I don’t know if it’s just me, but I have never had any luck with Western Digital hard drives. They always seem to fail in a short amount of time, regardless if they are constantly in use or in storage. Their quality in my opinion is somewhat poor and sooner or later read errors will likely occur on these drives.

Let’s go back to when we (my family) had our second computer. It was a Packard Bell with the then-new Pentium processor and a hard drive that was only 429 MB in size. When we started running out of room, we turned to a brand new 2.5 GB Western Digital drive. A few years down the road while online, the computer just suddenly threw out an error message and everything locked up. After rebooting the machine, we found that Windows would no longer load. Not experienced with computers at the time, my dad took it to a repair shop, and a few hours later the guy called him back and said that the bearings in the spindle motor seized. My dad ordered another Western Digital hard drive of the same size and a few years later, it too started having problems. This time we were experiencing all kinds of read errors.

My dad ordered another Western Digital drive, again, the same size. By that time (1999) we were looking into getting another computer so we could retire the Packard Bell. That third 2.5 GB Western Digital hard drive was removed from the Packard Bell and repurposed for another system. It later spent some time in a friend’s computer before coming back to me. Surprisingly that hard drive still works fine as of this posting. It has been used in a few older computers since getting it back and has to have the same usage and run time as the previous drives, probably more.

But my misfortunes with Western Digital drives don’t end there…

During my summer break, I helped the Technology Director at my high school remove the old computers and replace them with new ones. Since most of the old computers were headed to the dumpster, I had the opportunity to part them out. Among the 30-some hard drives (1 GB – 3.2 GB) that I took home, ten of them were Western Digital. The rest were Maxtor. After erasing and testing the Western Digital drives, only five of them were considered good. The bad ones all had read errors as indicated by the click of death.

All the good hard drives were put in storage until 2-3 years later when I dug them out just to test them again. Out of the 5 Western Digital drives that I deemed good, three of them developed the infamous click of death, just by being in a box in my closet. BTW: I only had one Maxtor that had an issue when I originally brought home and tested the hard drives. Another Maxtor bit the dust after spending some time in storage.

It’s not over yet…

Over the past 7 years I’ve collected used hard drives that are much bigger in size, mostly between 15 GB – 80 GB. (Yeah, that is considered small nowadays). The Western Digital drives that fall within these sizes seemed to be a bit more reliable than those made in the past. One thing that plagues these drives is that they all suffer from whiney spindle motors which can become irritating.

When my dad bought a new computer back in 2003, it came with an 80 GB Western Digital hard drive. I advised him to replace it in the future as it could be problematic. Despite doing so, the hard drive held up until he got his current computer in 2009. Until then, the hard drive was in use almost every day for a few hours, sometimes more. It exceeded the typical 5 year average life span and almost made it to 7 years of constant use. That hard drive still works as of today and does suffer from the whiney spindle motor.

Now the part that makes me disapprove of Western Digital, probably forever…

At the beginning of 2009, I bought a new hard drive enclosure capable of both PATA and SATA, and with a SATA drive, you could use the eSATA interface instead of the USB. While looking at hard drives, I was trying to decide what to go with, and since they had a Western Digital 160 GB SATA on sale, I decided to go with it. I figured that by now Western Digital finally had some quality control and that newer drives would be much more reliable than those in the past. Boy was I wrong.

Immediately after installing the drive in the enclosure, I downloaded and ran Western Digital’s diagnostic program for Windows and did a “long test” to check for bad sectors. After a few hours, the program told me that no errors were detected. The drive was then used for backing up data and constantly sits on my desk. Last year I noticed slow access times when trying to open a photo on the drive, and right away I knew this was a sign of bad sectors. I did a chkdsk on the drive and it found several bad sectors. Great, and the warranty recently expired. I ran the Western Digital diagnostics that I originally used when I first got the drive and to my surprise it did not report a signal bad sector.

As of recently, I noticed that the read errors were getting worse. I ran another chkdsk and this time it hung at 11 percent. I downloaded and ran the DOS version of the Western Digital diagnostics hoping to get errors. The DOS version did find errors, so many errors that the program halted halfway through the test saying that I have “too many errors” and that I need to contact tech support. Way to go Western Digital. These errors were probably present when I bought the drive, but if Western Digital’s stupid diagnostic program would have caught the errors at the beginning, I wouldn’t be in this mess.

I booted the computer back into Windows and ran Speccy. I was stunned when I looked at the statics for my Western Digital drive. The power on count was at 102 and the power on time was 2.5 days. The S.M.A.R.T status was still good. I downloaded a copy of HD Tune and ran an error scan on the drive. At about  53% of the way, the scan drastically slowed down and started throwing out errors. The scan finished after 18 hours (!) and HD Tune reported that 46.9% of the drive was bad. I took the drive out of the enclosure and physically installed it into a computer. Running the scan again, HD Tune reported that 1.9% of the drive was bad. OK? What gives?

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Now, here’s the mind boggling part. After copying my data onto another drive, I was unsure on what to do with the problematic drive. I popped in a copy of Derik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN) and erased the drive just in case I decided to toss it out. When DBAN finished, I was surprised that the program did not report any errors on the drive. Interestingly, after running Chkdsk and HD Tune again, both programs did not report a single error. The drive is now sitting in my closet unused as I don’t know what to do with it. I still can’t understand why the errors suddenly disappeared after running DBAN and I can’t trust important data on it.

In conclusion, I will never again buy another Western Digital hard drive. I gave them a second chance, and they failed. They lost me as a customer, probably forever. I’ve bought and used Seagate drives in the past and never had any major issues with them. Maxtor (before merging with Seagate) also made solid hard drives back in the day, except for the low profile design which was prone to PCB failure, usually destroying the spindle motor controller. Seagate is much more reliable then Western Digital and I would recommend them to anyone.