Skip to main content

What is the Life Expectancy of Your Backup Media?

What is the Life Expectancy of Your Backup Media?

Your daily backup is something you should do every day you use your system. Your documentation and our staff remind you to check the results of your daily backup each business day. 

(See under “Mac Specific” for step by step instructions) If you don’t have a current backup and your server fails, chances are pretty good you will loose valuable practice data. Hopefully we all perform the task of setting the daily backup but the question we’ve heard lately is “How long will my external backup drives or DVDs last?” There is no sure-fire way of knowing when your backup media will come to the end of its useful life, but here are a few general guidelines:


According to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, the life expectancy is about 1,000 “writes”. The storage, or archive expectancy is somewhere around 2-5 years. These estimates are based upon the storage environment being between 62 and 70 degrees F and 35 – 50% relative humidity. These are conservative guidelines; but ensure the integrity of your backup.

External Hard Drives:

According to the documentation included in the box, your Western Digital (Passport) External hard drive comes with a 3-year warranty. According to the Western Digital website, the drives should be stored in an environment between 41 and 95 degrees F. There is no mention of humidity. Hard drives purchased before 2008 should most likely be cycled out of rotation and new hard drives should be purchased.

New external hard drives will need to be formatted prior to first use. This is a very simple task that can be performed remotely by any of our support staff members. Please call our support line (800) 773-7878 for prompt assistance.

How important this information is relates to how important your practice data is. A short-term alternative to using the DVD-RW method or the External Hard Drive method is the use of a collection of thumb drives for emergency backup.

Note: It is important that all computers storing data should be placed on a regular backup routine.