WD Caviar Green head parking

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WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 3:51 pm

It might just be my imagination, but my hard drive seek noises have been sounding more tinny lately. So last night, I took a look at my SMART attributes and, whoa:
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My load cycle count for this drive is over a million (!). Apparently the Green series parks its heads after 8 seconds of idleness, and for a computer that's on 24/7, it adds up. The word on the street is that the load cycle design limit is 300k, which is mildly concerning. I skimmed a bunch of threads and I couldn't find a clear correlation between LCC and failure, but it's still worrisome. The takeaway is that there's a "wdidle" utility for setting the idle time.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for now. As soon as I get a chance, though, I think I'll swap it out and relegate it to backup duty. Wish I had found out about this issue earlier :p
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 4:23 pm

I was aware that this was an issue for Linux, because Linux tends to "touch" mounted filesystems at intervals slightly longer than the default park timeout on the WD Green drives. This is the first I've heard about it being an issue on Windows.

Bottom line is, I think WD was a little too aggressive when they decided what the default head unload timeout should be. The power savings from unloading the heads after only 8 seconds is almost certainly very small, since they keep the platters spinning for much longer than that. I can't imagine that leaving the heads loaded a while longer (say a minute or so) would've made *that* much difference in real-world power usage, since the heads don't actually touch the platter. Off the top of my head, the only effects would be some additional power consumed by the spindle motor due to air turbulence created by the head arm, and some power consumed in the head actuator coil to keep the heads positioned over the currently selected track; my gut feeling says that both of these together would be on the order of only a few milliwatts. And you've got to expend a small amount of power to unload/load the heads too!
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Sun Dec 04, 2011 6:25 am

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=73026&p=1032417
;)

I am keeping my eye on my relatively new Samsung 2TB EcoGreen and see how it behaves.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Sun Dec 04, 2011 3:31 pm

Interesting ... I have a WD20EADS, that I will be scrutinizing once I get home.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Sun Dec 04, 2011 4:32 pm

Flying Fox wrote:http://techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=73026&p=1032417
;)

Oops, I searched "head parking" and nothing came up. Feel free to merge the threads, mods.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:43 pm

I was dimly aware of the head-parking issue but never paid much attention, despite the fact that I'm using six Caviar Green drives in my Windows Home Server. You've prompted me to remote in and see what their Load Cycle Counts are. I assume the Raw values are hexadecimal:

HD0: EADS: 200: 00000000005B = 91

HD1: EADS: 73: 00000005D74A = 382794

HD2: EACS: 200: 000000000074 = 116

HD3: EADS: 200: 000000000060 = 96

HD4: EARS: 183: 00000000CAD4 = 51924

HD5: EARS: 171: 00000001558A = 87434

HD2, the EACS drive, is the WHS system drive and is the oldest by at least a year (I bought it originally for a USB enclosure). One of the EADS drives (don't recall which) is the newest, having come as a RMA replacement for another of that model. Regardless of their relative ages, all six of these drives have been together in this server for over a year. I've never used the wdidle tool, so I wonder why some have such low load cycle counts compared to the others?

And I suppose I should ask, do I need to do anything about this? One of the drives is already over 300k.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Sun Dec 04, 2011 6:40 pm

The one that's at nearly 400K is worrisome. Couldn't hurt to run wdidle on the two EARS ones as well.

Not sure why they're so different; I suppose it may just come down to how WHS accesses the drives in the background when the system is otherwise idle.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Sun Dec 04, 2011 7:27 pm

There's that old 2007 Google study that looks at trends in disk failure. it's an absoultely epic sample size of 100,000! I'm pretty sure that over 100,000 disks there was no correlation whatsover between drive usage and failure.
I remember that the only significant factor that increased the chances of a drive dying were overcooling them. 25 degrees celcius was the number I remember. If your drives are warmer than that, then you're fine, right up until the point that you can fry an egg on one.

Anyway, make sure you have a decent backup plan in place (that's a no-brainer) and stop worrying. If it's going to die because it's worn out, going easy on it is unlikely to have much of an effect.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Sun Dec 04, 2011 7:42 pm

I don't think the Google study looked at what happens when you get hundreds of thousands of load/unload cycles. That's not a normal usage scenario, especially for an outfit like Google.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Sun Dec 04, 2011 8:44 pm

No I guess not.
Where did this 300K cycle limit come from?
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Mon Dec 05, 2011 11:24 am

It's listed on the spec sheet. I presume there's a safety factor designed in...
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 07, 2011 8:14 am

Load/Unload mentions ambient conditions, meaning air temperature/pressure/humidity etc.

