Bottom line, I don’t have an answer. But, if I had to bet, I would bet yes.
I skimmed many of the top 10 pages that came up on a Google search and found a lot of hand-waving and very little actual data. So, I decided to post my own theory here!
Even if there was data, it doesn’t matter. The differences between various models of drives, or different factories, or different years from the same manufacturer, are probably larger than the difference from spindle rotation speed. Every brand of hard drive has head crashes, and generally, it seems proportional to market share. Every once in a while a company has a bad run, and it’s happened to almost all the brands at one time or another.
I decided to replace the crashed hard drive of my home “server” with a 5400 RPM Western Digital Green drive.
My theory is that almost all the components that go into a hard drive are designed and spec’d for 7200 RPM drives. I can’t imagine a hard drive manufacturer producing parts that are only stable up to 5400 RPM. The engineering and machinery costs are far higher than the price of the bits of metal and chemicals. Thus, if the majority (or even all) of the parts are designed to run at a faster speed, running at a lower speed will generally be better for the drive life.
Besides, for this particular machine, speed isn’t that important, plus saving a few watts in power is an added benefit.
What do you think?