How long will your backup drive last?

Hard disk lifespan is a common concern. After all, these drives often hold a wealth of data you don’t want to lose. How can you know how long yours will last?

There are a couple of different kinds of backup drives. Most computer hard drives and larger external backup drives are hard disk drives. They contain a disk that spins when the drive is turned on. There are also flash drives. These have no moving parts but rely on electrical signals to store data. The type of drive you have will determine how long it might last.

Hard Disks

Hard disks fail when their moving parts start to break down. Even normal use causes wear on the device and will eventually lead to disk failure. The average lifespan of a hard drive ranges from 3 to 5 years. How long yours lasts will depend primarily on how often you use it.

Hard disks often make clicks, grinding sounds, or other unusual noises when they are on the verge of failing. If yours starts making sounds you don’t recognize, the best thing to do is shut it down immediately. Turning it off will preserve as much data as possible.

Flash Drives

Unlike hard disk drives, flash drives have no moving parts. That doesn’t mean they’re immune to failure, though. The electricity that moves through these devices when you write or erase data causes them to wear out. This process takes a while, and flash drives may last up to 3 or 4 times as long as their hard disk counterparts.

But flash drives are often less expensive than hard disks. That means they’re more prone to manufacturer defects. In addition, if you leave them alone for years at a time, the electricity that represents your data will slowly fade away. That’s basically the same as losing your data.

Cloud-Based Backups

If you have data you can’t replace, you might want to keep a backup of your backup. You can upload documents, photos, and more to sites like Dropbox or Google Drive. Cloud-based backup services do not require an actual physical backup drive. Many are also low-cost or free.

Updating Your Backups

Whatever backup option you choose, remember that technology is always changing. Your flash drive may still work in 10 years, for example. But the USB port that connects it to your computer today might be a thing of the past. It’s a good idea to move your data to a newer type of storage every few years. Doing so will ensure it stays accessible.



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