premature hard drive failure

I use external hard drives for backups, and am pretty religious about backing up. Unfortunately, I’m not always convinced hard drives have a good life expectancy. A few years ago, an EZQuest FireWire drive died after just a year. I then bought a Fantom FireWire drive that worked great for two years. Then it died.  I had recently bought a SImpleTech USB drive for my iBook that thus far has been working well and when the Fantom drive died, I added a LaCie 320 GB USB drive and also a LaCie 250 GB portable USB drive (pictured above) for my travels. I went with LaCie because my sense is that it has a good reputation for reliability. And the design of the portable drive is great—the USB cord retracts into the drive, it doesn’t need another power source (although it can be plugged into two USB ports at once if need be) and is totally silent.

Well, silent until today. I used it once about two weeks ago for an initial Time Machine backup and then started using it regularly at work on the West Coast two days ago. The drive was connected to my laptop this morning and ran hourly Time Machine backups just fine, but then started making a clicking sound after completing a backup. That’s not a good sign, so I unmounted the drive, unplugged it from the USB port and replugged it in to see if it was still making that noise, and it wouldn’t mount at all. And yes, the clicking noise returned. Clearly a defective item, and I’m returning it for replacement (Amazon is great in terms of shipping out a replacement on a 1-day shipping bas.

I’m hoping this is just an unusual situation where a hard drive failed prematurely and doesn’t reflect on the model as a whole. If the replacement fails early…then that’s another story. My advice to others: redundancy. Don’t assume any hard drive, especially external drives, will last more than a year. I have yet to own an external drive that lasted more than two years. And those were all drives that were rarely, if ever, moved from their place on a desktop. I also backup to DVD media when possible, and keep iTunes and iPhoto backups in a safe deposit box in the bank for offsite storage. Just in case. In other words, you can never be too redundant when it comes to backups.