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Western Digital Red 3TB SATA SOHO NAS Drive - Full Review

Subject: Storage

PCPer File Copy Test

Our custom PCPer-FC test does some fairly simple file creation and copy routines in order to test the storage system for speed.  The script creates a set of files of varying sizes, times the creation process, then copies the same files to another partition on the same hard drive and times the copy process as well.  There are four file patterns that we used to try and find any strong or weak points in the hardware: 10 files @ 1000 MB each, 100 files @ 100 MB each, 500 files @ 10 MB each and 1000 files at 1 MB each. 

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Wow! The Red beat out all but the VelociRaptor in file creation. This is surely due to increased platter density (all Red models are 1TB / platter). That higher density enables it to fly past even the older 7200RPM RE4 and Black drives.

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During this test I immediately noticed something - no seek noise. None. I had to nearly lay my head on the drive to hear only the slightest scratchiness of the head pack actuator. No rattles, ticks, or other sounds you'd hear from the other drives. The Red is clearly tuned for dead-silent NAS operation.

Those slower seeks likely added up a bit in file copies, letting the Black get a slight leg up along with the VR. The Red still beat the rest of the pack though.

July 11, 2012 | 01:06 PM - Posted by dreamer77dd

put that in a Adrobo and i think you be good to go.

July 11, 2012 | 09:47 PM - Posted by biblicabeebli

Actually, do we know whether Drobos are or are-not affected by a drive dropping out for "too long?"

I ask because the blurb on their website for their "BeyondRAID" technology say: "Built on an advanced virtualization platform..." [<-- this tells me nothing]
and also
"Since the technology works at the block level, it can write blocks of data that alternate between data protection approaches."

My thinking here is that Drobos seem to be really smart about not exploding their own data, even on cheap and buggy drives. (Also, it would be nice if someone tells me I don't have to suddenly start worrying about this exact problem on the several Drobos I am acquainted with...)

[edited for poor grammar]

July 12, 2012 | 08:38 AM - Posted by JSL

You're talking about the TLER issue non-enterprise wd drives had while in raid setups.... I don't believe it'll be an issue here.

July 13, 2012 | 07:12 PM - Posted by Drobo User (not verified)

DROBO is NOT MAGIC. The quality of your drives CLEARLY counts.

I have used WD 1.5GB/2.0TB Greens in my 5 bay drobo and twice now in two years one of the drives has failed corrupting my data. Almost identical failures, the drive has bad sectors but its SMART reporting says its perfectly healthy. DROBO still thinks the drives are healthy, only thing that alerts you is on a reboot Win7 says your partition has a few unrecoverable files and it cannot fix them when it tries. Only way to find out ~which~ is the bad drive is to run WD's diagnostic tools for many hours per drive and sure enough you'll find the bad one in the stack. Replace it and then restore from backup - getting tired of this and its what I spent big bucks over an internal raid to try to avoid.

Backup, backup, backup.

Now that I know this stuff about TLER etc, I just ordered 5 WD Reds as a complete replacement slide em in and we'll see how they do. Thanks for the great article Allyn.

July 15, 2012 | 09:54 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Totally agree here. While the Drobo is very flexible with migrations, rebuilds, etc, the Drobo treats drive timeouts just like any other high end RAID system, and will benefit just as greatly from TLER-enabled drives.

July 25, 2012 | 07:43 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It depends on how BeyondRAID works, and that I am not sure of.

It is worth mentioning that software raid solutions (MDADM and ZFS primarily)aren't subject to this issue. In the case a drive is taking to long to recover they will just cancel the operation and resubmit it, and should that fail again it will rebuild the bad stripe.

Also, TLER is on the firmware for every drive WD makes, but ever since they locked the firmware you cannot enable it on the green drives. Dirty money-grubbing bastards. With that being said, the raid drives do have other features (rotational vibration compensation, floating head, feed forward reading and all of that). Because of this though, I will probably never buy a WD drive again. Seagate wins the price vs performance debate hands down.

March 18, 2014 | 11:52 AM - Posted by Benjamin (not verified)

But ZFS takes integrity further with background checking of blocks for corruption, and repairing / remapping PROACTIVELY.

February 24, 2013 | 08:29 PM - Posted by Drobo drive-by (not verified)

I have owned various odd-sized drives (mostly WD consumer line) that eventually exceeded their SMART thresholds & would instantly draw a flurry of errors when directly attached in FreeBSD or even Windows 7--yet Drobo Dashboard would give them a clean bill upon initialization in my 2nd gen "appliance." Since discovering this lovely quirk of the good old storage robot's mysterious workings I've been wary of keeping anything on it too long without a fresh offline backup.

July 11, 2012 | 02:55 PM - Posted by IronMikeAce

I wish you guys would have put a comparison of the blue drive as well. I think Blue version is very popular giving great prices and decent performance. I really would have liked to see this Red drive compared to the Blue

July 11, 2012 | 03:17 PM - Posted by jtiger102

Are these drives using the 1TB platters? (i.e. Do you think there would be any big performance drops between the 2TB and 3TB models?)

