Exploring WD's Advanced Format HD Technology

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News Posted: Fri, Feb 26 2010 2:00 PM

WD 1TB Caviar Green Hard Drive w/ Advanced FormatWestern Digital recently began to ship a new series of Caviar hard drives that included the company's Advanced Format technology. The new Caviar Green models are nearly identical to their standard brethren, but offer double the cache (64MB instead of 32MB at 1-2TB) and have a different model number. A WD10EARS is an Advanced Format drive; a WD10-EADS is a 'normal' drive. WD isn't marketing Advanced Format much at the moment, but it's important to understand what the technology is and how it works, particularly if you're still running Windows XP...

WD 1TB Caviar Green Hard Drive w/ Advanced Format

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rapid1 replied on Sat, Feb 27 2010 3:05 AM

Do you guys think that WD will enable this technology for the Black drives at any time?

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Joel H replied on Sat, Feb 27 2010 3:45 AM

Anytime?  Definitely. My guess is that WD went ahead and did the Caviar Green drives first because it was a change that could be easily slipstreamed into the 64MB cache versions of the disk. 

The Black series just got a refresh; the new 64MB cache drives are a fair bit faster than the old 32MB and they offer SATA 6G. I'm betting we'll see Black AF drives the next time WD refreshes the product series.

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ClemSnide replied on Sat, Feb 27 2010 4:10 AM

It'd be interesting to see how a SATA 6G Caviar Black drive with this new feature and the 64 MB cache fared against a SATA 3G SSD. If the results were close, it could mean new life for mechanical HDs (though I'm sure a 6G SSD would beat the tar out of them).


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RyuGTX replied on Sat, Feb 27 2010 7:11 AM

At least from early benchmarks I've seen and based on current hard drive technology, I don't think this improvement will be anything too far (in performance) from what we see today in traditional platter drives. Aren't the Caviar Black drives not even reaching anywhere close to the 3 GB/s that the "older" SATA offers? I don't think there will be much difference from a 3 GB/s to a 6 GB/s platter drive. Maybe, though I still don't think so, there might be some difference when in RAID.

I think any real improvement in the platter drive would be to make a huge cache (in GB), which is basically like that hybrid design that Silverstone came up with. Other than that, I think SSDs are the way to go in terms of pure performance.

From my understanding, I think the main reason for this Advance Format is to make it easier to produce higher capacity hard drives. Correct me if I'm wrong.

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Joel H replied on Sat, Feb 27 2010 11:22 AM

Clem,

I think you're confused on a few points here--let me see if I can help.

Performance: Neither SSDs nor HDDs can keep 6Gbps of bandwidth fully saturated right now. The difference is that mechanical hard drives will likely never be able to pull this off. The gap between SSD and HDD performance is variable depending on what sorts of benchmarks one runs (and SSDs don't always have a huge advantage), HDD's leverage their tremendously lower cost-per-GB vs. SSDs, not raw performance.

#2. SSDs generally are the way to go for pure performance, but unless you've got a hugely fat wallet, price inevitably comes into play. This is where things currently get sticky--there are a variety of drives and controllers on the market with a huge variety of performance. If you can afford to spring for an enterprise-class, $800 SSD (or two in RAID), yes, it'll blow an equivalent $1600 HDD performance setup out of the water and it'll draw a lot less power. If, on the other hand, you're trying to balance price and storage and don't want to spend more than $150, a new Caviar Black [insert manufacturer of your choice here] will be the better option.

There is a definite diminishing marginal return that makes "building a huge cache" a bad idea past a certain point. Remember, the entire point of a cache is to provide the system with a low-latency/high-bandwidth storage area in which only highly relevant data is stored.

The more cache in a system, the longer it takes to search it and the more unwieldy it can be to maintain. The more time the drive has to spend keeping the cache updated and filled, the greater the chance that the end-user will actually notice performance degradation.

Finally: There is no one "main point" to AF. It does or enables a series of options; the larger disk drives is just the simplest to understand.

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rapid1 replied on Sat, Feb 27 2010 1:13 PM

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I don't think Clem is confused, his posts are generally on different things than what you are talking about in some points. Also the cache depends largely on how it is handled. Yes SSD's are the way to go for pure performance to a point. However; a system that is focused on performance alone, will also to some points not be the best, because everything is focused on performance alone, and therefore usability is sacrificed. I personally am currently running 2 WB black 32Mb cache drives. However right now I don't have them in a RAID configuration because to the greatest point it is not really necessary.

I am currently thinking about grabbing a SSD for one thing and one thing only which would be main app's, the largest would of course be the OS, and a dual system image backup to the SSD, and to the converted RAID0 with 2 WD Caviar Black 750GB drives. Of course I have not implemented it yet I think this would be the best combination. I would have speed from the SSD platform; I would have space from the RAID configuration, and would also have performance with it being Raid 0.

As for your comments on a HDD catching up to and SSD you are 100% correct that will never happen. Also on top of this SSD's are new devices, and will therefore be upgraded for quite some time, this is very valid in this discussion because we are basically talking about the first large storage format HDD in a commercial market Vs. a brand new one, and the old one is as in this article still being upgraded.

