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It's hard to believe that in the 21st century we are still using storage devices that rely on mechanical components. Even though tech enthusiasts have predicted for some years already that flash drives will replace hard drives at any time, I think we still have to live with these old-fashioned spinning disks for a while.
Aside from the fact that hard drives have slow access rates, their main disadvantage is that their mechanical components wear out over time. Although the life span of hard drives has increased considerably in recent years, it is still recommended to keep an eye on older computers in your network.
The life expectancy of a hard disk depends on several factors, such as operation hours, the amount of transferred data, the disk's average fragmentation rate, and even the temperature in the computer casing. Certainly there are differences regarding the hard drive manufacturing quality of the various vendors and models. Hence, it is quite difficult to predict how long a particular hard drive will work flawlessly.
When you should replace hard drives also depends on the importance of the corresponding system and how disk failures are compensated with redundancy technologies such as RAID, clusters, etc. Another factor is your IT department's budget. If you can afford it, I recommend replacing disk drives in desktops after 5 years and in important servers after 3 years.
NirSoft's DiskCountersView can help you get an overview of the usage data of the disk drives in your network. DiskCountersView has a GUI that displays important disk drive system counters, such as read time, write time, read count, write count, read bytes, and write bytes. This information is useful if you want to predict the life span of a hard drive. The portable tool also displays other data about the hard disks such as partition start, partition length, tracks per cylinder, sectors per track, etc.
The command line version is perhaps more interesting than the GUI. Using the command line version, you can export the disk data to a file which allows you to write a script that collects the usage data of the hard disks in your whole network.