I am only speculating, but I would guess that because of this, the number is related to the number of heat/cool cycles the silicon and electronics of the drive can take before they suffer degradation due to thermal expansion/contraction.

Parking the heads a few times a minute is nowhere near as stressful to the mechanical parts as reading or writing, so I doubt your scenario is a mechanical concern.

Assuming it is a thermal issue, the sort of disk poll that WHS is doing is highly unlikely to have enough duration to cause any significant temperature change, and as you said, that 300K figure is usually a worst-case scenario with a healthy safety margin.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:48 pm

just brew it! wrote:Bottom line is, I think WD was a little too aggressive when they decided what the default head unload timeout should be. The power savings from unloading the heads after only 8 seconds is almost certainly very small, since they keep the platters spinning for much longer than that. I can't imagine that leaving the heads loaded a while longer (say a minute or so) would've made *that* much difference in real-world power usage, since the heads don't actually touch the platter. Off the top of my head, the only effects would be some additional power consumed by the spindle motor due to air turbulence created by the head arm, and some power consumed in the head actuator coil to keep the heads positioned over the currently selected track; my gut feeling says that both of these together would be on the order of only a few milliwatts. And you've got to expend a small amount of power to unload/load the heads too!

For whatever it's worth, I found this technical paper, and it's relatively recent:

"An Analysis of Hard Drive Energy Consumption"
http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~acr31/pubs/hyl ... drive2.pdf

Not quite sure how to interpret those results with respect to voice coil power, though.

Chrispy_ wrote:Load/Unload mentions ambient conditions, meaning air temperature/pressure/humidity etc.

I am only speculating, but I would guess that because of this, the number is related to the number of heat/cool cycles the silicon and electronics of the drive can take before they suffer degradation due to thermal expansion/contraction.

I assume you're referring to Note 3, "Controlled unload at ambient condition." Pretty sure that just describes the test conditions for which the 300k cycles were verified, i.e., the drive was tested under typical operating conditions rather than specially calibrated conditions, or abuse (e.g. pulling the plug and letting the drive unload mechanically rather than electrically).

The spec sheet describes a "NoTouch ramp load technology" that prevents the heads from ever touching the platter (traditional drives would park over a designated landing zone, and physically rub the platter during spool-up or spool-down). Presumably that means the heads are slid up a physical ramp and flexed slightly during a load or unload operation, and there would be a long-term mechanical wear-out (from rubbing) and fatigue stress (from flexing) associated with that operation. Like everyone else here, I'm going to assume those 300k cycles are lowballed, but the OP might have good reason to be concerned about that million-miler he's got.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 07, 2011 2:32 pm

I've been thinking about it, and I think I'm just going to leave my drives be and keep an eye on them. The WHS data is duplicated across the drives and backed up to an external drive. I'll probably just replace them all one-by-one with bigger drives next year when prices come down, anyway.

A high load cycle count doesn't seem to have affected the drive's performance in any way, yet, so it'll be interesting to see if that ultimately kills it.

That's all a long-winded justification for laziness.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 07, 2011 2:56 pm

This has been a known issue of the Green series for quite sometime. I have already lost two of them with over 1.5 Mil on both. None of my other drives are anywhere close and were twice as old. I have been advising everyone I know and any thread I see against getting any WD Green drives due to their lack of reliability since it re-parks its head every 8 seconds in an attempt to "save power".
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 07, 2011 4:55 pm

I'd be interested in more data on whether or not high load/unload cycle counts on WD drives are actually reliable wear indicators. My year old 2TB Green WD20EARS drive is at 34516, compared to my over 3x as old WD6400AAKS at 786. A small part of the time I've been running OSX where the cycle count seems to increment faster.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 07, 2011 5:06 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:Parking the heads a few times a minute is nowhere near as stressful to the mechanical parts as reading or writing

I don't think you can make that assumption. Parking the heads involves dragging the head arms up a set of ramps at the outer periphery of the platter area, to physically lift the heads away from the platters. There will be mechanical wear of the ramps and of the point on the head arms contacting the ramps, which does not occur during normal reading and writing. Different mechanical parts are being stressed.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 07, 2011 5:18 pm

StuG wrote:This has been a known issue of the Green series for quite sometime. I have already lost two of them with over 1.5 Mil on both. None of my other drives are anywhere close and were twice as old. I have been advising everyone I know and any thread I see against getting any WD Green drives due to their lack of reliability since it re-parks its head every 8 seconds in an attempt to "save power".

