Wd Green 2Tb Drives - Should We Use Wd Align?

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Posted · Report post

Hi all,

I came across a funky B) article on the German c't website about the WD Advanced Format being used in the WD 2TB Green Caviar drives. This format seems to store 4,096 bytes per sector instead of the standard 512. Some information from WD can be found here:

http://www.wdc.com/wdproducts/library/whitepapers/en/2579-771430.pdf

However, it seems that only Vista and Windows 7 are ready to use this advanced format. For Windows XP (and - I assume - also Windows Server 2003 aka WHS) they recommend using a special tool called WD Align before formatting the drives:

http://www.wdc.com/en/products/advancedformat/

So my question to everyone out there using WD 2TB Green Caviar drives on their WHS:

  • Have you heard about this? Is this necessary for WHS as well?
  • Have you tried the tool? Did it work? Advantages/disadvantage?

Thanks,

teq

(P.S. Yes, I did a search the forums, but didn't find anything - but if there already was a similar posting on this topic, then sorry for this!)

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Posted · Report post

I've seen a couple reports of these drives not playing well, and this would explain why. And good find.

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Posted · Report post

i just hope they update WHS to somehow auto-align 4k sector during partitioning

i don't want the hassle of manually aligning partitions

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Posted · Report post

The WD20EADS works just fine without all this additional formatting.. So why bother with the new WD20EARS drive? You don't gain enough performance or storage to be worth the hassle.

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Posted · Report post

It's an interesting issue and a great find :)

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Posted · Report post

This article covers the topic and why these drives have problems with Windows 5.x kernels (XP, 2K3, WHS) very well: http://anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3691 (2 pages).

As I understand it correct in WHS we could run the alignment tool to realign the partition of such a drive without a problem as the tool does not kill the data, but shifts the whole data on the drive just some bytes to the left (or the right?).

The WDC site (http://www.wdc.com/en/products/advancedformat/) says: "Your WD Advanced Format hard drive may require you to run the WD Align software utility after you install your operating system or partition and format the drive as a secondary drive." This sounds like we first have to add such a drive to the pool (as it is formatted then) and THEN we have to execute the alignment tool. This should be tested to be confirmed. So If anyone already owns such a drive, it would be nice if he gave a report about this. :-)

Another option for data pool drives could be to set the jumper on pins 7-8 of the drive. This should work for data pool drives as they only have a single partition. But personally I would always go with alignment tool, as the jumper solution is only some kind of hack (XP thinks it's starting its partition on sector 63, but in real it's working on sector 64).

@GaPony: It looks like the EARS models will replace the EADS line. Some stores already only have the EARS drives in stock. So this topic might be more important than we thought. Also other manufacturers will follow soon.

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Posted · Report post

My guess is that they are simply making a choice to carry a single model of the WD 2TB drive... or maybe they don't know any better. For me its simple. I won't use the drive on my WHS and all my other PCs either already have Windows 7 or will have it, as soon as I have the energy to install it. They apparently won't have any issues with the newer drives.

As for the WHS box, I'll either order from a vendor who does carry the EADS model, or will use the Samsung F3 2TB drives, which are at least as good as the WDs and maybe better for the WHS specifically, since it appears that the Samsungs run a little cooler than the WDs (comparing several "green" drives from each company, in the 1.5 TB family).

.

.

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Posted · Report post

Well, as ALL hard drive manufacturers will switch to 4KB sectors within the next year we cannot avoid this problem other than by switching to a new home server OS, which I really don't have planned in the near future (who knows when the next WHS version will be released and if I want that version -> hardware requirements???).

But who knows, perhaps MS will issue a fix for WHS that will align the partitions automatically when they are created through the OS. *sigh*

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Posted · Report post

Any luck with anyone using this on WHS? my vendor doesn't seem to have the older version of these drives.

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Posted · Report post

I now have two of the 1,5 TB EARS drives. One as an external server backup drive, one as an internal data pool drive. One drive was easily configured, the other one was very complicated, but one thing at a time:

The use as server backup drive is without problems, as you can create the partition on this kind of drives in another computer, e.g. in a Vista or Windows 7 PC. After this, when you add the drive as system backup drive to the WHS using the WHS console, WHS will NOT create a new partition, but will use the existing partition, which is already aligned and so has full performance. It is also possible to create a (misaligned) partition on the drive using the WHS drive management snap-in, then detach the drive from the WHS PC, attach it to a Vista/Win7 PC and run the WDALIGN tool there to get the partition aligned. After that re-attach the drive to the WHS PC and everything is fine. This is how I did it.

