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Hard drives are built to expect a certain amount of use. Drives do wear out, but a certain amount of normal use is to be expected.

Hey, Leo, just a quick question. I have two external hard drives. One has the source drive, which I use regularly and then another one has the backup source drive, which of course is the backup in case the original source fails.

Now, both drives are filled up with valuable files and I make sure to always have 10 GB left of free space because I update these things quite frequently. Whenever I have a dozen new files that take up 10 GB I always update both drives.

These 10 GB files though are disposable and they are continuously updated. My question is if I keep deleting and re-adding the 10 GB files over time is that wear and tear on the drive?

I also cannot defrag the drives because, again, 90% of both have valuable data on them. Should I worry at all about them? I also only plug in the external hard drives when I really need to back them up. I try my best to take care of them as much as possible.

In this excerpt from Answercast #12, I look at the normal, expected use of a hard drive, including copying and deleting regularly from that drive.

Is it wear on my hard drive?

You're asking if it's wear and tear on the drive. The answer is "Yes." Using the drives is wear and tear on the drives.

The real question is, "Is this excessive wear and tear on the drive?"

And the answer there (fairly obviously) is "No." You're just using the drives like drives were meant to be used.

I don't see an issue here.

This is exactly like using a drive in your computer; it's exactly like all of the consumer grade drives that Google leaves running 24 hours, 7 days a week, copying files and doing whatever it is they do in the background.

So, no, I don't see an issue with respect to how you're using the drives.

I don't see an issue that it's causing excessive or additional wear and tear beyond what would be considered normal usage.

Defragging a full hard drive

As far as the defrag: Defrag is really only a performance issue.

The way that you're using the drives, my guess is that you may not care that much about performance. I don't necessarily see a reason to worry about defrag.

Certainly, not defragging the drives isn't hurting you:

  • Defragging the drives causes a certain amount of wear and tear on the drive.
  • Not defragging it means it has to work a little bit harder when it is retrieving files.

Since this is simply a backup scenario for you, it's not something I see as a problem.

I'm a little uncomfortable with only having 10% free space on any drive, just because (at least in my world), I tend to fill things up. But it sounds like you've got your plan down and you know what you need.

Article C5254 - April 26, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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