Hard drive failures are second only to Windows corruption in my ongoing headaches of computing in this decade. I have two Hitachi 500 GB Deskstar drives in the basement pile of electronic junk. They both failed catastrophically in less than a year of ordinary use.
Hard drive manufacturers quote average hard drive life as Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF). Ordinary consumer drives are in the 500,000 hour MTBF range, while enterprise (e.g., more expensive) hard drives can range up to 1.5 million hour MTBF. Since there are 8,760 hours in a 24x7 year, 500,000 hour average MTBF is a lot of years. Right? Yeah, 57 years is the answer. The key word in this consumer claim is "average". Real drives last anywhere from fifteen minutes to fifteen years.
But based on my own miserable experience, I challenge these vendor 500,00 hour MTBF claims as misleading and unproven. I'd like to see a state attorney general document what the real expected life is of a consumer hard drive, and how consumers should treat their drives to maximize life. For instance, is letting Windows shut an idle disk drive down after 10 minutes or so causing thermal stress with continual power-cycle starts and stops?
What is your experience with hard drive longevity in a consumer environment?