That's why wdidle exists. I've got a pair of 2TB WD Greens acting as Big Dumb Storage and used wdidle as soon as I heard of it. As a result the heads don't park unless Windows tells the drive to spin down. Given what these drives are used for (ROIO music storage/trading), the price/TB ratio of the Greens far outweighed the performance hit one gets by going Green. Power-wise I could care less. Since the box runs 24/7 the power usage delta once aggressive parking is disabled gets lost in the statistical (and GFX fan) noise.

In short, for offline backups (backup using a cradle, then stick the disk on a shelf) or music/video storage, the WD Greens are all you'll ever need once the head parking is disabled through wdidle.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 07, 2011 8:10 pm

For offline backup storage, you don't even need to worry about the head parking. The drive is only going to be powered up a tiny fraction of the time, so even if the heads are parking every few seconds it isn't really an issue.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 07, 2011 8:33 pm

just brew it! wrote:For offline backup storage, you don't even need to worry about the head parking. The drive is only going to be powered up a tiny fraction of the time, so even if the heads are parking every few seconds it isn't really an issue.

One of my 2 is actually internal, I think. Too damn many drives to keep track of these days (4 in the box and another 4 or so roaming the shelves).
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 07, 2011 8:38 pm

Got me worried enough to disable my SRT cache so I could read the S.M.A.R.T. data. Fortunately mine looks okay to me, unless the value has rolled over - this doesn't seem impossible to me, as you can see I've had it for a while. I wonder how many bits are used to store these values?

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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 07, 2011 8:55 pm

I doubt it has rolled over. If it was incrementing fast enough to roll it over, the odds of you just happening to catch it with such a low number would be extremely small.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:02 pm

After remembering how to think in hex, I realized that the load/unload count roughly corresponds to the power cycle count. So it appears that the earlier generation of these drives do not spin down on their own.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:07 pm

Either that, or there is some service running in your system that touches the drive every few seconds.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Fri Dec 09, 2011 8:17 pm

Isn't there more of a window of chance that the heads could make contact with the surface/platter (or the media of the disk) if they weren't parked, thusly resulting in head sticktion or a head crash (I know the days of head sticktion are long over but is that partly because of head parking technology?)? I believe this was always more commonplace in notebook hard drives because notebooks are moved around with greater frequency (clearly), so heads are parked so as to avert disk damage/shock/vibration/collision. Of course, I don't know how often that could reach occurrence as I don't have that much experience with too many hard disks; from Western Digital, I've only had a WD5000BEVT (Scorpio Blue), a WD10EADS (a MyBook with a Caviar Green in it), and a WD6400AACS (Caviar Green). And I don't take a liking to the idea of having the hard disk heads park themselves on the ramp every 8 or 4 seconds either (the Caviar Green's timer is set to 8 seconds, whereas the Scorpio Blue's is 4, but the Scorpio Blue series has a minimum of 600,000 load cycles as the spec sheet says). Maybe it would be ideal to set the timer to park the heads in a less abrupt manner, such as after 20-30 minutes of inactivity. Then again, I'm not sure how much wear head parking is on a mechanical hard disk as much as recording data to the media and writing/reading.

But I wouldn't want to make carte blanche assumptions. The only risk I could think of with head parking (that isn't in excess) is a shoddily cooled drive causing head deformation. But I think that's only an issue with drives that have heat issues. However, judging from the S.M.A.R.T. reports of the the first poster and second poster (worried about this issue), those hard disks have reached as high a temperature as 52C and 56C respectively (or 125-126F and 132-133F), and the critically hot range for hard drives is 50C (or 122F), at which point wear will be caused much sooner and bad/pending sectors are more likely to recur. Also, loading/unloading heads too often would also cause overabundant pauses in applications that load the hard drive often enough, such as watching videos or playing games, which is something to consider... furthermore, as also stated before me, it's important to ensure that the hard drive is not too cold (below 30C/86F under heavy load) as then it will have trouble lubricating and starting correctly, which may be much more harmful to the drive than occasionally warm or hot levels of thermal status, not unlike how a car engine will be more probable to die when started in cold weather. Avoiding thermal expansion is very vital as well (turning off/on electronics too much and too often, which is where the wear is greatest by way of great temperature fluctuations, for one thing). Anyway, I don't know how long those drive were at 52C/56C at. 39C and 38C are apparently much better temperatures. As for the Google study? It was done on drives ran on a 24/7 basis of usage (since they're server systems); for the sake of the electricity bill and eventual wear, I think many systems are ran closer to a 12/7 basis, which might nullify the study a bit (but not totally) and augment thermal cycling/expansion (and thereby wear and tear). Then again, that might not factor in standby or hibernation.

