD's?

I noticed 1tb and 2tb flash drives on new egg and I'm kind of a data hoarder and I specially care about reliability and I tought "hey, these don't have moving parts right? They should be more longevous I guess"

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Flash drives, memory cards, and the like use inferior grades of flash memory and controllers compared to SSDs. Flash drive should never be trusted for data shortage, especially since some of 'em are known to fail under certain workloads. A study from the data storage company Backblaze also discovered that proper SSDs have approximately the same age-normalized failure rate as HDDs, at least in a datacenter environment. For reliable data hoarding, a new or new-old-stock NAS/datacenter drive (WD Reds, HGST/WD Ultrastars, Seagate IronWolf/Exos) will be a better bet in both cost-per-TB and reliability.

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I'm not sure about the longevity, but I know all the ones I have are SLOW, even when plugged into USB 3.1 ports.  Like 30-50 MB/s tops depending on the drive and the types of files being transferred.  My spinning rust drives hit around 110 MB/s.

 

Another down-side is the flash modules in USB drives.  Yes, they don't have moving parts, but they would probably suffer from the same degradation as a regular SSD if you wrote to it often, probably worse since, as Schnoz says, they usually use inferior parts compared to regular SSDs and such.

 

For cold storage though that isn't accessed often, I guess they'd be alright.

 

If you want something in the 1-2 TB range that doesn't have moving parts, just get a normal SSD and stick it in an external enclosure.  Higher quality flash, higher speeds, better reliability.

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10 minutes ago, Schnoz said:

For reliable data hoarding, a new or new-old-stock NAS/datacenter drive (WD Reds, HGST/WD Ultrastars, Seagate IronWolf/Exos) will be a better bet in both cost-per-TB and reliability.

But I would bear in mind, those drives are designed to be running 24/7 so potentially will fail sooner if powered up and down a lot.  Its why I have them in my NAS but back it up to external USB desktop HDDs.

 

You need to be careful to use a drive in a way its designed for.  I wouldn't recommend self-powered drives either, consumer 2.5" HDDs are a lot less reliable in my experience than 3.5" ones.

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4 minutes ago, Alex Atkin UK said:

But I would bear in mind, those drives are designed to be running 24/7 so potentially will fail sooner if powered up and down a lot.  Its why I have them in my NAS but back it up to external USB desktop HDDs.

The failure rate of datacenter hard drives isn't significantly affected as long as the number of start/stop cycles isn't absurdly high--many consumer drives use the exact same drive designs as their enterprise counterparts (HGST Deskstars versus Ultrastars, for instance). Also, since current datacenter drives are typically rated for 600,000 load/unload cycles, they should be able to handle a good amount of starts and stops.

 

4 minutes ago, Alex Atkin UK said:

You need to be careful to use a drive in a way its designed for.  I wouldn't recommend self-powered drives either, consumer 2.5" HDDs are a lot less reliable in my experience than 3.5" ones.

Yep. Design compromises need to be made to fit moving, spinning parts into a small form factor. Laptop drives were meant to be powered on and off intermittently, not running 24/7. Unless it's one of those insane 2.5" 10K/15K drives made specifically for datacenters, using a 2.5" drive 24/7 is not recommended.

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9 minutes ago, Alex Atkin UK said:

But I would bear in mind, those drives are designed to be running 24/7 so potentially will fail sooner if powered up and down a lot.  Its why I have them in my NAS but back it up to external USB desktop HDDs.

 

You need to be careful to use a drive in a way its designed for.  I wouldn't recommend self-powered drives either, consumer 2.5" HDDs are a lot less reliable in my experience than 3.5" ones.

I have also noticed they're made of different materials, which might be part of the reason they're less reliable.  I've shot a handful of old drives before tossing them in the trash and with the 3.5" drives, the platters will just bend and warp around the bullet hole, but with 2.5" drives the platters shatter like glass and can fly everywhere.

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16 minutes ago, Schnoz said:

The failure rate of datacenter hard drives isn't significantly affected as long as the number of start/stop cycles isn't absurdly high--many consumer drives use the exact same drive designs as their enterprise counterparts (HGST Deskstars versus Ultrastars, for instance). Also, since current datacenter drives are typically rated for 600,000 load/unload cycles, they should be able to handle a good amount of starts and stops.

 

Yep. Design compromises need to be made to fit moving, spinning parts into a small form factor. Laptop drives were meant to be powered on and off intermittently, not running 24/7. Unless it's one of those insane 2.5" 10K/15K drives made specifically for datacenters, using a 2.5" drive 24/7 is not recommended.

As nose man said.

I've never had an Ultrastar die. Go with those, not consumer drives.

And small flash memory isn't very reliable at all - it's more prone to failure than hard drives.

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USB flash is terrible. Horrible reliability and non existent error correction. 

 

When I need quick and dirty portable bulk storage and actually trust it I will use external USB powered drives. Bulkier than flash, but orders of magnitude more reliable. 

 

When I've done desktop roll outs that require big images there's always the guys that use USB flash dongles and see how many images they can deploy at a time. Every time they get boned and eventually have corrupted images and have to toss their 64GB sticks. Meanwhile my mechanical based USB portables function  because of vastly superior error correction and actual MTF. Those laptop mechanical drives might be slow, but they do maintain data integrity.. USB to SSD is fine as well as long as its reputable SSD.

 

I've said this many times, and will repeat. There is no such thing as data center grade spinning HDs. SAS/SCSI held this crown for awhile, but other than superior command queuing its not a big deal today. Statitically I've actually replaced more drives in SANs than any other device. Often dozens of drives at a time. 

