Who makes the best hard drives?

I'm just hoping to avoid the worstVendors and large users won't tell us who makes the best hard drives. So I decided to figure it for myself.

I'm just hoping to avoid the worst Vendors and large users won't tell us who makes the best hard drives. So I decided to figure it for myself. Surprising findings: Over all quality is up. Western Digital is doing much better. Seagate/Maxtor has work to do.

Disk drives are marvels of engineering and precision volume manufacturing for which the industry gets far too little credit. But when a drive dies without warning - as 2 of mine did last week - I get grumpy.

Beyond the 2 failed drives I also upgraded the StorageMojo mainframe from a notebook to a tower with 4 SATA bays. I'm thinking 10k Raptor for system disk.

Scientific method? The method is simplicity itself. Total up the number of hits that "[vendor name] sucks" gets on Google. For companies who aren't exclusively disk vendors search on "[vendor name] drives suck."

Please note this is only a proxy for real numbers. One brand may attract the clueless and another the easily enraged. Some vendors sell more to OEMs who don't complain online. One thing I did figure out is that we can look at all-time numbers and numbers for the just the last year.

A final point about the numbers: rather than a direct measure of drive quality, this method is more an index of customer (dis)satisfaction. Someone's drives may be great, but if the warranty process turns people into keyboard-pounding Reavers, that's a bug.

Why "suck"? I needed a standard term of derision. There is no strong pejorative in the 3000 most popular American words. So I went with my default term.

For the drive companies I added both the "drives" and the "vendor name" totals. For diversified companies like Hitachi I only used the "drives" total.

Market share weighted suck factors Then I used the Q1, 2006 market vendor market shares - by total shipments - as calculated by iSuppli and compiled by DigiTimes online (no link due to DigiTimes subscription requirements.)

Dividing the Raw Suck by market Share gives a Weighted Suck factor. The lower the number the better.

So here's the score: lower is better


Maxtor bites it!

This last 12 months After I did all that, I realized that the method found all complaints over all time. What about lately? I'm not buying a drive 5 years ago, I'm buying one now.

So I ran the searches limiting the results to the last year. The good news is that the vendors have improved customer satisfaction.


Western Digital snags the "most improved" award. They equaled Toshiba after being second worst to Maxtor over all.

The still-strong anti-Maxtor number may be people repeating old news. Maxtor is now the Seagate consumer brand selling Seagate-designed drives exclusively, so there shouldn't be a big difference between the two. Maybe Maxtor was the drive company people loved to hate.

The Storage Bits take What is surprising is that once you get past Maxtor, all the other drive companies are doing a pretty good job. And Maxtor is no longer making Maxtor drives: they're now Seagate and thank goodness.

Given all the other variables in drive operation, there isn't a single vendor I wouldn't buy from based on these numbers. Instead, I'll be looking at warranty - Seagate shines here - price and, for external drives, features.

Comments welcome, as always. Other ideas for a good proxy? BTW, I learned of the search idea from Vaughn Aubuchon and added a few wrinkles.

Update: After my morning coffee I reconsidered my late-last-night conclusion. The data didn't support my comments as well as I like, so I changed 'em (the comments, not the data!) so they did.

Update II: Savvy reader Combrink pointed out that I'd left out IBM's Deskstar (aka "Deathstar") and Travelstar drives. Good point! I went back and got the numbers for them and added them to the first table. There was only 1 IBM, Travelstar or "Deskstar drives suck" in the last year so I didn't alter the second table. Sounds like people are happy with their Hitachi drives.