July 11, 2012 | 04:49 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Yes, these are 1TB/platter drives afaik. I'll ask Allyn for that second question. I'm guessing the 2TB would be a bit slower than the 3TB but whether its enough to really be noticeable I dunno.

July 11, 2012 | 06:34 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

The gouge I got from WD suggests all three capacities should be nearly identical in performance. All three use 1TB per platter - lower capacities just have less platters, but the same density, so yeah, performance should not vary wildly among them.

July 11, 2012 | 06:25 PM - Posted by Wolvenmoon (not verified)

TLER used to be something you could enable on WD consumer drives. They removed this capability in newer drives. Do these dock their heads every few seconds like Green drives do/did back the last time I looked at platter drives?

I hate to be a cynic with nothing nice to say, but I'm not looking to do an enterprise datacenter RAID nor am I looking for a home server RAID. I'm looking for a workstation RAID-1 that is hardware failure resistant (and potentially with faster read speeds) and high performance (like my TLER enabled cav black 1TB drives). . .or just a single drive that's backed with a long warranty and a data recovery guarantee.

I certainly don't, I bought my last few drive purchases in pairs to RAID-1 against hardware failure with the understanding that if the volume failed to recover I'd be whipping out Recuva and other utilities to pick my files up.

How hard is it to physically take apart a drive and remove the platters? I'd like to see it done!

July 11, 2012 | 06:42 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

I believe the head dock time has been extended to minimize repeated cycling.

I would recommend these over Greens for anything involving any sort of redundant RAID (your pairs included). I say this because the features are definitely worth it vs. the cost, and TLER is absolutely a good thing to have for those configurations. The flip side to this is if you also need superior random access performance for that same RAID, in which case I'd say go with VelociRaptors or even RE series drives (both also have TLER). Since TLER 'gives up' on bad sectors faster than a normal drive would, you should use them in redundant arrays. For single mass storage drives I'd say go Green, Blue, or Black - those will try harder to recover a bad sector, but that will only work properly outside of an array.

Finally - modern drives are *way* too dense and precise to open outside of a clean room. The last drive I did a head pack swap with was an 80GB unit. You can't do the steamy shower trick either :).

July 12, 2012 | 09:24 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

not only sleeps with them but also showers with them ...nobody knows drives better than Allyn :)

July 12, 2012 | 09:59 AM - Posted by Adrian (not verified)

> How hard is it to physically take apart a drive and remove the platters? I'd like to see it done!

If you have a set of TORX screwdrivers, it is very easy to take apart a drive and remove its platters.

Nevertheless, you must never do this, unless you intend to dump afterwards the HDD as garbage. A HDD cannot be put together again, after being taken apart, unless all it is done in a special clean room, with special tools.

July 11, 2012 | 08:52 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Something I've yet to see in a review about these Red drives are comparisons to other manufacturers' drives. Yes, WD only offers TLER on the RE and Red lines, but many manufacturers offer the same functionality on all their drives under the name CCTL. The warranty and MTBF is nice, but I'd rather have 7200rpm Barracudas with CCTL than these 5xxxrpm Reds. Especially in a RAID5 environment where random IO performance is important, spindle speed matters.

July 12, 2012 | 12:37 AM - Posted by Steve (not verified)

Could you post some details of the script you run on your raid. I am sure there are plenty of us that already have a WD green drive raid and can't afford to replace the whole raid in the short term.

July 12, 2012 | 08:35 AM - Posted by Seb (not verified)

Hi

From what I've heard and implemented myself, for large arrays, like the one mentioned, RAID-6 is recommended for increased security and indeed the increase likelihood of read-failure.
Regarding the read issues on specific drives, SMART should be used to continuously monitor the drive status: temperature, number of bad sectors, spin-up count, ... Further SMART can and on large arrays should be configured for periodic tests:
* short self-tests
* long self-tests
* or partial long self-tests

This allowed me for example to detect recently a failing WD EARS 2g drive and replace in time.

July 12, 2012 | 08:45 AM - Posted by Claus (not verified)

Since TLER cause a timeout in the recovery of a sector how does it affect the possible relocating of the sector in case it's no good anymore? Won't it prohibit the drive from finding out whether or not the sector is bad?

July 15, 2012 | 09:57 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

TLER just means the drive considers the sector bad sooner than it would if it was a consumer drive. It won't be able to relocate the bad sector while it's bad, but it will know it's bad so hopefully the next time a write is attempted to the same spot it will then write to the spare area.

Note: for Advanced Format drives, logical sectors are part of larger physical sectors on the disk, so you're remapping 4K at a time, not 512B.

July 12, 2012 | 09:51 AM - Posted by Taowm (not verified)

Allyn,

You mentioned that you've been running a batch job to read the whole RAID array on a regular basis. That sounds like a good idea which I should do on my home NAS.

