Question: “Did you tell me that external hard drives only hold info about two or three years?”
Answer: You got it! Ok, statistically speaking here is the drop off. There are three distinct phases a hard drive will go through. (1) The first phase is the first year and a half and during that time 5% of all hard drives fail. (2) The second phase is the next year and a half with a 1.4% failure rate. The third phase last one year and the failure rate is 11.8%. Then that failure rate is maintained every year thereafter. So that leaves us with an approximate 50% failure rate after 5 years. (from: Extreme Tech, by: Sebastian Anthony, November 12, 2013. http://www.extremetech.com/computing/170748-how-long-do-hard-drives-actually-live-for .)
Further Notes: There is another way to look at this. A long time ago, some very wise person told me that hardware (of any kind) manufacturers will only offer a warranty for as long as it makes financial sense to do so. So if a hard drive manufacturer warranties their hard drive for three years (the industry norm) you can take it to the bank that statistically most of their hard drives fail after three years.
What could cause your hard drive to fail early: Do all drives fail after three years? No. Do all drives last longer than three years? No. It boils down to two things: heat and humidity. The longer you operate your hard drive in high heat and/or high humidity conditions, the faster your hard drive will fail. BTW, all hard drive manufacturers have a wide range of models available. This is how I would classify the range of models:
- Premium, their best, quickest, most reliable hard drive
- Pretty Good represents a good value. They may not be as fast as premium but their affordable
- Are You Feeling Lucky? The name should say it all. They are cheaper.
- Do you not Know How to Take Advice? Use at your own risk. Always on sale at Best Buy.
Last couple of thoughts: Three thoughts here. (1) Usage plays an important part also in the lifespan of your hard drive. If you have your external hard drive connected to your laptop/desktop/tablet all the time and it starts up with every boot up or if you just have it turned on 24/7 then the lifespan will be shortened. (2) Remember that the more you handle the external hard drive the shorter its lifespan. Lift it up, put it down every day or just handling the drive every day, maybe drop it 2,3,4 times in its lifetime…all these things are going to contribute to the death of your hard drive. You could be just one drop away from regretting backup. (3) And finally, just assume the maximum life for your drive will be 3 to 5 years. Then from that figure start to subtract lifespan for high temps and humidity, drops, the fact that you tough it every day, etc…