The drives in the new computers >are< junk!

I had a hard drive start to go bad in a computer less than 3 years old. The drive manufacturer touted the drive in ads for its long warranty, so I assumed that I could get the drive repaired/replaced under warranty. Nope! The OEM drive only had the same warranty as the rest of the computer hardware (1 year). You only get the long warranty when you by the replacement drive -- that lets the drive makers dump their junk drives to computer makers, because they only have to be good for a year (or less). It keeps the computer price low, because they are getting the rejects that the drive makers would normally have to scrap if they had the same long warranty as the off-the-shelf (OTS) drives. It helps keep the OTS drive prices low, because you aren't paying for rejects (the computer buyers are!). This arrangement didn't occur to the drive and computer makers in the early years -- they just made the best stuff they could without thinking about the aggregate economics. The drive maker rep pretty much confirmed this all to me on the phone after I told them that I suspected it.

If you're looking for a long-lasting computer and drive, I'd suggest buying the computer with the cheapest drive they have. The next day, take the computer back and have them replace it with a newly-purchased OTS drive that's the size you really want. You'll get the full long warranty and a much better class of drive. You could keep the original drive and reinstall it later or put it in an enclosure and have an external backup drive for cheap.

Pricing varies because of marketing and supply. If a computer maker dials back their shipments because the product isn't as popular as they'd hoped, that will ripple into the disk supply. The disk suppliers will have excess drives they have to get rid of -- so the price goes down. They can really drop the price if they're dumping the OEM garbage disks -- they just put another letter on it and shrink the warranty length accordingly. Similarly, if a disk gets a rep for being the latest generation's most reliable, word gets around and it starts being purchased in higher quantities. The disk maker figures this out and keeps the price high or even raises it, to maximize their profit. No mystery here -- but price alone isn't a perfect indicator. Once they know they have a good name, they can cut back on quality and still charge the high prices -- and make even more money. Since it was only word-of-mouth advertising, they can't get sued if the drives suddenly become average or below average reliability.

If you're willing to break the bank for your backup disk drives, go for a RAID 5 configuration that let's you reconstruct your data if you have a single drive fail. You pretty much have the basics for it now, with 4 drives for backup; add one more in a RAID enclosure and you'll be there with a very high performance system, great error correction, and great drive health monitoring.