For the WD7500AACS and WD20EADS, however, on the spec sheet, as said before me, it says 300,000 is the minimum rating for the load/unload cycle count, whereas the WD7500AACS in question more than tripled it. That isn't to put anyone at unease, though - minimum could even allude that a drive is capable of handling doubly that (over the duration of years, I would think, though, not one year). I guess a good balance to strike would be to set the idle timer to park the heads less often, but if 1,000,000 cycles is precarious enough then I don't think it would hurt to experiment and turn the timer completely off. There's a bootable executable to do this called wdidle (downloadable here), and the first link details the way to use it. But, I've heard that executable modifies firmware (voiding the warranty), and I'm not sure how well it works, so I suggest using it at your own discretion. However, Scorpio Blue drives' timer can be altered in Windows, through programs that can change the APM (Advanced Power Management) of the drive, such as HDDScan or quietHDD. There are others as well, of course, and 254 is the value to completely disable head parking, whereas 96 would be the default for Scorpio Blue drives, which is more of a risk than it is for desktop drives because values below 128 give way for the drive to sleep after inactivity and too many standby/sleep cycles for any drive will definitely cause premature death.

But it might be more in your comfort zone to tone down usage of your hard drive and see if the load cycle count becomes more moderate that way. As for the WD20EADS, its load cycle looks fine; to my knowledge, the WD10EADS/WD15EADS/WD20EADS series of hard drives are not as aggressive in their head parking. Also, sorry for the verbose and longness of this post. ^^;
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Sat Dec 10, 2011 1:15 pm

Wester547 wrote:Isn't there more of a window of chance that the heads could make contact with the surface/platter (or the media of the disk) if they weren't parked, thusly resulting in head sticktion or a head crash (I know the days of head sticktion are long over but is that partly because of head parking technology?)?

Given that these are desktop drives which (presumably) don't get moved around much, the risk of a head crash with the heads loaded should be fairly low. There's probably some risk of a head crash every time you park/unpark too; I honestly don't know which is worse.

Before ramp load/unload (pioneered by IBM/Hitachi IIRC) became common, the heads were "parked" by moving them to a reserved area of the platters (where no data was stored), and essentially doing a controlled head crash. Stiction happened when lubricant from the spindle bearings oozed out onto the platters; as the drive cooled and the lubricant thickened, the heads got stuck in it.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 14, 2011 2:30 am

@Axeman
I believe the command is
hdparm -B 255 /dev/sda
of course you need to change the "sda" part to coralate to the drive in question!!!!!!
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 14, 2011 4:51 am

This is why my SAN does not have a single one of those pieces of **** drives.

When your product has some low level defect (firmware, hardware, etc) that tends to show up in unix but not readily apparently in windows, it means the wrong people were involved in designing it...just get it out the door and sell it to the masses, don't mind the actual engineering. (kindof like ACPI)
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:33 pm

Finally found some time to try wdidle3 on my drives. Had to figure out how to make a bootable USB stick, and then realize that the utility doesn't work in AHCI mode.

I tried disabling the timer on the 7500AACS and the 15EADS I'm planning to replace it with. But it was strange, the counter on the AACS kept going up, and I could hear it parking. I could also hear the EADS thrashing about (it's an empty external on esata), but its load cycle counter only seems to move on power cycles. So I decided to try the 300 second timer, setting them individually, and made sure to power cycle the drives afterwards. I don't know why, but the AACS's counter is still going up at a rapid clip, ~4k in two days, which is a lot more than once every five minutes. The EADS counter is not moving, as before, but at least I can't hear it anymore, so it seems to be fixed.

I've happened upon a workaround, though: I could just leave my MP3 player running all the time, and it'll keep the heads from unloading. So I guess I'll be more careful with backing up and keep running the AACS for now.
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Re: WD Caviar Green head parking

Postposted on Thu Dec 15, 2011 7:55 am

If wdidle doesn't seem to work on all of the Greens, perhaps someone will come up with a background service to touch the drives every couple of seconds to keep the heads from parking. Should be a pretty trivial thing to write.
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