hard drive history

21st century: big, cheap, bland

Samsung P80

Photo: Red Hill.

2003 warranty troubles

On October 1st 2002, three of the five major storage manufacturers announced that they were slashing hard drive warranty from the industry standard three years to just one year. Maxtor, Seagate and Western Digital all acted together but — incredibly — blandly denied any collusiuon. IBM/Hitachi followed suit a short time afterwards.

Of the five main manufacturers, only Samsung continued to stand behind its products with a traditional three year guarantee. The other manufacturers stridently denied that the warranty cuts had anything to do with reliability problems — that was demonstrably untrue.

It was no coincidence that the one compay still offering three year warranty was also the one company with significantly lower in-service failure rates.

For us, this made things simple: our RMA figures already demonstrated that Samsung drives had easily the lowest failure rate of any brand, so we kept on buying Samsung drives. The only difference was that we stopped even considering any of the other brands. For the next seven or eight years, if Samsung drives went out of stock, we just gritted out teeth and waited the shortage out.

Two years afterwards in 2004, Seagate was the first to restore a decent warranty policy, followed by some of the others. We no longer cared. Like WD and Maxtor, Seagate had lost our trust and never really earned it back again — partly also because the Seagate drives we bought in the couple of years leading up to the warranty cut did not stand up very well. In any case, the Samsung drives we used from 2002 on were so consistently good that we never felt the need to try another brand.

(Almost a decade later, Western Digital bought out most of Hitachi GST and Seagate bought out Samsung Storage leaving just two major players in the hard drive industry. Seagate soon shut down Samsung hard drive production and, with our most-trusted brand gone, we had no choice but to switch. We went back to Seagate and they were pretty good on the whole, but we always missed the sense of absolute confidence we used to have with Samsung hard drives.)