Quite complicated way, you might think. Why not use the WDALIGN tool from within WHS? Simply because WD does not allow you to install the WDALIGN tool on WHS!!! Now, this is an unexpected "pleasure"! Why WD chose this path - I don't know, but I have asked via support (no answer yet). I find it quite a trick, to release this tool only for XP, Vista and Windows 7 and not for Windows 2003 and WHS (where it is needed most and hey, those OS's are still supported by Microsoft, right?). In the current situation, you might say that the EARS drives are not fully supported in Windows Server 2003 and WHS. :(

So as you can not use the WDALIGN tool within WHS, this leads us to the problems with the data pool drive. The process of adding a drive to the data pool is a bit different from adding a server backup drive, as all partitions are wiped from the data pool drive before adding and a new (unaligned) partition is created, that has no drive letter (but exists as directory link under C:\fs\). I tried to use the same tactics as with the server backup drive: Add the drive to the pool, detach it from the WHS PC, attach it to a Vista PC, run WDALIGN and finally put it back into your WHS PC. This lead to a total mess in the WHS console. The console status was critical/red and said that there was a problem with the drive. The new drive had a drive letter(!) and was only "by half" part of the data pool (it was listed under the data pool drives, but its status was "Not added") - very strange! I also was not able to remove the drive from the data pool as the data store size calculation (the data storage size diagram on the right side) never completed. I only got it fixed again, after I detached the drive from the server and then removed it from the pool. So it seems, attaching a drive, that is currently part of a WHS data pool, to another PC is generally never a good idea, if you want to put it back to the pool afterwards! Perhaps some of you have experienced something similar.

So the only possibility to use this drive in the data pool was to set the jumper on pins 7-8. This is ok for data pool drives as they only have one partition, but I would have preferred the use of WDALIGN within WHS.

So finally, as long as WDALIGN does not support WHS, you can say, for a data pool drive use the jumper solution, for a server backup drive you can use the WDALIGN tool from within another PC. I don't know what happens if you use such a drive as system drive and want to align the partitions (there are two, so no jumper solution possible!) in another PC. I guess you will run into problems, as the SYS partition is a boot partition. At the end you might end up with an unbootable WHS server. :-O

But if you have a proper (aligned) partition, the drives are really fast for a green drive (see attached HDTach diagram - running through eSATA on an ICH10R controller).

post-33272-126281683407_thumb.jpg

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Posted · Report post

Thank you for your very detailed reply headhunter.. looks like I will have to wait for either Microsoft or WD to post a patch.

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Posted · Report post

Hadn't checked this site for a few days due to my vacation - wow, quite a lively discussion going on regarding this topic by now. :) Thanks for all your comments/replies.

@Headhunter3000: Thank you very much for your detailed posting. One question - you mention that "(...) WD does not allow you to install the WDALIGN tool on WHS!"

What do you mean exactly - isn't it possible to install the tool? If so, have you tried running the install program (assuming there is one) in XP compatibility mode? Or are you saying that WD restricts this tool from being installed on WHS?

Thank you very much.

Cheers,

teq

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Posted · Report post

When you try to run the setup, the installer says something like: "Your operating system is not supported." and quits. And to be honest, I didn't try to install the tool in XP compatibility mode, as I found it too risky to try this on my server (the tool restarts your machine and boots into a compatibility mode to execute its task - who knows what happens if this process is cancelled due to some strange reason). But if I had a test server I definitely would try this. Perhaps somebody has such a setup to try this.

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Posted · Report post

I have signed up just to talk about this very issue. Hello.

I'm in the unfortunate situation of trying to build a WHS with two WD Caviar Green EARS (4k sector) disks.

I was under the impression that I could just get everything installed and then sort the partition alignments out later. From Headhunter's reply it seems this might not be the case.

Here's what I have currently:

A vanilla install of WHS on a 1.5TB 4k sector disk. So the installer has created the 20GB system partition and 1.4TBish data partition.

My next move is going to be to try WDalign, just to see what happens. if the same fate befalls me as HH then so be it, I can just re-install from scratch and try something else.

I do find it odd that there were issues after WDalign was run on a data disk. As far as WHS is concerned, it's just a partition that it's mounting and overlaying VSS and the clever tombstoning on top of... right? All I can think of is that it's hashing something to do with the partition table as means of identifying the disk itself, in case a user were to pull the wrong disk by mistake? Us re-aligning the partition is changing this hash and it's getting all confused. I know this is all speculation but in the absence of an MSFT WHS engineer I just want to start some discussion about why this didn't work for HH.

There isn't a lot of chatter on the internet about this issue as pertains to WHS so I really implore anyone who has this issue or has dealt with it to please register and post!

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Posted · Report post

I think the problem is not with WDAlign, but with the drive letter assignment when reinstalling the drive in to the WHS case.

