Reliable/low-noise ATA (IDE) hard drive

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silence_seeker
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Reliable/low-noise ATA (IDE) hard drive

Post by silence_seeker » Fri Jan 02, 2009 7:41 am

What's the most reliable and low-noise level 3.5" ATA (not SATA!) hard drive these days?
I was thinking about getting a Western Digital 5000AAKB (500 GB). My understanding is that this is the same drive as the SATA interfaced 5000AAKS and 5000KS which has been awarded as the "big low-noise champ". The drive has also gotten a lot of positive feedback in various discussions in this forum.

However, reviews at Amazon.com for the same drive (5000AAKS) yield completely different results with users reporting drive failure after a short period of time (Amazon doesn't sell the IDE interfaced 5000AAKB, so nothing came up on that particular drive).
So I'm a little confused. Should I go for it or not?
What's important for me is: low noise-level and reliability. It doesn't have to be top performance.

If this drive is no longer recommended, what should I go for instead?

dhanson865
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Post by dhanson865 » Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:41 am

Hard drives fail at a rate of between x% in their early life (it might be 1% it might be 9%, the exact percentage doesn't matter). If you get a drive that lasts past the first week it is likely to last a long time.

Take a look at http://www.pugetsystems.com/blog/2008/0 ... -supplies/ where the failure rates for PSUs are listed and see the graph for when they fail (most failed in the first day).

Or look at http://www.behardware.com/news/8550/pow ... -rate.html and see the failure rates there.

I don't have equivalent links for hard drives but the concepts are the same. Manufacturing defects and damage during shipping and handling are unavoidable to some extent for any electronic device.

The fact that thousands of people buy the drives means your x% could be a lot of bad reviews (10,000 sales times 3% DOA = 300 possibly ranting reviews) .

The key is to not buy a hard drive the day you need it. Give yourself time to test the drive and let it run a few days before you trust it with data you care about. No I'm not saying avoid backups, I'm saying in addition to any backup procedure there is no reason to deal with a flaky drive out of the box. If it is DOA or makes odd noises or shows SMART errors send it back for a replacement before you start using it for anything other than testing.

Just because the device you bought was tested before it shipped doesn't mean it will still work after it's traveled another 1000 miles or changed hands 5 times.

Don't forget to let it warm up to room temp and adjust to local humidity and air pressure levels. Open it up and let it rest and breath for a while before you power it on.

dhanson865
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Post by dhanson865 » Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:50 am

As to the drive I don't know any reason to avoid the WD5000AAKB specifically.

Your only other real option is to get a PCI or PCIe drive controller and go SATA. If you don't want to bother with that complication then just grab the WD5000AAKB and don't look back.

silence_seeker
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Post by silence_seeker » Fri Jan 02, 2009 10:23 am

Good advice to let the drive run a while before putting important data on it.

So Western Digital isn't a brand to stay away from then? I have heard that some brands are definitely "no-no!" (Maxtor and Hitachi), but I've been under the assumption that Seagate, Western Digital (Quantum? -have they stopped making hard drives? I used to have several of them on my old computers which are now sold) and Samsung are good, reliable brands.

I bought a Samsung drive a couple of years ago because it was supposed to be quiet and reliable, but boy was I disappointed! It hasn't given me any problems, but it's quite noisy (due to its mechanical vibration), so I've lost interest in them.

edh
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Post by edh » Fri Jan 02, 2009 11:23 am

dhanson865 wrote:Your only other real option is to get a PCI or PCIe drive controller and go SATA.
This may even be a lot cheaper. I came across some recently for £10 which makes anything over 250Gb cheaper as SATA with the PCI card rather than just a native PATA drive.

whiic
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Post by whiic » Fri Jan 02, 2009 12:59 pm

I'm looking for a replacement HDD for Topfield PVR. The original Seagate in there isn't outright horrible nor is it quiet but it's too small (250GB). I would want something bigger (4/5 of importance) and quieter (1/5 of importance) while keeping the cost of upgrade modest.

