mysterious hard drive deaths, trying to find a pattern

by Thomas   Last Updated July 11, 2019 20:25 PM

I have somewhat of a mystery on my hands:

In the last couple years, I had several external hard drives die suddenly.

  • Unit 1 was from the US, powered through an external supply, worked fine for several years. One day, the controller doesn't respond, but the disk spins. The disk controller was burning hot to the touch and the usb-ide interface extremly hot at well. The unit was around 5-6 years old.

  • Unit 2 was a SSD, purchased on, connected through a cheap (<€10) usb-ide interface, self powered, it worked 2-3 months, then suddenly the drive wouldn't show up.

  • Unit 3 was a Hybrid, purchased on Malta put in the same interface as the previous one purchased locally, worked 6-9 months and stopped replying.

  • Unit 4 was an older IDE drive, origin unknown, connected through a new self powered usb-ide interface I purchased for it, died within 6 months, super hot controller too.

  • Unit 5 was a 1-2 years old unit, purchased on Malta, self powered, sold with its own usb-ide, self powered interface, it worked and then one day (well, today), the controller doesn't reply. The disk spins, no extra heat, etc.

One was used exclusively on a laptop PC, the others on a MacBook Pro.

Now, here are a few points of interest:

  • I moved to Malta, all of this happened on Malta.

  • All the drives, but one, were powered through USB; I believe that USB is regulated well enough that the local power utility was not affecting them

  • All drives were external.

  • The drives were from different origin.

  • All drives died very fast.

  • The same laptops were used before with similar drives, without any problems. That doesn't rule the laptops out, but 2 machines that used to not cause problems make me think it's not the culprit.

  • All of them broke after not being used for a few months; none were used daily.

  • Other drives in use (NAS, in computer, etc) have had absolutely no failure during this time.

  • Here, the humidity is quite high, averaging at 75% (65% to 80% through the year) and I live 25 meters from the sea. The Mediterranean sea is relatively salty (38g/kg), so it could affect the air. I used to live in Hawaii and I had a friend living near the beach that had electronics die very very fast.

I am trying to understand the cause!

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