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jmtd log Western Digital Hard Drive head parking

I stumbled across some information about pathological behaviour of Western Digital Green (and some Red) hard drives relating to drive-head parking when the device is idle.

In some circumstances, a particular pattern of drive activity can result in the drive head being repeatedly parked and un-parked in short intervals, possibly* resulting in excess wear on the drive. Apparently* the drive head parking is recorded in the S.M.A.R.T. "Load Cycle Count" attribute.

I have two WD Red drives in my NAS, one for live data and one for backup. The latter drive is basically

unused most of the day until scheduled backup jobs kick in and those jobs are all clustered together. I already unmount the backup �lesystems when the jobs are not active (I wrote about this in mount-on-

demand backups).

Inspecting the S.M.A.R.T. attributes was surprising:

drive

power on hours load cycle count

regular

12143

348

backup

12191

13043

It certainly looks like my backup drive has a much higher load cycle count than you might expect for a mostly-idle drive. I checked the attributes again 24 hours later and the regular drive had incremented by

a single cycle, whilst the backup drive went up by 56.

There are some of�cial tools from Western Digital that makes an adjustment to the idle timeouts for head parking on the drives. There's also an unof�cial tool idle3tclto do the same, which is packaged in Debian. The unof�cial tool let you set and fetch a particular value from the drive �rmware. I don't know for sure* that the of�cial tool does exactly the same thing, and nothing else. One advantage of the unof�cial tool is it lets you read the value as well as write it.

I tried the unof�cial tool to get the drive's default value, which was 0x8a, and bump it to the maximum

of 0xff. I then tried the of�cial tool then fetched the value again: interestingly the of�cial tool had reset the value back to 0x8a. I haven't managed to assess the impact of these changes on the attrition rate yet because I need to perform a cold boot for the change to take effect and that isn't convenient just now.

My plan is to try and disable the feature completely via the unof�cial tool. If that recti�es the issue I will then investigate changing the power management settings by hand at backup start/end time, perhaps via hdparm.

( The problem with these kind of issues is there is precious little in the way of reliable documentation as to the real issue, real drive behaviour, etc. I've marked a few sections of this blog post with * asterisks to indicate where we are having to make informed guesses. )

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copyright © Jonathan Dowland 2017 Created Fri Jun 9 15:23:01 2017 Last edited Fri Jun 9 15:24:26 2017