There is of course the option to install my 7K400 there (400GB) as I have the drive bought already (currently used for offline back-up) but it's rather hot and loud for five obvious reasons. The IDE drives in market today aren't much bigger but at least they are with less platters. Nothing above 500GB is available, right? PCI controller is impossible for the obvious reason that it's just a PVR and not a computer. IDE-to-SATA bridge would be tempting if I find one locally (no for international shipping) but I'm afraid that PVR doesn't have extra space.

Is WD5000AAKB with 2 or 3 platters? (Certainly, no guarantee as WD is WD but what's most probable number of platter to expect?

I might postpone the upgrade until warranty expires. There's not much reason to expect IDE drives in 500+ GB capacities and prices may go up... at least there's the bridging option and 7K400 that remain feasible. 2TB in a Topfield would be sweat. :)

whiic
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Post by whiic » Fri Jan 02, 2009 1:33 pm

"So Western Digital isn't a brand to stay away from then? I have heard that some brands are definitely "no-no!" (Maxtor and Hitachi), but I've been under the assumption that Seagate, Western Digital (Quantum? -have they stopped making hard drives? I used to have several of them on my old computers which are now sold) and Samsung are good, reliable brands."

Uh. Quantum is looooong gone. Bought by Maxtor. Maxtor bought by Seagate. Maxtor exists as a name only, Maxtor's design is dead. Relabeled Seagate designs intended for low-cost market.

Hitachi's drives as 99.99% know them are same as previous IBM storage division. Hitachi had some HDD manufacturing business since.... year stick and stone. Like did IBM back from 50's. But Hitachi existed only at very low-volume manufacturer absolutely not for regular consumers. (Hint: IBM RAMACs from 50's were never seen in anyones living room either)

Then in the 90's IBM made the infamous 75GXP followed by almost as horrible 60GXP. After that, IBM made good drives 120GXP and 180GXP. The had already designed what would probably have become 250GXP but Hitachi bought the company and named it 7K250. Hitachi has kept the quality up in the level it was with the latest IBM models (which was far better than 75GXP and 60GXP "Deathstars"). Even though "IBMtachis" from 180GXP and later were equipped with FDBs, they were rather loud (but vast majority were loud back then). Hitachi has improved in noise and power consumption since then.

Seagate on the other hand has become more noisy since Barracuda IV. The even gave up AAM support so the speed of seek movement cannot be configured to match for personal preference between performance and quietness. Reliability would probably be around good to average, varying with model and variant.

Western Digitals have made a great progress since last millenium. The were the last to give up ball-bearings but they have made very good progress with their high-capacity drives: first the WD5000KS, then GP-series. Unfortunately the scaled down versions have cheaper construction and may be equally noisy as flagships. Reliability and noise varies from good to bad depending on model. Both definitely improved since BB days.

Samsung has made quiet HDD for a long time. Their reliability is also always around average with not much variation. Some compatibility issues with early F1s but, hey, WD is still having the compatibility issue with EVERY non-RAID edition model if used in RAID... and compatibility issue with RAID edition model used in non-RAID.

Sure Samsungs vibrate, but that's the reason why you decouple them from the case. If you do that, they're the quietest 7200rpm you can get.
Last edited by whiic on Fri Jan 02, 2009 2:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

edh
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Post by edh » Fri Jan 02, 2009 1:58 pm

whiic wrote:Nothing above 500GB is available, right?
Seagate ST3750640A is 750Gb. That's the only one I know of.

silence_seeker
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Post by silence_seeker » Fri Jan 02, 2009 3:39 pm

I need an IDE drive because I have an external Firewire 800/USB 2 cabinet which only takes IDE (ATA) drives. It'll be used as a backup drive.
I've been looking into dampening the Samsung drive (which is placed inside an identical cabinet), but there's little room for that sort of modification, which is why I want a nice, quiet drive to begin with. It should also be cool running as the cabinet doesn't have a fan.

It looks like Seagate has several 500 GB ATA drive as well as the 750 GB model mentioned. I think I'll be fine with 500 though, but might opt for 750 if the price is good.

So, given the fact that I can't use SATA drives (I'll be using that in another cabinet though, but that's for later), do you all suggest I go for Seagate instead of Western Digital?
Low noise-level is a big issue for me, so I'd rather have a little less performance than a faster, but whining drive.

whiic
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Post by whiic » Fri Jan 02, 2009 4:50 pm

Does the enclosure have idle spindown feature? Because USB interface (usually) doesn't relay HDD spindown command, thus cannot be controlled by OS HDD spindown counter.

Do you manually shut off the cabinet always when not in use?

If you answered no to both, you may want HDDs which are capable of storing HDD spindown timer in non-volatile memory, or a drive that has a APM implementation.

WD Greenpower would be optimal but that's not IDE. Hitachi P7K500 could be an option. It has unload and low rpm idle (~4500rpm) modes. Just configure them to maximum power saving via internal IDE bus, then put move them to your USB cabinet. Their full spindown timer is also non-volatile so you can configure the HDD elsewhere and move it to your cabinet. (Don't worry about heat: P7K500 only has 2 platters. T7K500 has 3, and (E)7K500 has 5. Newest P-variant is probably next to only Greenpowers in power consumption. And to 5K500 laptop HDD.)

SATA
3.6W (1 disk)
4.8W (2 disks)
PATA
3.3W (1 disk)
4.5W (2 disks)

That's P7K500 in operational mode (unload idle and low-rpm wattage are lower).

silence_seeker
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Post by silence_seeker » Sat Jan 03, 2009 3:57 am

I'll be using the external drive with a Mac using the Firewire 800 port.
Here's the enclosure I'll be using (and have an additional one with a Samsung 400GB drive in, connected the same way).

In case you're not familiar with Macs, the way an external hard drive works is that to connect it you just physically switch on the power switch on the hard drive enclosure.
To turn it off on the other hand you have to "eject" or "unmount" it (which is done by dragging the hard drive icon on the desktop over to the trash can (which turns into an "eject" icon). This spins down the drive and safely removes it from the desktop. I can now physically switch off the drive's power.

There's also a power management feature in MacOS which spins down the drive after a certain time of inactivity.

edh
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Post by edh » Sat Jan 03, 2009 6:07 am

Hard drive enclosures are no longer that expensive. If you're looking at 500Gb+ capacity, a SATA enclosure and a SATA driver may be cheaper that replacing an existing PATA disk.

silence_seeker
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Post by silence_seeker » Sat Jan 03, 2009 7:07 am

Yes, I'm aware of that, but this is besides the point.
I just want to find out which IDE/ATA drive is worth getting and which one(s) to avoid in the 500 GB or so range.

whiic
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Post by whiic » Sat Jan 03, 2009 7:44 am

"In case you're not familiar with Macs, the way an external hard drive works is that ...."

It appears Mac + Firewire doesn't much differ from Win + USB or Win + Firewire. Though Win + FW sometimes cause odd stuff to happen on some enclosures, at least with default drivers.

The only part that usually doesn't work is automatic spinning down of HDD when detached from system. Usually when you eject it from system, system just tells it's safe to remove (or power off) the device. It doesn't shut down by itself with default drivers. If you install special drivers supplied by enclosure manufacturer (for example with Maxtor Onetouch external HDDs) they might spin down along when ejected.

The only enclosure I own that spins down the HDD on eject using Windows default driver is my 2.5" WD's portable USB drive. I don't know how the F it does it. It even relays SMART monitoring data through USB bus which I assumed would be impossible (at least with default drivers).

If you know your enclosures can spin down the HDDs inside them, there's no need to pre-configure them internally (unless you want intermediate power saving modes). Makes it easier and doesn't limit your choices as much. I might still go for P7K500 for their low power consumption but there's probably some models from other manufacturers that are almost as cool. I don't know how quiet P7K500 is.

whiic
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Post by whiic » Sat Jan 03, 2009 12:12 pm

Uh... about Seagate reliability, I happened to stumble on this link in SR's forum: http://forums.seagate.com/stx/board/mes ... ing&page=1

That's awful lot of firmware corruptions happening with 7200.11. All are SD15 variants. I would stay away from them for until it's verifiable no SD15s are in distribution. I dunno, maybe they don't manufacture them anymore or maybe they do.

Firmware corruptions... last major outbreaks of them were with Maxtors (which started to report themselves in POST with heir factory nickname instead of public name, and stop fuctioning properly at the same time) and with IBM Deathstars (headcrashes was the other, completely separate problem, but firmware corruptions were very common as well).

EDIT: SD17 and SD19 also has been reported as bad on many discussion threads I found by Googling SD15. Though problems have been present for months, the owners just woke up to report their experiences after hearing from them from others. Owners probably though their drive deaths were rare cases and didn't bother to tell others as they though they were the only ones experiencing them. Brand loyalty and such...

silence_seeker
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Post by silence_seeker » Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:12 am

whiic wrote:The only part that usually doesn't work is automatic spinning down of HDD when detached from system. Usually when you eject it from system, system just tells it's safe to remove (or power off) the device. It doesn't shut down by itself with default drivers.
I don't quite understand what the problem is.
Are you saying that I can harm the drive's hardware and/or the data stored on the drive if the enclosure's electronics (the Firewire/USB to ATA interface) doesn't do this?

I don't know what you mean by "automatic spinning down", but when I drag the drive icon to my Mac desktop's trash icon the drive does indeed spin down, and I haven't had any problem with my existing drive in the same type of enclosure.

whiic
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Post by whiic » Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:56 am

I ain't saying that. But it's extra hazzle that you have to unmount the drive whenever you don't use it. And after you have ejected it, I assume you need to unplug and replug it to make it appear back as part of your usable storage resources, right?

So, wouldn't it be easier to never eject the drive? Sure, as Mac and at least some enclosures do allow Mac's idle spindown counter to work through the interface, you can achieve this without any preconfiguration.

silence_seeker
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Post by silence_seeker » Sun Jan 04, 2009 1:28 pm

No, I never have to unplug the drive's Firewire/USB connectors.
If I haven't already turned off the drive enclosure's power switch after unmounting it I can either switch it off, then on again to remount it, or I can use software such as Apple's "Disk utility" to remount it without touching the power switch.

For spinning down I can also configure MacOS to have the drive(s) spin down after a certain time of inactivity (just like a screensaver). If the drive is spun down that way the drive icon doesn't disappear, so if I need to access something on the drive any drive-accessing activity will "wake up" the drive again.
I'm not sure how things would work differently on a Mac with a different type of drive enclosure. At least I've never heard of any other solution when it comes to Macs.

As for the enclosure: as it's sold by a company which deals with Mac hardware it should work according to Apple's specs. I haven't had any problems with it.

Back to the drives...
From a recent posting of yours it seems that I should stay away from Seagate drives because of reliability issues. Would the Western Digital WD5000AAKB be a safe alternative after all then?
I read a recommendation for Hitachi, but have from many sources heard to stay away from them as they're of very low quality. Not sure if that's still a valid argument or only around the period when IBM and Hitachi merged (I had an Ultrastar SCSI drive years ago which I had no problem with and still worked after 5 years or so when I sold it, although it was pretty noisy).

Tamas
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Post by Tamas » Mon Jan 05, 2009 10:00 am

silence_seeker wrote:
Back to the drives...
From a recent posting of yours it seems that I should stay away from Seagate drives because of reliability issues. Would the Western Digital WD5000AAKB be a safe alternative after all then?
I read a recommendation for Hitachi, but have from many sources heard to stay away from them as they're of very low quality. Not sure if that's still a valid argument or only around the period when IBM and Hitachi merged (I had an Ultrastar SCSI drive years ago which I had no problem with and still worked after 5 years or so when I sold it, although it was pretty noisy).
I currently have a P7K500 500GB IDE, and I can only recommend it.
Here are some opinions about this product line:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductRe ... 6822145215

I don't know any special reliability issues about Hitachi, the last problematic series (60GXP) released under IBM approx. 7-8 years ago. I owned 10-15 different Hitachi drives in the past years, which are still working in my friends pc's without any problem.

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