Often paying a visit to a friend can end up becoming a salvage operation. In this case, on my visit, I was informed that there was a stack of hard drives that are surplus to needs and would be disposed. I decided not to let them hit the bin just yet – it would be good to take them home and see if they still worked and what their current SMART stats looked like. There was one catch though – I was not allowed to poke around the data, so respecting the owner’s wishes, I went straight into a full overwrite test.
We start with a classic Seagate IDE drive, the Barracuda 7200.7 series 80GB model, ST380011A. This one has firmware 3.06 and is Made in Singapore probably around 2003. The top metal cover is somewhat shiny – some of the models had “matte” covers while others had a propensity to grow bad sectors.
The PCB shows exposed chips – older models often had a “seashield” cover over the PCB to prevent accidental damage. Later models took the “Western Digital” route of putting the components on the other side of the PCB.
The drive is of the regular half-height thickness, equipped with the regular IDE/Molex sockets and a jumper block for configuration.
Testing of this drive was done on a native IDE port on an older computer running Windows XP. The drive had an impressive 42760 hours under its belt but with no reallocations and just 6 start-stop counts. This seems to be a drive that may have been used on a continuously-running server of sorts. After testing, there was no significant change in the vital signs indicating the drive is still healthy.
On the full surface test, writes ranged from 55.9MB/s down to 28.6MB/s with an average of 44.8MB/s with a 12.9ms access time. Reads ranged from 55.9MB/s down to 29.1MB/s, averaging 45.1MB/s with a 15.5ms access time.
The second drive is a Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 series drive with a 160GB capacity, model ST3160815AS. This drive has a SATA interface and was Made in China with firmware 3.AAD. It appears to be dated to sometime in 2007.
As mentioned earlier, the later drive PCBs mounted the components on the other side, reducing the chance of damage. The use of higher integration and SMD components results in smaller PCBs.
This particular drive is a reduced-height model, indicating it has fewer platters internally and is probably a low-cost model.
The drive was tested through an Asmedia-based USB 3.0 bridge board. Unlike the drive above, this unit had 433 reallocations already with zero pending sector count. This indicates the drive probably has some damaged areas and is probably less reliable. It has 17074 hours on the clock with 1160 power cycle counts, which makes this drive around middle-aged and probably used in a workstation scenario. No further bad sectors grew after testing, so the drive is probably not unusable.
Testing the drive saw some uneven transfer rates towards the outer tracks which is probably where the bad sectors have been reallocated from. The drive had a write throughput ranging from 75.2MB/s down to 36.5MB/s with an average of 60.2MB/s and an access time of 7.33ms. When reading, the throughput ranged from 75.3MB/s down to 36.5MB/s with an average of 60.3MB/s and an access time of 15.0ms.
The third drive is a 250GB version of the above, with firmware 3.AHC, also Made in China. This drive is an OEM drive for HP as indicated by the labels.
It too is a reduced height drive with a slightly different spindle motor it seems. The 160GB drive comes from the WU plant (presumably Wuxi) whereas this one comes from the SU plant (presumably Suzhou) which is shut down as of 2017.
The drive is relatively young, seeing just 8494 hours of operation and 1227 power-on cycles. The figures show the drive to be healthy – note that the extra attribute shown in CDM after certification is a “bug” with the USB bridge from time to time.
Compared to the 160GB drive above, it seems the 250GB model is quite a bit quicker. Write speeds ranged from 125.5MB/s down to 59.4MB/s, averaging 100.3MB/s with 8.55ms access time. Read speeds ranged from 125.8MB/s down to 60.5MB/s, averaging 100.9MB/s with a 19.7ms access time. This suggests that maybe despite the drives being of the same generation, the platter density may be different as both drives are a 2-head/1-platter design.
Western Digital WD5000AAKX
The above is a Western Digital Caviar Blue WD5000AAKX, dated 30th June 2011 and is another HP OEM drive.
This 500GB drive has the regular height and a design which is consistent with most Western Digital drives.
According to its SMART data, it is quite young at just 5829 hours and 721 cycles. Accordingly, its vital signs were all clear even after a full test.
The drive managed write speeds from 100.9MB/s down to 54.4MB/s averaging 83.9MB/s with a 7.54ms access time. Read speeds of 101MB/s down to 54.5MB/s, averaging 84.6MB/s with 15.5ms access time were recorded. Despite being twice as big as the drive above, the performance actually is poorer despite having the same spindle speed.
The final drive is one that I haven’t commonly seen – Hitachi drives are pretty rare due to their lower market share but their reliability post-DeathStar era seems to have been pretty good. This one was pulled from a Dell server if I remember correctly – a HDP725025GLA380 dated June 2009 with firmware 5BA, made in China.
It features a standard SATA interface, but the drive itself is rather strange – the bottom half is “reduced height” and instead a bulging cover is used. This is something that I haven’t seen on other Hitachi products before – most of them have flat covers and a normal height cast base.
The PCB is rather small with the chips exposed at the bottom. It seems one chip does most of the work on this drive.
Against all expectations, this drive has 23340 hours under the clock, making it an “old” drive. It has 1240 cycles, which appears to be a bit high for a server, but nonetheless, the drive seems to have healthy vital signs even after testing.
Tested write speeds ranged from 125.5MB/s down to 59.4MB/s with an average of 100.3MB/s and an access time of 8.55ms. Read speeds ranged from 125.8MB/s down to 60.5MB/s with an average of 100.9MB/s and an access time of 19.7ms. Unlike older Hitachi drives that had adaptive zone bitrates – this one appears to have rather steady zone bitrates resulting in a flat stepped curve rather than the “yo-yo” curves of DeskStars and TravelStars of the past.
Given that all of these drives are from a business-like operational scenario, supplied by OEMs, it is a bit of a surprise that four of the five still seem to be healthy – passing a full overwrite and read-back without any reallocations. Even the one that did have reallocations did not grow any new bad sectors, so could be usable in case one was extremely desperate. I suppose there is a survivorship bias here – the truly dead drives would have been thrown out long ago. But now I’ve gained a few old drives – useful for an occasional “dump” of archival data or for experiments with older computers.
It’s rather interesting to see how the drive throughput has changed over the years – while it hasn’t kept pace with improvements in CPU/GPU processing speed, or even RAM bandwidth, it has shown some improvements linked with increase in aerial density.
Bonus: Surprise element14 T-Shirt
Instead of starting a new post here, I wrote about my surprise element14 T-Shirt I received this week on my blog at element14. But in case you were interested in how I look like with the shirt on … here’s the image: