The Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall of Hard Drive Warranties

This news may take a little while to trickle through to regular consumers but I wanted to draw attention to the fact that Western Digital and Seagate are going to alter the warranties offered with their hard drive around the end of this year.

In short, Seagate will be slashing the five years warranty down to just one year for most of  its desktop and notebook hard drives while others will be cut down to three years from December 31st, 2011. Meanwhile, Western Digital will cut their warranty from three years to two years for its Caviar Blue, Caviar Green and Scorpio Blue lines from January 2nd, 2012. External hard drives offered by either company will not be affected by these changes.

So what’s the big deal?

A lot of people (rightly or wrongly) perceive the warranty as a form of insurance of not only the hard drive but also, to an extent, their data. The presence of a warranty also tends to imply confidence in a product and similarly the lack of a warranty is construed as a lack of confidence. Whether or not this is the right perception of a warranty is up for debate.

Anyway, this is not the first time hard drive warranties have been altered. One such case occurred back in 2002 while warranties were extended again in 2006. Whether the reason behind these changes be for cost cutting, market stimulus, an underlying confidence of a maturing development process or the need to support an immature design change to hard it really does not excuse the fact that there’s no substitute for backing up your data.

If you maintain regular, comprehensive backups a drive failure will only set you back the physical drive which can be replaced (perhaps with some inconvenience in sourcing an interim drive until the replacement can be organised). From my anecdotal experience I have found that hard drives tend to fail early in their lives (usually within a few months of spinning up for the first time) or endure for many years.

Don’t get me wrong, warranties are great for covering the cost of a replacement drive should a drive fail unexpectedly. That said, I think people tend to use it as an excuse not to backup their data and then complain when a drive does fail or, in the case of shorter warranties, not to buy drives supplied with short warranties at all.

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