On the more cache thin and the implementation thereof someone mentioned one thing in this conversation which I think is very valid. The combination of an SSD for speed and cache duties and a modified HDD into a singular device seems very promising. This would and could be very nice on all ends, but I think the controlling scheme as well as software firmware etc needs a good bit of work to find the most efficient, and speedy implementation scheme. This in many ways is much like I am saying I may do on my PC, with the RAID 0/SSD setup where the most active programs and software will be on the SSD for performance, the rest on the HDD for its capacity and relative speed in a RAID 0 2 x  750Gb 7200 drive scheme.

 


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Bout time, now if they can just give us adjustable speed up to 10-12K! Without killing us for the comparable size.

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Ah, thanks, Joel. Wasn't what I was asking, but thanks for the reply.


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beneix replied on Wed, Mar 10 2010 8:07 AM

Joel, do you know if WD have put something in their WDAlign tool that prevents it from being run on non-WD drives?  If not, then this tool could be a godsend for people with mis-aligned SSDs.  Aligning an SSD for XP use can sometimes be quite awkward, so if this could do the trick I'd be delirious.

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quake replied on Sun, Mar 21 2010 5:26 PM

"A WD10EARS and a WD10EADS have exactly the same unformatted capacity and Windows reports both drives offer 931GB of storage space."

 

That does not debunk the myth as I understood it. I have read that the "usable space" is affected. Meaning that if both drives are filled with files. The WD10EARS will be able to hold more files/more data. That is because it is more efficient at storing information. Am I correct?

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Joel H replied on Tue, Mar 23 2010 12:51 AM

Quake,

I don't see how that information wouldn't appear at some point. Usable space is identical. If I copy a 25GB file to either drive, its' a 25GB file. It isn't magically smaller or larger on one drive vs. the other; there's no indication that the drive is using smaller or larger blocks of data. Remember, because the AF drive is emulating a 512b sector, it looks the same to the operating system.

I've kicked this question back over to WD, but I talked with them before and after this story went to press. Based on what I currently know, this isn't the case.

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quake replied on Tue, Mar 23 2010 1:12 AM

I was under the impression that AF drives only emulate 512b sectors under Windows XP. Under Windows Vista or Windows 7 that would not be necessary, correct? In any case I appreciate you getting back to me on this.

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kyc1109 replied on Thu, Aug 5 2010 4:42 AM

Hey man, have something wrong???

Each one of those ECC blocks is 40 bits wide; a 4K block of data contains 320 bytes of ECC. Using Advanced Format's new 4096 sector size cuts the amount of ECC and Sync/DAM space significantly. According to WD, it needs just 100 bytes of ECC data per 4096 byte sector under the new scheme, a savings of 220 bytes.

 

Each one of those ECC blocks is 40 bits wide, it should be 40 bytes not 40 bits, right?

 

thank you.

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Thanks for you information i newly join and so nice post I agree with you. Your complement is so informative…

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RBare replied on Thu, Jun 9 2011 6:36 PM

This article is rather old, but I felt the need to make a rather obvious post. If the inner tracks provide lower performance, and these tracks are no longer used by AF disks as the requisite capacity is available elsewere, thereby increasing the average read/write speeds, this should by all accounts results in an actual increase in performance. The difference in the average rates will be mild, and equally the actual performance gains will be also. There is no smoke and mirrors involved here, the average rate is higher because the performance is higher. Furthermore, if these regions of disk are significantly worse than others, these regions may have increased the variance in read/write speeds, and so their exclusion would also result in greater consistency in the drive performance. The statement that "a manufacturer that uses AF to avoid using the inner tracks of the drive platters can claim higher average transfer rates without actually increasing performance at all." seems baseless. Although the manufacturer has done nothing to improve the performance of any part of the hardware, by changing the way the hardware is applied a performance boost is an entirely plausible outcome.

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PMark replied on Sat, Nov 5 2011 2:05 PM

I've also bought a wd10earx (Caviar Green) with 1.0TB on its top. I expected it means 1000 (maybe 1024) GB, but Windows shows 931 GB as mentioned above. First I was looking for a tool to make the advanced formatting to get my 7-10% extra bytes out of the disk, but IsAdvancedFormat_x64.exe showed that it has already 4K phisical sectors. There was only the Align tool for download from WD's site, what showed every partitions are OK too - they're all aligned.

So the 7% is missing again, as generally for every kind of storage devices: HDDs, memory cards, optical disks.

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rapid1 replied on Sat, Nov 5 2011 4:05 PM

Just to let you as well as anyone who has a somewhat current WD drive you can go to the WD website and download for free Acronis True Image WD Edition! It is a good backup as well as general HD admin tool! Besides that it is free on WD as well saving you 20-30 to not have to pay what they ask for it.

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PMark replied on Thu, Nov 17 2011 2:15 PM

I've tried Acronis True Image WD Edition. I wouldn't call it to 'general HD admin tool', instead it's a general backup program. For HD admin actions there are many other partitioning software what like: Paragon, EASEUS Partition Master, and Acronis also have a program named 'Acronis Disk Director' for that purpose.

Between the downloads there was 'Acronis Align Tool', what is really OK: easy to use and really working.

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rapid1 replied on Thu, Nov 17 2011 2:41 PM

Yes I know I have Acronis disk director as well the True Image WD edition is basically the same as the paid edition of Acronis True Image and it is free so I was just letting people know.

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