 

Most reliable medium I've used is, once again, Intel Data center grade SSDs. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Schnoz said:

The failure rate of datacenter hard drives isn't significantly affected as long as the number of start/stop cycles isn't absurdly high--many consumer drives use the exact same drive designs as their enterprise counterparts (HGST Deskstars versus Ultrastars, for instance). Also, since current datacenter drives are typically rated for 600,000 load/unload cycles, they should be able to handle a good amount of starts and stops.

 

Yep. Design compromises need to be made to fit moving, spinning parts into a small form factor. Laptop drives were meant to be powered on and off intermittently, not running 24/7. Unless it's one of those insane 2.5" 10K/15K drives made specifically for datacenters, using a 2.5" drive 24/7 is not recommended.

Huh sounds nice, thanks! I'm just starting and will have my built pc in about august and I'm more interested in seeing what I can add down the line, probably will wait 3 or 4 years more to start buying big boi NAS drives then, I already bought 4tb HDD and 1tb M.2 already for my build so I'll be fine for a while

 

1 hour ago, Mel0nMan said:

As nose man said.

I've never had an Ultrastar die. Go with those, not consumer drives.

And small flash memory isn't very reliable at all - it's more prone to failure than hard drives.

Checked and thank you too c:

 

1 hour ago, Gerowen said:

I have also noticed they're made of different materials, which might be part of the reason they're less reliable.  I've shot a handful of old drives before tossing them in the trash and with the 3.5" drives, the platters will just bend and warp around the bullet hole, but with 2.5" drives the platters shatter like glass and can fly everywhere.

Oooooh, that makes sense. Well it's tempting to buy a 2tb flash drive on sale but if that's the case I'll just save my money for future upgrades, thanks man

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3 hours ago, Gerowen said:

I have also noticed they're made of different materials, which might be part of the reason they're less reliable.  I've shot a handful of old drives before tossing them in the trash and with the 3.5" drives, the platters will just bend and warp around the bullet hole, but with 2.5" drives the platters shatter like glass and can fly everywhere.

2.5" drive platters are made of glass, which is why they shatter. Air-filled 3.5" drive platters are made of aluminum, but the platters in high-capacity helium drives use glass (glass is more rigid at lower thicknesses so you can stuff more platters inside).

 

3 hours ago, Mel0nMan said:

As nose man said.

I've never had an Ultrastar die. Go with those, not consumer drives.

 

Yep! I've got an He10 in my desktop right now, and I've seen a handful of others. Even their Deskstar counterparts are very reliable (despite the reputation caused by IBM's 75GXP). You can find new-old-stock drives for cheap on sites like eBay. Though, make sure to get the SATA versions--SAS versions require an expansion card to use. Ultrastars are tuned in firmware to have significantly faster seeks, so they'll not only perform faster but also be a bit louder under some circumstances.

 

3 hours ago, Mel0nMan said:

And small flash memory isn't very reliable at all - it's more prone to failure than hard drives.

 

I use a Samsung Bar Plus 2.0 for refurbishing computers. Even then, there are times where the Windows 7 or Windows 10 10 LTSC installer I've put onto it needs to be re-flashed because the flash drive copied something down incorrectly.

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USB Flash drive is design for you to transport data from 1 PC to another, but not really for data storage. Still depends on how you use the drive, you might actually be okay. I used a few Kingston Data Traveller 100 G3, some of them died just in a short 2 weeks (although I suspect they were fake) but the one I get from reputable store, they work until now for over 2 years. I usually made bootable drive, and one of the drive I frequently copy data to and from the USB flash drive very often and they still survive. The speed is okay as sometimes I still can achieve 90MB/s sequential write while I can hit close to 120MB/s sequential read.

 

What I want to say is that it's a gamble when it comes to data storage, as there are no one storage medium that can last forever, unless we can etch data into a diamond. There's always a risk of the drive failure.

 

3 hours ago, Alex Atkin UK said:

consumer 2.5" HDDs are a lot less reliable in my experience than 3.5" ones.

That's true if you have 1TB drive, but for 500GB drive, it seems okay. But I would suggest you to find 2.5 inch HDD with 9.5mm height rather than the super slim 7mm height. I work for a company dealing with lots of laptop HDD in the past and I can tell you that 500GB still okay but 1TB is a no go.

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53 minutes ago, Chiyawa said:

That's true if you have 1TB drive, but for 500GB drive, it seems okay. But I would suggest you to find 2.5 inch HDD with 9.5mm height rather than the super slim 7mm height. I work for a company dealing with lots of laptop HDD in the past and I can tell you that 500GB still okay but 1TB is a no go.

Could be, 1TB 7mm is such a common size for vendors to slap into laptops and tons of reports of those failing.  The one that came in my laptop is one of the models especially prone to failure, but I swapped it out for an SSD almost immediately anyway.

I was reusing it but after reading up on just how unreliable it is, its not just knocking around unused.  I keep trying to convince a friend of mine to go SSD, he has a 2TB I think in his laptop.

Seagate also sell very cheap 5TB chunky USB drives, that one I made the mistake of using on my Xbox and fortunately it failed just before the warranty ran out.  No warning either, just one day I turned on the Xbox and it wasn't there, it had just completely died.  Not sure if its the USB caddies cooking them to death or just poor reliability, but its made me reluctant to use the replacement.  Might just take the shell off so at least it can breathe.  I guess if it wasn't connected to something that doesn't tend to spin the drive down, it might have lasted a lot longer.

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