I just did a post over at the more consumer-oriented StorageMojo doppelgänger Storage Bits titled “Who makes the best hard drives?”

In it I attempted to determine, based on simple search requests, if any drive vendor had a real advantage or disadvantage.

Maxtor *had* a lot of online negative comment
Maxtor was 3-4x ahead in raw negative comment – defined as either “Maxtor sucks” or “Maxtor drives suck” – over the next worse in the industry. On a market-share weighted basis they were even worse: 5x or more.

Here’s the data. The total number of Google search results returned in descending order of negative comment. The market share numbers are from an iSuppli report quoted in Digitimes. Market share fluctuated quite a bit for Maxtor due to the acquisition, so they are a very rough gauge. Presumably we’re mostly seeing complaints about the entire installed base, not just the first n months. There could be a bias for complaint when a newish drive fails. Hm-m-m.

Nonetheless the results are startling. Maxtor garnered a weighted 74% of internet negativity. Yikes!

table 1

Adding “IBM drives” to Hitachi’s numbers hurt Hitachi some, but very little in the last year.

Looking at only the last year
I went back and did the same searches while limiting results to just the last year. Everyone in the industry improved – except Maxtor! Double yikes!

table 2

Calling Dr. Seagate, calling Dr. Seagate
Perhaps readers with more insight than I can comment on Maxtor’s problems. There are a lot of ways to anger consumers including flaky drives, poor out-of-box experience and unresponsive customer service. I suspect drive quality had to be an issue.

For as Seagate noted after their acquisition of Maxtor in one of their SEC reports

We are engaged in integration and restructuring processes whereby we are driving to replace Maxtor-designed disc drive products with Seagate-designed disc drive products. We expect this process to be substantially complete by the end of calendar year 2006. We foresee there to be a transitional period through the first six months of fiscal year 2007 during which we expect the inefficient use of the Maxtor manufacturing infrastructure as we wind down the volume of Maxtor-designed disc drive products and incur up-front investment needed for capacity additions to support the ramp-up of Seagate-designed disc drive products.

My translation: Seagate dumped all the Maxtor designs AND manufacturing as quickly as they could. Endemic problems everywhere? The designs I can understand. The manufacturing? Hm-m-m.

The StorageMojo take
I know this is a crude technique, but in the absence of good information we have to go where we can. Probably the reason that Excelstor, the disk drive company you’ve never heard of, came out on top is the lack of English-language complaints. They’re a fast-growing Chinese vendor, presumably focused on the internal Chinese market. Their stuff could be junk and we’d never know.

It certainly looks like Seagate performed a service in taking Maxtor’s stuff – not the brand – off the market. In a consumer-driven technology market it hurts everyone when a single player is a point off the curve. Everyone gets tarred with the same brush.

Comments welcome, of course. If anyone is using the 10k Raptor in their home machine please tell me how much of a difference it made over a 7200 rpm drive. I’m thinking I “need” one for the new StorageMojo quad-core Xeon mainframe with 5 GB of RAM and 4 SATA drive bays.

John had a great comment. Let me quote:

I turned the question around a little, and asked, “If somebody is talking about a drive that sucks, what is the probability that it was manufactured by [vendor name]?” Algebraically: P([name] drive | drive sucks)

My results:

Vendor Suckage Probability
Maxtor .386
Seagate .104
WD .167
Samsung .103
Fujitsu .013
Hitachi .047
Toshiba 0.180
Excelstore .000

End of John’s comment
Is that a great comment or what?