How are you accomplishing that feat? Do you get some type of a report that would tell you Disk 3 had a bad sector so you could deal with that before encountering a failure of Disk 1 (and subsequent RAID rebuild failure)? I assume that if you're aware of this type of problem then simply trying to copy the file will trigger a problem for the RAID controller? And in the case of the Areca controller it should automatically recover the problem for you?

Do you know if the integrated RAID controllers on Intel and AMD motherboards also copy bad sectors the way you mentioned Areca handles this problem?

One thing that was unclear to me about RAID5 ... does one bad sector on any disk guarantee a RAID rebuild failure? Shouldn't it be possible to rebuild the rest of the RAID array and simply have one corrupted file instead of losing the whole RAID array?

For several years WD had been recommending not using their Green drives in RAID arrays. Recently I saw they okayed their use in 2 drive (RAID0 or RAID1) configurations. Given WD recommendation I have avoided using them in RAID5.

Too bad WD didn't make these Red drives with an Unrecoverable Read Error rate of 10^15 versus the typical 10^14 for a consumer drive. That seems to be one advantage that Samsung drives have. Many are rated at 10^15, but now that Seagate has taken over Samsung HDD not sure how long that will remain true.

Great article. Appreciated all your hard work compiling and sharing these results.

July 12, 2012 | 09:52 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yeah.. the scenario described is precisely why I don't run any kind of hardware RAID on a home server.
Right now the flavor of choice is ZFS and RAID-Z. zpool scrub for the win. :)

July 12, 2012 | 02:19 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This may be a stupid question but here goes. Could regular use of some kind of hdd utility such as "spinrite" go some way to preventing problems( i say stupid because i don't even know if such utilities are able to be ued with a raid set up.)?

July 13, 2012 | 01:01 PM - Posted by jgstew

You could use a utility like SpinRite, but you would have to take the RAID offline, run SpinRite on each drive individually, and then bring the RAID back online. I'm not sure I'd recommend this option.

You could try to run SpinRite on a RAID while it is online at level 2, and it would do something similar to reading the entire RAID, but SpinRite does not have true block level access to the drive itself like it expects when drives are in RAID (other than RAID 0)

July 15, 2012 | 10:01 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

With the controller logic being on the *drive* side of modern drives, there are severe limits to what Spinrite can accomplish. It's a great tool for exercising the entire drive surface by reading / writing / etc. Spinrite is coded to not timeout so easily on read errors, so it has a much more likely chance of making it across the whole disk span and prompting bad sectors to be mapped out, etc. Attempting the same feat under Windows would likely cause the drive to disappear after Windows gives up trying to access it after repeated errors.

July 13, 2012 | 12:20 AM - Posted by spacekiek

Yes, I’ve been obsessing about this “bit error” issue on my Synology RAID-5 setup for some weeks now.
I thought my setup was safe as long as there was no fire or theft … but it seems that bit rot can creep into your array without noticing it until it’s too late.
Me too, I’m using Caviar Greens because those Enterprise drives are just WAY too pricy for a consumer like me.
Those RED drives really seem like the answer for me.

I’m just wondering whether there is a difference when using a true hardware RAID Areca/promise controller and a NAS like Synology/QNAP ?
As Synology is more a software raid solution, I think they compensate for TLER on consumer drives, so the drive won’t be kicked out of the array. Is this correct?

Would RAID-6 offer any benefits above RAID-5 concerning these ‘bit errors’ ?

Until I can get my hands on some RED’s, I’m using another NAS in JBOD to make a weekly backup.
But I’d prefer a true solid which provides a “disk failure and bit-error proof“ setup…

July 13, 2012 | 02:19 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

RAID-6 should theoretically be better able to cope with bit rot. If bit rot was detected during a regular read, or preferably during a scheduled scan, it will have double the parity available. Remember that bit rot could just as easily corrupt the parity information as the data stored. With a dual parity setup it's possible to compare all three solutions, and with any luck two of the answers will come up equal meaning that the third, dissimilar answer is corrupt.

Now all of that is theoretical and only one possibility of how it can be handled by the controller or RAID software. AFAIK each sector on the HDD has a CRC checksum that should allow the drive to detect most cases of bit rot at the root. And with big sectors such as the WD Advanced Format they can even correct some cases of bit errors on the fly.

All of this is assuming that the bit rot is caused by instabilities in the media, however much more data is actually lost to software bugs and user errors, and unfortunately there is no RAID level that will help protect data from PEBKAC or programming errors.

July 16, 2012 | 06:57 AM - Posted by Simon (not verified)

Hi Allyn,

Would using the WD red make sense in a non-RAID environment?

If you just wish to store data which is not regularly read or written to; just for on-line storage would the red be a good option?

Kind Regards

Simon Zerafa

July 17, 2012 | 04:36 PM - Posted by Dr_b_ (not verified)

WD needs a refresh and update to their RE4's badly.

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