In the previous 6 years, I have bought pre-built computers primarily from Hewlett Packard. The hard drives in those machines were an 80GB Maxtor and a 250GB Samsung; none of them have failed yet, even after years of use. I decided to build a computer for my new desktop though, so I would have to choose my own drive. My greatest concern in buying a hard drive was endurance; I did not want my drive to fail anytime soon. That may sound like an easy requirement, but it seems that almost all brands run into problems at one point according to the hundreds of user reviews I pored over. The two major brands I knew of beforehand were Seagate and Western Digital. They all seemed to have their own set of supporters and detractors, and I could not really decide between the two.
I asked some online colleagues what the best brand for hard drives was. I got various answers, but I finally decided on a Seagate. I wanted a fairly big but cheap one, so I purchased a 500GB that was twice the size of my previous one. It cost around $60.00 from newegg.com in November 2008.
The hard drive that I bought was an OEM version, meaning it came without a box, manual or other accessories; it was just the hard drive packaged in bubblewrap. I carefully unwrapped it and installed it in my new case. Despite a faulty graphics card, I was able to install and load Windows Vista 64 bit.
A few months later, when my computer was finally working with a new graphics card, I stumbled upon a review of a Seagate 500GB hard drive that claimed it had a high rate of failure. According to the article, my hard drive came from a particular line, the 7200.11, that had a habit of dying. The supposed problem was that it was the firmware, or software, of the product that would sometimes cause an error.
I grew nervous because my computer had failed to boot up Windows at least twice by the time I had read that piece. I went to the Seagate website, downloaded the new firmware to a disc, and installed the new firmware. So far, I have not had another failure booting to Windows; for the record, it has only happened 3 times in a total of 7-8 months of normal, everyday operation.
On a minor note, I do not know much about transfer speeds and such, so I am not able to comment on transferring data between hard drives; I did not move much information from my old hard drive to the new one besides some important documents, pictures, and videos.
I am waiting until my computer survives one year before getting confident about my chances of not having a bad drive. I had an online friend have his Seagate stop working a little over a year, and he lost everything. Fortunately, I back up all my data from time to time on an external hard drive in case that happens to me, and Seagate has a 3 year warranty (which I hopefully will not need). Of course, there are certain things I try to do to make sure it does not die. I do not leave my computer on for long periods of time, transfer a lot of data, or keep it in a hot environment. Those actions do not guarantee anything, but I do them anyway in case it helps.
In conclusion, I am happy with my Seagate hard drive for now. If it fails, I may change my mind, but for now, it is suitable for my needs. Some people claim the 7200.12 line of Seagate is better or suggest that a person buy a smaller hard drive, such as a 250GB one, to decrease the chance of failure. Perhaps those are other alternatives you can consider.
Update On Aug 10, 2009: Update on August 10, 2009: The hard drive failed to boot to Windows twice in a row this morning; it boot up properly the third time I hit the reset button on my computer. This has never happened before, not even before I upgraded the firmware. I have backed up all my data to ensure I do not lose anything recent if the hard drive does fail soon. Will wait a couple more months to see how things develop.
Update On Jan 18, 2010: It has been about a year or so since operation, and the hard drive is still going strong; I have not lost any data or sent it in for repairs. It should be noted, however, that I have had to reboot the computer about 8-10 times total in 12 months when it would not start properly. Thankfully, there does not seem to be any kind of permanent problem, but it is something to consider when you are buying a hard drive.