As you are doing a clean install I suggest that you first try to install/run the WDALIGN tool on your WHS in Windows XP compatibility mode as teq proposed earlier.

If that fails you could try the following (always with the risk of having to reinstall from scratch if anything fails!):

Set a jumper on one of the two drives - namely on the drive that you want to use as data pool drive - as instructed on the WD website. Then install WHS to the "not-jumpered" drive, the jumpered drive will be used as data pool drive.

The data pool drive will already be aligned as it is "jumpered".

The system drive however will not be aligned. So you must put this drive into a Vista/Win7 PC and run WDALIGN there. This could be problematic as the drive has an active bootable partition, so you have to check that the Vista/Win 7 PC will not boot from that drive!

After aligning the drive put it back into your WHS case and start your engines! This could work, as both partitions (C: and D:) have a drive letter in WHS (the data pool drive did not have a drive letter and made problems).

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Posted · Report post

I thought about doing the jumper method that you describe, but the table on the Anandtech article http://anandtech.com...aspx?i=3691&p=2 put me off.

It specifically states that you need to use WDAlign if you're doing a clean install with more than one partition...

I'm not sure why this is exactly, perhaps every partition is continually misaligned. I will try everything I can to get WDAlign to work and then report back. :)

Edit: Oh actually it does say why you can't:

If multiple partitions are being used, then this offset (the jumper) cannot be used as it can negatively impact the later partitions. The offset can also not be removed without repartitioning the drive, as the removal of the offset would break the partition table.

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Posted · Report post

The jumper solution is only suitable for drives with one single partition on it, e.g. data pool drives in WHS (they are completely managed by WHS to only have a single partition). The system drive must NOT use the jumper solution. If you used the jumper solution, the first partition would be aligned (as it always starts at LBA 63), but the second partition would most likely be unaligned, as you can not predict, where that second partiton would start.

So: jumper solution ONLY for your second drive (the data pool drive)!

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Posted · Report post

So does this mean you cant do a straight up Acronis or XXClone from an old EADS hard drive to the newer EARS? Im still unfamiliar with this new advanced format concept.

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Posted · Report post

After restoring a clone you have to run WDALIGN as the current releases of Acronis & Co. might not set the partition begin to a 4K sector.

All this would not be so complicated, if WDALIGN could be installed under WHS, but WD does not want that. My support ticket (I created one over two weeks ago) is still not answered yet. WD simply doesn't care. :-(

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Posted · Report post

Ive found that WD takes forever to respond to emails. Maybe give them a call. Let us know if you get a response from them in regards to using these as system drives.

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For anyone undertaking a new build with WD 'Advanced Format' drives, I have hacked the WD MSI file so it can be installed on WHS. It is available for download here.

EDIT 01-Feb-11 - I have removed the download link since it has since been shown that manually altering partition alignment creates a server that cannot be restored using the WHS system recovery option. WHS users with EARS disks in their pool should use the 7-8 jumper before adding to the pool.

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Posted · Report post

I've hacked the msi file to remove the operating system install restrictions. Right now WDAlign is installed on my WHS and in the middle of the aligning operation on the drive (which contains the system and first data partition).

If it works I'll do a full writeup and post the file here for you guys to grab.

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Posted · Report post

LOL.

I posted fast-reply before I saw your post J1mbo. (you did grab the x86 version from WD I take it?)

Well I too attacked it with Orca and removed the WindowsVersion restriction... and I'm happy to say that it works perfectly.

It took about half an hour from when the utility rebooted windows to its final check. There are a couple of times when it freezes completely, but be patient and it will continue. Also, when I logged in for the first time after the process had finished, windows couldn't load my profile. I think WDalign must lock it down before it starts so that it can check the disk before any other apps load. I logged out and back in and it was fine.

So here is what I did to get here:

Install WHS on a new WD Caviar Green 1.5TB EARS disk, using default options

Install all drivers

Install all WHS updates (including Power Pack 3)

Install all windows updates

Install WDalign

Run WDalign

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Posted · Report post

Perfect! Thank you very much for doing this - J1mbo for hacking the setup and Robbidoo for doing the test. :-).

Now these drives can be used with WHS in every scenario without problems. I would even say that they are my first choice now as the performance of these drives is great for "green" drives. I think the increased data density due to the advanced format shows some effect. When copying from such a drive I get a constant transfer rate of 100 MB/s in Explorer.

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Posted · Report post

Maybe this will help your pain and suffering, or add to it... Just as a matter of course, you would be better off getting a much smaller HDD (160gb to a 320gb) for use as the system drive and then you'd get the full benefit of both 1.5TB drives in the pool. Otherwise as you add drives all the data on the D: partition of the system drive will be migrated to the pool of remaining drives...essentially taking a full 1.5gb drive (less 20gb) out of the game.

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