How many time can you reimage a drive?

By DimBulb ·
How many times can you reimage a drive before you start getting errors related to the imaging? Surely there must be some degradation of the platter as it is be re-written. What type of errors would you see? BSOD? File corruption?

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by TheChas In reply to How many time can you rei ...

What you are really asking is how many write cycles can you perform on a hard drive. Basically, what is the write cycle Mean Time To Failure.
Plus, how reliable is your source media.

Most mechanical hard drives are going to have a MTTF in the 1000's of write cycles, if not in the millions as per their test data. However, these tests usually do not account for the effects of system crashes and power issues.

My general rule of thumb is if I even suspect a physical failure of the hard drive, I replace the drive.

In my work environment, we run many computers 24/7. Most of our hard drives run for years with the original software load. Some are well past 10 years of running. We tend to have small bursts of failures on these systems after a power outage. They have been running for so long that the bearings in the drives and fans have worn out and will not spin up from a cold condition.

My point is that you are not apt to wear out a drive by repeatedly restoring an image. However, once you have bad sectors or problems with one of the heads, the ability to successfully restore an image and have the system run for any length of time is lost.


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Have you ever seen your swap file fail?

by seanferd In reply to How many time can you rei ...

Odds are you'll have a mechanical failure before the platter "wears out". Sure, you lose magnetic domains occasionally, but you get blocks marked as bad, and then they are not used.

On a "solid state" drive, yeah, I wouldn't re-image it constantly.

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Well there is no set number

by OH Smeg Moderator In reply to How many time can you rei ...

It all depends on the drive and quite honestly the most likely issue to be had is that the method of Connection the Master Image will introduce potential problems not related to the HDD Image.

But the reality is that the Data stored on a HDD is all Digital so it's what is mistakenly called either a 1 or a O.

Not quite correct as you can never get exactly the same value when you overwrite so you will get a 0 with a bit of Drift or a 1 with a bit of drift form that actual Value. The way that Forensic Recovery Works is to read those Differences and rebuild the data that was written to the drive with that level of drift from the Supposed Design Values.

As stated above there is no actual limit to the number of times you can reimage the drive unless you exceed it's Design Life which should run for at least 5 years 24/7/365 if not considerably longer.

As these are a Digital Image if you where to constantly reimage to another drive and be constantly deploying a modified Image even that should make no difference provided that the Data Connections where in good condition and did not introduce any failures.

All Digital Copies should be an Exact Copy of what it came from so there should be no differences or degrading of the original image.

Of course if you use substandard data connectors and constantly abuse them you will have problems related to the failure of those components.


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Thanks for the help

by DimBulb In reply to How many time can you rei ...

I work in a small shop maintaining the public safety radio system and mobile data terminals in cop cars. The police can be somewhat inventive in the ways they screw up their computers (Panasonic CF-30) particularly since the majority of the laptops are pool computers. It's often quicker to reimage than scan for malware, etc. One of the techs at Panasonic suggested that reimaging more than 3 times degrades the drive to point of being unacceptable for public safety. Since the laptops are still under warranty I had no reason to immediately dismiss his claim.

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Restore or Sucessive

by TheChas In reply to How many time can you rei ...

I guess I can see where you might run into a problem if you made and restored successive images. But, I cannot make any case for drive failure or wear when restoring a base image multiple times.

However, as these are mobile systems and see hard use, an argument could be made that by the third time you re-image a drive because of a corrupt file that the drive should be replaced. In that case, Panasonic is being looser than my one strike rule for file errors on any critical drive.

If you are restoring a base image because of mal-ware or other soft errors, I would not count that against the drive hardware. If you are restoring because of suspected physical file corruption, definitely count that against the drive.


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