questionsis it worth buying a new hard drive for a kind of…

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you can get a 1tb drive cheaper than that lots of places. Look for the external drive deals at staples and other similar stores... I just got a toshiba canvio 1tb a few days ago for under $50 out-the-door. Just rip it open and install the bare drive in your computer.

Also, check to make sure you're getting good airflow in the computer, the heat could be frying your HDD's.

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Based upon that track record, I'd be concerned as soon as I gave the computer away it would fail. You may be better off buying her an inexpensive new or refurbished computer to setup your mom.

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@mattysc: I would agree on the replace it with a refurb or offlease PC. Just stay away from any Dell Optiplex systems as the last 5 generations all have the blown capacitor issues (Optiplex 260, 270, 280, 520,620) I have had good luck with the HP Compaq business PC's not the consumer models off lease or refurbed. You can see them online from Staples, Microcenter and Amazon. I ended up getting my mother in law one of the HP Compaq DC7700 SFF desktops and it has worked out great. I got it from amazon sold through BlairTG but you can get it direct from them too. http://blairtg.com/store2/desktops/hp-desktops/hp-dc7700-sff-desktop

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"HP ended up replacing the hard drive three times" I assume with refurbished drives.
I have a 2 identical PCs both with Mirrored drives. One has lost each mirrored drive at least 2 times (4 drives under warranty). I have 2 other HD in this PC. The 'other drives' have not failed.
I found some information about bad power causing HD failure, but if this was the case I would lose my extra drives too.

I believe that the reason for the failures is they are poorly refurbished product.
3 things:
1. If you buy a cheap HD make sure it is not refurbished.
2. The internet says it could be a faulty power supply causing HD failure.
3. It may not be the power supply just poorly refurbished drives.

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First off, hard drives do not die because the PC they're installed in is inferior. Yes, it is possible that a bad Power Supply can cause hard drive failure if the power surges the drives just right, but it is more likely that the hard drives are failing because they are lacking in quality. I have had hard drives in the past that have died, but they were all drives that had a high failure rate based on customer reviews. It wasn't a reflection of the system they were installed on.

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If it was my PC, I would put in a NEW hard drive and be done with it.

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I'm here to second the bad power supply theory. Unless the hard drive is from a known bad model number. There was a certain Western Digital drive that would fail after a while if you didn't install a firmware update that nobody tells you about. But I think those are long gone from the market.

It's still possible for it to be a short in the motherboard (sending 12v on a SATA line meant for 5v). But it's really unlikely.

Keep in mind, if you replace the power supply you have to be sure and get a good one, as there's a lot of cheap bad ones out there. You can get one for $7 online all the way up to $100. A good one costs in the $30-40 range, but you can't go by price alone.

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you might do it again for yourself but setting your mother up with it could cause you more frustration than its worth. She wont be able to tell you the HD is dead shell just know it isnt working. And of course it will fail just when she has gotten used to it and has something that she cant loose ...

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@kamikazeken: Air flow is at least a contributing factor, I'm sure (see: dusty, too).

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@caffeine_dude: Only one was refurbished, if I recall correctly.

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@omnichad: The original hard drive is 320 gb, wouldn't I need to replace the power supply anyway if I went up a lot in drive size? And how would one recognize a "good one" other than it not costing $10?

I suppose I should just open up the tower and start poking around; there's nothing to lose.

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The power requirements of a larger hard drive are mostly identical to the smaller one. Hard drives gain capacity through denser recording, not more power. In fact, newer hard drives use less power than previous generations.

When it comes to power supplies, I don't know your computer model - but some like slim models use special power supplies that must be ordered from specialty supplier. If it uses the standard ATX sized power supply, this is the one I recommend as a basic power supply:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817171046

With NewEgg, you can generally look at both the quality and quantity of reviews for a product as a guiding factor. I also stick with brands that I've seen in-use fairly regularly, but you may not be familiar with brand names like Cooler Master.