A regular surveillance-rated hard drive will typically last on average 5-7 years, however, it is often the case that their lifespan in CCTV recorders is much shorter. For many reasons, users may find themselves replacing hard drives every year.
When a surveillance hard drive fails, it can result in total loss of the video footage which will defeat the whole purpose of having a security camera system. What’s more tragic is that most users don’t realize when a hard drive has failed. They think that the system is recording, when in fact it stopped storing footage a long time ago. Then something happens and there are no recordings to play.
There are a few simple measures that you can take to extend the life of hard drives in security camera systems. We recommend going through them since you’ll not just save money on the hard drive, but you’ll increase the overall reliability of your CCTV system.
How to Extend the Life of a Hard Drive in your NVR or DVR?
Use motion detection for recordings
Nowadays, all surveillance recorders can capture recordings continuously or when motion is detected. A recorder that is set to record 24/7 (non-stop all day) on the continuous mode will use the hard drive without interruption.
The hard drive has to work a lot harder compared when the CCTV recorder is storing the footage on motion only. Usually, the hard drive under constant recording will age faster and the chances of mechanical failures will be higher.
Another issue is the power failure. Let’s assume that you’re using a recorder without a UPS, it is plugged straight to the outlet. If there’s a power shortage while the unit is recording, then the hard drive may get damaged since it will lose power while its mechanical arm is working.
Using the motion detection feature on your security system reduces the work that the hard drive has to perform; the less the hard drive works, the longer its lifespan. Adidotnaly motion recording increases the recording duration and also makes searching the footage easier.
Disable pre-record mode on the recorder
Most of the CCTV recorders use a feature called pre-record mode which is enabled by default. This function is probably the number one reason for premature hard drive failures.
Pre-record works on par with the motion detection feature. If you have the motion detection enabled, the pre-record mode is enabled automatically.
Pre-record provides footage for 5-10 seconds before the motion is detected by your recorder. In other words, technically the recorder is recording all the time, 24/7, but only keeps the recording before, during and after the motion was detected by the software.
This technique results in significantly higher use of the hard drive since the data is constantly being written, erased or moved to a permanent storage. Basically, that’s what the recorder does all the time, write data and erase, if there’s motion detected, it will store it away.
To get the best of your hard drive, recommend to disable the pre-record mode or at least lower the interval. For example, instead of 10 seconds, use 3 seconds. Additionally, you may adjust the sensitivity of the motion detection to ensure that the recording starts when there’s a real event (not false positive).
Use surveillance rated hard drives
Unlike the regular desktop hard drives which are designed for infrequent use, surveillance rate hard drives are manufactured for constant use. Actually, the CCTV hard drives share a lot of similarities with hard drives originally designed for use in servers that are subject to heavy workloads.
Surveillance-rated hard drives are supposed to work with constant recording, writing, and erasing the data, their rpm values are optimized and usually last 5-10 years. The largest manufacturers for CCTV hard drives are WD with their WD Purple line and Seagate with their surveillance drives. For more suggestions, check out this expanded article.
While desktop hard drives are not recommended for NVR or DVR use, nevertheless they work fine on security systems. The problem is that desktop hard drives installed in a recorder tend to fail after a few months. You may get 6 months on it, or a year and a half, but eventually, the regular hard drives will die and you need to replace it.
Another type of hard drive that is gaining popularity are solid state drives (SSD). An SSD has no moving parts and the data is stored on a memory chip without the need for spinning disks.
If you go for this type, make sure that your recorder supports it. Additionally, get the ones designed for servers which are meant to withstand heavy workloads. SSDs are generally pricey, and we don’t really recommend them. Surveillance-rated hard drives are cheaper and good enough.
Protect the recorder from power loss or surges
The NVRs and DVRs are writing data to their hard drives all the time without any interruption. If a power loss occurs while the machine is writing data, the hard drive may be corrupted or completely damaged.
Sometimes the power loss occurs for just a second or shorter and all you can see is flickering on the screen. These kinds of power losses are very dangerous for the hard drives. Additionally, power surges can cause the same problems, killing or corrupting the hard drives.
To protect the recorders and the hard drives from power losses and surges you can install a UPS. Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is a device that proves a battery backup to the attached equipment in the event of power loss.
To ensure that your security system and hard drives are safe from any power issue, you can hook up a UPS device to the system. In case of power failure, the system will continue to work and actually the hard drives will never suffer from power interruption while they’re writing data.
So, get a UPS that supports all your equipment including the NVR, DVR, and cameras. Make sure the maximum power available from the UPS is sufficient to power up all the devices when there’s a power failure.
Control temperature and humidity
The life of a CCTV hard drive is significantly affected by the temperature and humidity in which it operates.
Sometimes the CCTV recorders are placed in attics, lofts, kitchen spaces, shelves and other unventilated spaces.
This practice may contribute to reducing the life of a hard drive in a recorder. The humidity may penetrate the drive and if there’s no ventilation the operating temperature may increase way too much.
Make sure CCTV recorders are installed in a secure, well ventilated space or enclosure that is protected from moisture and excessive heat. Don’t place the recorder in the kitchen area where you fry and cook things, the vapors will eventually kill the hardware.
Prevent vibrations, shocks, or movement
Hard drives, especially the large capacity ones, are particularly susceptible to damage from vibrations, shock or movements whilst they are in operation. This is because the moving parts in larger hard drives are tightly fitted into the enclosure and are designed to work in extremely precise tolerances.
Make sure the hard drives are properly installed in the unit using the four screws. Additionally the recorder must be secured in place as well. If you need to relocate the recorder or just switch some cameras at the back, turn the unit off while you’re working on it.
Hard drives are an important component of the security system, all the footage will be recorded there. It’s always recommended to use surveillance-rated hard drives since they are specifically designed to work on CCTV systems.
To extend the hard drive life span: record on motion detection, disable the pre-record mode, place the unit in a well-ventilated spot, prevent vibrations, shocks, and use a UPS to prevent any damage from power failure events.