Hard Disk Drive Longevity with Linux vs Windows

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joany
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Hard Disk Drive Longevity with Linux vs Windows

#1 Postby joany » Wed Jan 04, 2012 11:19 am

It seems that my HDDs thrash a lot when running Windows compared to Linux. My theory is that disk fragmentation, pagefile read/writes, and the overall inefficiency of Windows in general makes the HDDs work harder. Not to mention anti-virus and anti-spyware software that always runs in the background with Windows.

Does anyone know of any data that either supports or refutes this? Are there any data pertaining to HDD failure rates with Windows versus Linux?
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Re: Hard Disk Drive Longevity with Linux vs Windows

#2 Postby Zevon » Wed Jan 04, 2012 12:38 pm

There was some information and discussion on a forum concerning SSD's, "OCZ Forums" or similar that went into some depth about HDD longevity Win v Linux. Sorry that's rather an imprecise lead..

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Re: Hard Disk Drive Longevity with Linux vs Windows

#3 Postby GoManutd » Wed Jan 04, 2012 1:07 pm

in my entire time working with tech, i've not seen any OS specific HDD longevity studies. there are just too many variables, and too many different needs to make such studies useful.

at the individual desktop level, linux tends to perform better with less resources, so HDD utilization will likely be better than windows. but even making a statement like this is over simplifying things because linux, at it's core, is a multi-user system - always has been. desktop windows is meant to be a single user system. so what you're really comparing at this level is memory management efficiency.

XP has a RAM sweet spot below and above which performance can degrade. linux tends to not suffer that. i don't have windows 7, but my friends in tech say that it is vastly better than XP - they even say XP mode in W7 is better than XP - and it seems to not suffer from this same RAM issue because memory management has improved.

but performance of W7 is directly predicated, as with any windows version, upon you having more than the minimum stated required system resources.

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Re: Hard Disk Drive Longevity with Linux vs Windows

#4 Postby Zevon » Wed Jan 04, 2012 1:26 pm

A little rider to @GoManutd's post;

Because of my mechanically minded self I really try to avoid any disk-thrashing. That means as a first approximation that there is no substitute for a sufficient quantity of user RAM.

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Re: Hard Disk Drive Longevity with Linux vs Windows

#5 Postby joany » Wed Jan 04, 2012 1:35 pm

GoManutd wrote:XP has a RAM sweet spot below and above which performance can degrade. linux tends to not suffer that. i don't have windows 7, but my friends in tech say that it is vastly better than XP - they even say XP mode in W7 is better than XP - and it seems to not suffer from this same RAM issue because memory management has improved.

:eek: I've never heard that before. My computer (with WinXP loaded on it) came with 2GB. I have 4GB of RAM installed, the maximum my motherboard will allow, although WinXP only sees a little over 3GB of it. Now I'm wondering if 4GB is "too much."

But getting back to the HDD ...

I read more on this topic, and it seems that 'Nix does have a much lower HDD I/O throughput, as my unscientific observations show. However, this "advantage" may be a double-edged sword. Here's why:

It seems the firmware of some HDDs is set to spin down and park the HDD after X amount of time without any disk I/O activity. Since Linux doesn't have much disk I/O activity, this could lead to excessive spin-down/spin-up cycles that can wear out HDDs in a hurry. It seems that this mainly (only?) affects laptops with power-management features. Some people claim that the mean time between failures can be as low as 8 months for laptops running Linux, compared to 4-5 years of running Windows. The recommendation is to set hdparm values to over-ride power cycling completely.

There is a bug report claiming hat Ubuntu power cycles HDDs too aggressively: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/DanielHahler/Bug59695

My preliminary conclusion is that tower/desktop computers may benefit from a lower disk I/O rate, but laptops may suffer. What are other people's thoughts?
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Re: Hard Disk Drive Longevity with Linux vs Windows

#6 Postby richb » Wed Jan 04, 2012 1:52 pm

I do not worry about it. Backup and replace when necessary.
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Re: Hard Disk Drive Longevity with Linux vs Windows

#7 Postby m_pav » Wed Jan 04, 2012 3:00 pm

There was a time when HDD thrashing was a real concern for Linux, but I don't think that is an issue any longer.

From what I have seen, windows is certainly much heavier in every single aspect of hard disk use.
Space requirement, need I say more, 23-28GB for a regular install with office based systems for Win7, minimum 10GB of rolling system backups, scheduled AV and malware scans, a file system, that causes fragmentation to an unbelievable level, repeated restarts, power management that causes frequent HDD spin down and restarts, immense page file in constant use, hibernation file used for every PM sleep event, constant heating and cooling, and the list goes on with Vista being the worst offender, 7 the next and XP in 3rd place.

Yes XP does have a sweet spot as far as RAM is concerned, it's 2GB. Any more than 2GB and the resources used to map the memory go beyond its optimum level so it actually slows down once you go past the 2GB barrier.

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Re: Hard Disk Drive Longevity with Linux vs Windows

#8 Postby joany » Wed Jan 04, 2012 3:54 pm

m_pav wrote:There was a time when HDD thrashing was a real concern for Linux, but I don't think that is an issue any longer.

From what I have seen, windows is certainly much heavier in every single aspect of hard disk use.
Space requirement, need I say more, 23-28GB for a regular install with office based systems for Win7, minimum 10GB of rolling system backups, scheduled AV and malware scans, a file system, that causes fragmentation to an unbelievable level, repeated restarts, power management that causes frequent HDD spin down and restarts, immense page file in constant use, hibernation file used for every PM sleep event, constant heating and cooling, and the list goes on with Vista being the worst offender, 7 the next and XP in 3rd place.


Your points agree with what I had assumed, until I read the caveats about excessive spin-up cycling with Linux. But since I use a tower instead of a laptop, I don't think I need to be concerned about that.

m_pav wrote:Yes XP does have a sweet spot as far as RAM is concerned, it's 2GB. Any more than 2GB and the resources used to map the memory go beyond its optimum level so it actually slows down once you go past the 2GB barrier.


That's interesting and counter-intuitive. It makes me scratch my head and wonder what the folks are thinking out in Redmond (more RAM = worse performance). Is it possible to limit RAM usage with WinXP through some setting to keep it in the 2GB "sweet spot"?
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Re: Hard Disk Drive Longevity with Linux vs Windows

#9 Postby Zevon » Wed Jan 04, 2012 3:57 pm

m_pav wrote:From what I have seen, windows is certainly much heavier in every single aspect of hard disk use. Mike P


A great summary, thanks!

My desktop HDD never spins down except when I want it to, Seagate power-saving disabled etc.. <wink>

The disk in my ancient Vaio laptop has also been spinning constantly when powered on, 7 years service so far.

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Re: Hard Disk Drive Longevity with Linux vs Windows

#10 Postby joany » Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:01 pm

Zevon wrote:
m_pav wrote:From what I have seen, windows is certainly much heavier in every single aspect of hard disk use. Mike P


A great summary, thanks!

My desktop HDD never spins down except when I want it to, Seagate power-saving disabled etc.. <wink>

The disk in my ancient Vaio laptop has also been spinning constantly when powered on, 7 years service so far.

Good data points. Do you run Linux on your Vaio? Does it have power-saving disabled by design or did you change the settings (7 years of service is a loooong time)?
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